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Senate 2008-2009
May 12, 2009, Volume 55, No. 33

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Report of the Faculty Senate Committee on Students and Educational Policy (SCSEP)

Charges for 2008-2009

This academic year the Senate Committee on Students and Educational Policy was asked to: 1) Examine the impact of the Graduate Tuition Reform with particular emphasis on graduate students in the School of Arts and Sciences who traditionally take a long time to obtain their degree, 2) Investigate the Intellectual Property Rights with regard to Course Materials and In-Classroom presentations, and 3) Advise the Provost’s Office on survey content regarding Interdisciplinary Programs for Graduate Students.

Impact of Graduate Tuition Reform

The committee focused primarily on Charge 1, investigating the impact of the Graduate Tuition Reform on graduate students in the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS).  To gain insight into this process, the committee met with 1) Ralph Rosen, SAS Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Tracey Turner, the SAS Graduate Studies Budget Director each semester, 2) the chair of GAPSA, Andrew Rennekamp, and 2 SAS representatives, Caroline Bishop, President of the School of Arts and Sciences Student Government (SASgov) and Rafael Walker Vice President of SASgov, and 3) Associate Provost Andy Binns to follow up on the impact of the Tuition Reform.  During this year, the impact of the Graduate Tuition Reform has been minimized by a one-year “hold harmless” policy.  However, based on our conversations with the representatives from GAPSA and SASgov, several concerns persist and are outlined below:

1) Of immediate concern, the SASgov representatives mentioned that students in years 2-5 are at risk for the greatest impact for the following reasons.  To help expedite degree completion in 5 years, first year SAS graduate students were given summer funding.  If students graduate in 5 years, these students avoid the cost increase of year 6. However, there is concern that students in years 2-5 will not have this added time benefit, but will still be accountable to the new tuition costs under the Graduate Tuition Reform.  Thus, there is concern that students currently in years 2-5 will not complete their degree in the 5-year time frame and incur the increased tuition rates.

2) A second, but equally important concern, exists regarding the effects of the Graduate Tuition Reform on external funding.  Under the current plan, students who apply for external funding for years 4 and 5 do not benefit from receiving the award as the new higher tuition rate uses up too much of the funds. In the past, students who received these awards could defer use of their “Ben Franklin Money” to year 6. As receiving these awards has several desirable benefits for students in addition to providing funding for their studies, a plan to rectify the financial ‘disincentive’ to applying for these awards needs be drafted and implemented. 

3) A final proposal that was discussed with all parties was the possibility of creating and utilizing Post-doctoral Fellowships to enhance training and increase scholarly preparedness for the job market for our SAS graduate programs. Associate Provost Binns stated that a program to create post-doctoral fellowships for disciplines in the Arts and Sciences has been a topic of discussion within our administration and between administrations at our peer institutions. These programs are currently on hold as all parties deal with the flagging economy; however, there is interest to pursue such a program for the future.

Intellectual Property Rights

The committee met with Robert Terrell, Office of General Counsel, to discuss the intellectual property rights of faculty with regard to lecture material. Mr. Terrell explained that faculty members retain intellectual property rights to their lecture material and students cannot sell the material directly.  Some schools, like the School of Dental Medicine have orientation courses to inform their students on Intellectual Property; however, it is not practical for all schools to use this approach. Mr. Terrell suggested that faculty include a statement regarding intellectual property on their syllabi and agreed to draft language for several intellectual property policy templates that faculty could use on their syllabi. Despite several follow-up e-mails, Mr. Terrell has not provided these templates as of this date. However, the committee feels these Intellectual Property Policy Statements would be useful to faculty and hope that Mr. Terrell will provide them in the future for distribution to the faculty.


The committee met with Eric Furda, Dean of Admissions, who was interested in finding avenues for faculty content and voice in the Admission process. He would also like to engage faculty in helping promote and advocate for Penn in recruiting students to Penn. To help Dean Furda approach and engage faculty on this important University mission, the committee had the following suggestions:  1) work with the Tri-Chairs to identify faculty that the Office of Admissions can feature, 2) contact the following groups to help formulate a list of faculty to contact such as the Biomedical Graduate Studies Group, Graduate Group Chairs, and Undergraduate Chairs, 3) invite Undergraduate Chairs to build a roster of faculty to help the Office of Admissions with recruitment either as featured faculty or in “showing students what Penn has to offer” (These faculty need not be limited to those in the undergraduate schools), and 4) obtain input from faculty who have won teaching awards. The possibility of forming a committee or utilizing an existing committee to provide input into the admissions process was also discussed.

Recommendations for Next Year’s Committee

The committee recommends that SCSEP continues to monitor the impact of the Graduate Tuition Reform particularly with regard to the impact on SAS students in years 2-5. Also, measures to permit SAS students to benefit from external awards and/or fellowships in the 4th and 5th years need to be constructed.

The committee recommends following up on the possibility of creating post-doctoral positions in the Arts and Sciences with peer institutions to provide fresh recipients of doctoral degrees with additional time to establish their scholarly activities in preparation for faculty positions.

The committee recommends following up with Mr. Terrell to see if he could provide the promised templates for Intellectual Property Policy for distribution to faculty for inclusion in their syllabi.

The committee recommends returning to the investigation of Interdisciplinary Graduate Education particularly with regard to students in Professional Degree programs.

2008-2009 Committee Members

Michael Zuckerman, School of Arts and Sciences, Chair-Fall 2008

Kelly Jordan-Sciutto, School of Dental Medicine, Chair-Spring 2009

Lance Donaldson-Evans, School of Arts and Sciences

Marybeth Gasman, Graduate School of Education

Daniel Lee, School of Engineering and Applied Science

Kathleen Montone, School of Medicine

Sherri Adams, School of Dental Medicine, ex officio

Harvey Rubin, School of Medicine, ex officio

Almanac - May 12, 2009, Volume 55, No. 33