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Senate 2009-2010
May 11, 2010, Volume 56, No. 33

Senate Committee on Students and Educational Policy (SCSEP)

General Committee Charge:

The Committee oversees and advises the Executive Committee on matters relating to the University’s policies and procedures on the admission and instruction of students, including academic integrity, admissions policies and administration, evaluation of teaching, examinations and grading, academic experiences, educational opportunities (such as study abroad), student records, disciplinary systems, and the campus environment. In general the Committee deals with the matters covered by the following section of the University’s Handbook for Faculty and Academic Administrators: IV.

Specific Charges:

On the recommendation of the 2008-2009 Committee and the Faculty Senate, this committee was asked to:

1. Continue to monitor and report on the impact of the Graduate Tuition Reform

2. Evaluate the feasibility of creating post-doctoral positions in the Humanities and Social Sciences

3. Consider the impact on interdisciplinary and professional education of tuition flow issues and make appropriate recommendations based on findings

4. Form a subcommittee with the Director of Admissions to update the Admissions Policy for the Undergraduate Schools and develop recommendations concerning a continuing faculty advisory role in admissions.

On the urging of the Senate Tri-Chairs, this Committee also took up four other charges, three at the outset of the year and one more that came up this spring:

5. Resume and complete consideration of some intellectual property issues that arose in the Committee in 2008-2009

6. Look at an issue in a Dental School program that required students to take courses outside the Dental School from which they were shut out by other schools

7. Clarify a contradiction between the PennBook and the Faculty Handbook on academic integrity violations

8. Consider a faculty complaint about student use of laptops and other electronic devices in the classroom


1. Graduate Tuition Reform

The Committee agreed that this issue could be considered dormant, at least for this year. A series of negotiations during the summer with the SAS Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, Ralph Rosen, alleviated the last remaining qualms of the 2008-2009 committee, reassuring the 2009-2010 committee that graduate students would not be disadvantaged in any foreseeable way in the administration of the new tuition rules.  So the Committee agreed to watch and wait, in the knowledge that SCSEP, in its final report for 2007-2008, had recommended a full assessment of the impact of the Tuition Reform after its third year of operation, in AY 2012.

2. Post-Doctoral Positions in the Humanities and Social Sciences

The Committee agreed that there was no need to take up this issue.  In the current economic climate, there was no prospect of a significant initiative in humanities and social science post-docs this year. 

3. Tuition Flow and Interdisciplinary Education

The Committee considered this charge and could see no need to address it.  So far as we could see, no pressing difficulties in interdisciplinary graduate or professional education turn on problems of tuition flow.  

4. Subcommittee to work with the Dean of Admissions

The Committee agreed to monitor the subcommittee throughout the year and delegated SCSEP Chair Michael Zuckerman to sit ex officio on the subcommittee.  The subcommittee will, we trust, present its own report on its work to the Faculty Senate. For the purposes of this report, it is sufficient to say that the subcommittee’s principal recommendation was that a Senate committee meet regularly with the Dean of Admissions to provide faculty oversight of the admissions process. The subcommittee initially envisioned such a meeting once a semester but in the end opted for more latitude. The final recommendation provided for meeting “periodically.”

This Committee agreed that SCSEP is the appropriate Senate committee to meet with the Dean of Admissions but modified the subcommittee’s recommendation to define the relation as one of collaboration rather than oversight.  This Committee also agreed to restore a degree of specified regularity—once a year—to these meetings with the Dean of Admissions. Thus the committee resolved that “The Faculty Senate Committee on Students and Educational Policy (SCSEP) will, in a consultative format with the Dean of Admissions, once a year review undergraduate admissions policies for all students, including transfers, and make recommendations when appropriate.  In addition, the Committee will review outcomes of these policies and make recommendations when appropriate.” The Committee agreed that the calling of these meetings should be included in the SCSEP charge for future years.

5. Intellectual Property Rights

In 2008-2009, the Committee met with Robert Terrell, of the Office of General Counsel, to discuss the intellectual property rights of faculty with regard to their lecture material. Mr. Terrell explained that faculty members retain intellectual property rights to their lecture material and that students cannot sell the material directly. He suggested that faculty who are concerned to make such rights explicit to their students could include a statement regarding intellectual property on their syllabi, and he agreed to draft language for several intellectual property policy templates that faculty could use on their syllabi. But to the end of 2008-2009 he had not done so.

The Committee met again with Mr. Terrell this past year. Reiterating his caution that copyright issues are too broad for one-size-fits-all statements, he presented three formulations that faculty so inclined could put on their syllabi and websites to put students on notice about their expectations and to establish copyright ground rules in their classroom. The Committee approved the most and the least restrictive of the three templates that Mr. Terrell offered. The Committee then passed those two on to the Office of the Provost and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee for their approval and for publication in Almanac so as to put these options before as many faculty as possible. The Provost and the Senate Executive Committee did approve, and the two templates were published in Almanac on March 30, 2010.

6. Dental School Students Excluded from Required Courses

In light of the very small number of students involved, the Committee considered this an issue more appropriately left to the schools involved, unless we found that similar problems existed elsewhere in the University.  We inquired of the Deputy Dean of Education in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Vijay Kumar, since SEAS seemed the school most likely to encounter such a problem. Dr. Kumar reported that he did not consider this a problem of consequence in SEAS, so the Committee judged this an issue not properly within its jurisdiction.

7. Academic Integrity

On the urging of the University’s Ombudsman, Joan Goodman, the committee took up a discrepancy between the provisions of the Faculty Handbook and the PennBook for the assignment of grades in courses in which faculty believe students guilty of academic integrity violations and students are subsequently held not to be responsible for such violations. The differences were arcane. They turned on matters of what faculty had to do and what they were advised to do at what stage of the grading process in those cases of vindication of students after academic integrity proceedings.  But the differences did beg resolution, to prevent equal but opposite appeals to declared University policy.

In consultation with Vice Provost for Education Andrew Binns and Director of the Office of Student Conduct Susan Herron, the Committee approved a modest rewording of the language in the Faculty Handbook, Section IV.C., Charter of the University Student Disciplinary System (Imposing Sanctions on a Student). In this revision, the relevant sentence would be modified to read: “if the student has been found not to be responsible for an academic integrity violation, the instructor must re-evaluate and should assign a grade (which may differ from the grade originally assigned) based on the student’s academic performance in the course.” The Committee recommended to the Office of the Provost and the Office of Student Conduct that they adopt this revision and incorporate it in the Faculty Handbook. Both offices have approved the revision.  

8. Laptops in the classroom

Responding to an eloquent complaint from a colleague about increasingly adverse educational consequences of increasing student use of laptops and other electronic devices in the classroom, the committee discussed the issue extensively but concluded that it could not proceed further without more information. The Committee asked Faculty Senate Chair Harvey Rubin to get feedback from the Senate Executive Committee to gauge the extent of faculty concern about this issue. 

Recommendations for Next Year’s Committee 

• The Committee envisions no need for any active monitoring of the Graduate Tuition Reform next year. But full review of the Reform that the 2008-2009 committee recommended for the following year (AY 2012) still seems like a good idea.

• The Committee detects no push for a major expansion of post-doctoral positions in the humanities and social sciences on the near horizon.  But SCSEP should consider such an initiative very carefully if and when it ever materializes.

• The Committee recommends that procedures be established for an annual meeting with the Dean of Admissions in which the Dean and the committee engage in wide-ranging conversation about admissions issues.  The first such meeting should occur next year.

• The Committee recommends that the issue of student use of laptops and other electronic devices in the classroom be revisited if SEC finds sufficient faculty interest in the matter. Such revisitation might include drafting of a statement on the appropriate use of such technology in the classroom in the material that students receive during freshman orientation.

SCSEP Membership 2009-2010

Michael Zuckerman (School of Arts and Sciences), Chair

Christine Bradway (School of Nursing)

Daniel Lee (School of Engineering and Applied Science)

Catriona MacLeod (School of Arts and Sciences)

Philippe Met (School of Arts and Sciences)

Kathleen Montone (School of Medicine)

Harvey Rubin (School of Medicine), ex officio

Robert Hornik (Annenberg School for Communication), ex officio


Index of Annual Reports of Senate Committees for 2009-2010

Almanac - May 11, 2010, Volume 56, No. 33