The SOS Challenge: Academic Excellence

The Safeguard Old State Vision for Academic Excellence

Safeguard Old State envisions a university community at Penn State that once more can earn a stellar reputation for academic excellence. As it now stands, our reputation — built largely by generations of Penn Staters of years past — is one of great spirit and academic and civic achievement.

As we embark on the 21st century, however, many threats to that reputation exist. Even as annual spending by administrators has ballooned over the past two decades, the number of tenured faculty has not kept pace with the growth of the university.

Professors learned in their fields and experienced in matters outside the ivory tower are increasingly lured not to teaching and education, but research and the grants that accompany those programs.

The Keys To A Return To Glory

  • A rediscovery of our land-grant mission and rich heritage as educator of the poor and middle class youth of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
  • A return to tripartite governance mandated by the Penn State Trustees, vesting real decision-making authority in the hands of the University Faculty Senate (UFS).
  • An acknowledgment on the part of administrators that, of the three-fold mission of the university — education, research and outreach — education must again be given preference as central to the mission of Penn State.  This represents a “first among equals” approach.
  • A renewed focus on the classroom experience of undergraduates and a reasonable limiting of web-based learning, recognizing that a web-only approach can devalue the curriculum and disengage students from the worth of the classroom experience.
  • A commitment to increasing the numbers of tenured faculty, opting for experienced educators over part time graduate student instructors and teaching assistants, who, while competent, can never bring the wealth of life experience into the learning experience.
  • An appreciation of the role played in the learning process by fellow students and a teaching approach that fosters communication and dialog among fellow students.
  • The elevation of students to their rightful place in the university as participants in a long and cherished line of Penn Staters of accomplishment and success with honor rather than regarding students as consumers — customers paying per credit toward a job ticket.
  • An understanding of education not as merely training for a job, but rather with a liberal approach meant to form the minds of the young in how to think rather than what to think.
  • A return to developing the mind and soul of young men and women, preparing them for the demands of life far better than will the current approach of filling their heads with facts and figures alone.