October 12, 2021

Message from Dean Lang

To: Liberal Arts Faculty and Staff
From: Clarence Lang

Dear Colleagues: 

I hope this message finds you well as we approach the halfway point of the semester. 

I’d like to take this opportunity to address fall undergraduate student enrollments, discuss a few COVID-related matters, and update you on some limited-term college funding for both faculty and staff. A few corresponding documents are attached* for further information and convenience.   

Enrollments and COVID-19 Updates 

Let me begin with a few relevant statistics: 

  • In terms of full-time undergraduate enrollment, our numbers largely resemble what we saw last year: full-time enrollment for resident instruction stands at 4,833 students, (down 1.02 percent), while full-time undergraduate enrollment for the World Campus is 1,016 students (up 5.05 percent). 
  • As of today, nearly 88 percent of the students at University Park – 90.8 percent living on campus and 86.6 percent living elsewhere in the community – have been fully vaccinated. Those in the college who have not been vaccinated have largely complied with the University’s weekly testing requirements (as evidenced by the fact that less than 20 liberal arts students have received interim suspensions for not being tested). 
  • Similarly, slightly more than 81 percent of Penn State employees at University Park – including 96.6% of academic personnel, 98 percent of administrators, and 85 percent of non-union staff – have reported being fully vaccinated. The vast majority of our full-time, on-campus employees in the College of the Liberal Arts have either submitted their vaccination information or are complying with mandatory weekly testing. In terms of our undergraduate students, less than 20 of them (out of a total of more than 100 across the University) are on interim suspension for failing to comply with the requirement to either upload proof of vaccination or take regular COVID tests.  

By themselves, these measures are not sufficient to address the many difficulties that come with working on campus during a pandemic. Thanks to our college’s department heads and academic program directors, as well as members of our Faculty Senate Caucus and Tenure-Line Faculty Advisory Group, I am mindful of the challenges our classroom instructors are facing as they manage courses with students who have to be absent due to COVID, and try to avoid getting ill themselves or infecting others as non-symptomatic carriers. Our staff colleagues – especially those in student-facing roles – have carried similar burdens.  

These concerns have been a topic of ongoing conversations among members of Penn State’s Academic Leadership Council. As you may be aware, the University recently issued a document, “Contingency Planning for Academic Unit Heads,” that provides high-level guidance for managing multiple student absences and extended instructor absences, and offers resources, strategies, and special considerations for instructors and unit heads. I have attached this “Contingency Planning” document, and my thanks go to Denise Solomon, professor and head of our Department of Communication Arts and Sciences, who served on the University committee that drafted it.  

As additional visual resources, I have attached two graphics: “Suggestions for Necessary and Temporary Student Absence,” and “Suggestions for Necessary and Temporary Instructor Absence,” both courtesy of Becka Turner, multimedia specialist in the Filippelli Institute. Thanks to University Human Resources, you will also find attached a list of COVID-19 testing locations in Centre County for symptomatic employees. Parallel to this, I expect to be able to relay updates over the next several weeks regarding spring 2022 work arrangements. 

In my latest message to Liberal Arts undergraduates, I urged those who have not already been vaccinated to please do so, and I highly recommended that all students get their yearly flu shot as well. I strongly encourage all faculty and staff to do the same. 

Funding for Faculty and Staff 

Thanks to our alumni donors and philanthropic friends, the college has raised more than $93.1 million to date during Penn State’s “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence” campaign – eclipsing our $85 million goal. Their tremendous generosity allowed the college to provide more than $4.4 million in scholarship support to undergraduate, graduate, and World Campus students in the last academic year alone and to continue our pursuit of providing a transformative liberal arts education to any diligent student who seeks it.  

Our alumni leaders and volunteers have also continued responding to appeals to support faculty research and development. Along these lines, I have invited heads and directors to submit proposals for special one-time research funds to tenure-line faculty, which my office is making available to better steward endowment monies that our benefactors have gifted the college. Requests will be granted based on need and ability to match proposals with available endowment funds. 

As an additional follow-up to an announcement that Richard Page sent on September 13, I would again like to again encourage teaching faculty to submit applications for college funding to support professional development and teaching-related projects. I am also extending this funding opportunity to Liberal Arts research and clinical faculty, and professors of practice. Although we have typically been awarding applicants amounts up to $750 since launching this project, please know that we will consider awarding higher amounts of funding based on interest and need. Those who are eligible should submit your funding proposals to Nicole Bahrmann at ngb5117@psu.edu

Further, consistent with the priority I have placed on staff development – and based on the generosity of leading donors in our college – I also have an opportunity to direct funds toward retreats, conference travel (where applicable) and fees, and other relevant professional enhancement opportunities for staff employees across our college. Consult your respective supervisors for further details. 

I am pleased to share a few other promising University-level developments that gesture toward a future beyond COVID. You will recall that President Barron announced the formation of a new Center for Racial Justice, which will be housed in the Social Science Research Institute. An outgrowth of recommendations from the President’s Select Commission on Racism, Bias, and Community Safety, this new center will foster interdisciplinary and cross-methodological research activities focused on race and racism, host a fellowship and seed grant program, and translate this knowledge into new anti-racist pedagogies, public engagement, and policy decisions at Penn State and across the Commonwealth. The Office of the Senior Vice President for Research will be conducting a national search for the center’s inaugural director. 

As of October 1, our University’s Office of Global Programs has been “rebranded” as Penn State Global, with a rejuvenated emphasis on academic and research goals to be achieved through education-abroad initiatives, partnerships with institutions across the world, and global learning in curriculum and co-curricular campus life. Given the global expertise among our faculty, Liberal Arts is poised for rich collaborations with Penn State Global through our languages, area studies, and Study Abroad programming.  

I look forward to sharing other pertinent updates about additional developments in and around our college as they unfold. As always, you have my gratitude for your perseverance and my best wishes for a constructive and rewarding week. 



Contingency planning for faculty and student absences (PDF)

Suggestions for Necessary and Temporary Instructor Absence (PDF)

Suggestions for Necessary and Temporary Student Absence (PDF)

University Park COVID-19 Testing Resources (PDF)