Council November 29: Summarizing the 1995 Public Forum Session

The "December" meeting of Council--held on November 29 because of scheduling problems--featured the now-annual Public Forum where members of the University bring questions they believe are within Council's purview.

Opening reports were brief. President Judith Rodin's was a call for input (see Almanac December 5) on the Agenda for Excellence (published November 21/28). Provost Stanley Chodorow was away on University business. Dr. William Kissick reported that Steering will review the UTV experience in Council coverage. GAPSA's Victor Prince raised cautions on the implementation of the policy on Consensual Sexual Relations, and described national activity to oppose federal cuts in funding for graduate education. The UA's Lance Rogers praised the resubmission of Dr. Gregg Camfield's nomination for tenure, and said the UA will follow this and other tenure decisions involving faculty with high ratings as teachers. He also said the UA is trying to identify 24-hour study space.

PPSA's chair-elect Marie Witt reported that meetings on restructuring are in progress between the A-1 group's leadership and Executive Vice President John Fry. A-3 Assembly Spokesperson Karen Wheeler raised objections (see Speaking Out) to published characterizations of layoffs as "firing."

Issues in the Public Forum

Limiting each speaker to three minutes, Moderator Will Harris conducted debate on 11 topics. Issues not already being addressed by a Council committee are to be reviewed by Steering for follow-up.

Students and Tenure: Emphasizing that he would "in no way advocate that students be involved in final decisions," former UA chair Dan Debicella asked that the University develop an institution-wide process for students to offer advice on tenure candidates' teaching quality. Mechanisms could be: (a) students sit on tenure committees nonvoting (as they are on deans' reviews or (b) students who have had the pro-fessor's forming committees to write evaluations. Laurie Moldawer said UA has approached NEC about the feasibility of forming evaluation committees, and NEC found it "workable."

Professor David Hildebrand called graduate students, particularly teaching fellows, "uniquely able to give still another perspective on teaching ability," and also proposed the use of syllabi and exams as a "written record of the rigor and substance" of candidates' teaching.

To a query on similar input with respect to visiting faculty, Mr. Debicella said the need was perceived but he could see no practical way.

Pro-Rated Benefits: Julie Vick of the Career Planning/Placement staff made a presentation (see Speaking Out) reiterating an earlier plea for pro- rated benefits for part-time professional staff, as supported in a Personnel Benefits Committee study. Senate Chair-elect Peter Kuriloff praised the presentation as one that speaks to "the quality of community, and the danger of making one group invisible."

President Rodin reminded Council that at the time of Ms. Vick's initial presentation, and until a few weeks ago, there was no vice president for human resources. "As you recall we were very eager to accept the recommendation of the committee last February, and to commend to the new vice president, when he or she was appointed, that it be taken up with the full consideration of benefits. It is still our intention to do that; nothing has changed with regard to our recognition of the seriousness of the request and the effort to review benefits."

UTV / Wade Cablevision: President and General Manager Heather Dorf noted for Council as a whole that the Communications Committee will take up on December 18 a request by UTV (now closed- circuit) to affiliate with Wade Cablevision, making its signal accessible off-campus--as are those of Temple and Drexel. Especially concerned that the prize-winning station cannot be seen by off-campus upperclass-mates, she said advertising would also increase, giving UTV the money to be more competitive with other college stations.

Arm's Length ROTC: Praising Penn's advances in nondiscrimination on other fronts, Anthony Putz of the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Alliance brought to Council what he termed "inaction on enacting the arm's length relationship with ROTC" recommended by Council in 1993. He reviewed a history of Senate and Council actions and asked that Council set new deadlines, so that ROTC would either be arm's length, or in a cross-town (consortial) arrangement by fall 1996. In brisk debate, a UA representative urged retention of ROTC, if necessary with a change of University policy to resolve the conflict between Penn's nondiscrimination policy and the military's "don't ask/don't tell." When the UA speaker suggested it was inappropriate to keep IAST funds but kick ROTC off campus, Mr. Putz said the Air Force was aware of the arm's length policy but granted funds for IAST anyway and he believed other services would respect the policy. Lt. Col. Edward Forte, USMC, said he did not believe the NROTC would want to see any deviation from the status quo.

Seating UMC: Onyx Finney of the United Minorities Council asked that Council reconsider the request for a UMC seat--noting that for several years UA had informally reserved one of the undergraduate places for a UMC representative, but when the new bylaws were being written, the request to have that seat made formal was turned down. UA's Mr. Rogers opposed the proposal. Confirming that the issue would involve the bylaws, and finding in a straw poll "a strong minority, in fact a majority" interested in reopening the issue, Moderator Harris said the issue would go to Steering.

Behavior/Religion Concern: After outlining new mechanisms for coordinating among religious organizations on campus, Acting Chaplain Fred Guyott presented an issue on which the new bodies will soon deliberate and advise the Provost: investigation of reports of what he described as behavioral problems in the activities of an evangelical group called the Greater Philadelphia Church of Christ. Rev. Guyott said consultations with campus religious leaders including CA, Hillel and Newman Center, and with counterparts at other campuses with branches of the GPCC (Brown, BU, Columbia, Harvard and Yale) showed a pattern he characterized as harassment, but in conversations with elders of the GPCC, the elders attributed them to zealousness. As a number of Council members sought clarification on the relationship between this issue and any incursion on freedom of speech, the Rev. Guyott said that an educational approach could concentrate on specific behaviors that students and parents have reported as harmful (harassment, persistent phone calls and visits within dorms) and that he would observe the line between behavioral and theological issues in taking this to the advisory bodies.

Student Disciplinary Charter: Three speakers raised questions about what they perceive as flaws in the proposal under revision by the Provost. (1) Based on a case he outlined, Jonathan Brightbill of Penn Watch asked that the University develop ways to follow criminal cases resulting from campus disciplinary action, and support RAs or others from the University who are involved in the ensuing court proceedings. (2) Undergraduate Hayley Lattman objected to restrictions on advocacy for students in hearings process, and urged President Rodin not to accept any charter that does not provide support for respondents--though she specified she did not mean professional lawyers. (3) Mike Nadel reopened the question of open versus closed hearings, favoring a norm of open hearings (subject to respondent's choice) except in cases of rape or sexual assault (subject to complainant's choice).

Mr. Nadel's overarching proposal--that Council should discuss the proposed Charter at least one more time--led to another straw poll, with a substantial number in favor of returning the Charter for discussion.

President Rodin noted that the Provost has been revising the document in the light of earlier Council discussion and numerous suggestions of the community at large. It is the Provost's intent once again to publish a draft charter, she said. "The thought was to do this in January since December does not provide a good time for comment. The Charter goes to the Schools, and what they accept as final will give some variety to procedures on a school by school basis. So if Council wants to discuss what will surely be a revised charter, it should be in January."

Semiautomatic Weaponry: James Gray, A-3 chairperson of the African American Association, opposed a reported plan to arm the University Police with semiautomatic weapons, charging that "raising the level of firepower" would escalate violence and be "a threat to the lives of faculty, staff, administrators, and students." He also called for examination of University policy on the use of deadly force.

Penn Watch's Mr. Brightbill supported semiautomatics Penn police, listing incidents in recent weeks in which possession or use of such weapons was reported by Penn Police. He also recalled assaults in recent years on Samir Shah and Keith Campell and the shooting death of Moez Alimohamed. He said other campuses are converting to semiautomatics including Harvard, Yale and Amherst.

On behalf of Public Safety's Managing Director Thomas Seamon, Maureen Rush conveyed support for conversion from revolvers to semiautomatic weapons, both to protect the Penn community and officers, and to meet industry standards as Penn officers undergo annual training and certification in the Policy Academy.

Dr. Helen Davies urged "careful discussion" and consultation with Penn experts Marvin Wolfgang, the internationally-known criminologist; William Schwab, chief trauma surgeon at HUP and expert on gunshot wounds; Donald Schwarz of pediatrics, an expert on youth and violence prevention. Among questions she listed: Does the use of semi-automatic weapons raise the stakes? How much is such a change needed? Have semiautomatic weapons been used on the Penn campus in the past? What is the experience of other campuses' police who are using semi-automatic weapons such as Yale and Harvard? Where do officers keep their weapons when not on duty? How will the West Philadelphia community view such a change? And, can Philadelphia do better than New Haven and Boston?

The moderator confirmed for the record that the Council Committee on Safety and Security is considering this issue, that the Committee's report would come back to Council before a decision is made, and that the Committee is willing to consider the options for discussion and consultation which Professor Davies raised. Added to these in the meantime was Mr. Gray's request that David Rudovsky, a senior fellow in the Law School, also be involved in any discussions.

Sexual Harassment: A former graduate student, Brian Linson, charged that the policy dating from 1988 has been superseded in practice and should be updated or scrapped.

Affirmative Action: Time ran out as Dr. Jean Crockett had delivered the first portion of a statement calling for continued support of affirmative action in the light of external changes. The full statement is in Speaking Out.

President Rodin addressed the issue as Council was adjourning, noting that several bodies of university presidents are supporting affirmative action nationally, making their position known "very loudly, nationally" to the Executive Branch and the Congress. "Our own Affirmative Action Council will continue to monitor the national debate and report to the University Community as that debate starts to move in one direction or another. That's not to shortcut discussion by Council or the community at large, but I just want to underscore that there is great attention to these issues in the University and nationally."


Tuesday, December 12, 1995
Volume 42 Number 15

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