SEC Actions February 7, 1996


The following statement is published in accordance with the Senate Rules. Among other purposes, the publication of SEC actions is intended to stimulate discussion between the constituencies and their representatives. Please communicate your comments to Senate Chair William Kissick or Executive Assistant Carolyn Burdon, 15 College Hall/6303, 898-6943 or

Actions Taken by the Senate Executive Committee

Wednesday, February 7, 1996

  1. Academic Planning and Budget Committee and Capital Council. Past Senate Chair David Hildebrand reported that the overriding activity of the Academic Planning and Budget Committee continues to be the evolution of the University Strategic Plan. The president met with the committee to discuss the trustees' reaction, which was favorable, and the next steps. It is hoped that school plans will be developed by the end of the academic year and ready for publication in the Fall.

    The president noted with regret that some in Arts and Sciences have misread the plan as a threat to the well-being of that school. The president noted that one major component of the plan is fund-raising at a level almost to that of another development campaign, and that Arts and Sciences has the opportunity to improve its financial status with some good ideas.

    The committee spent two meetings discussing the plan of the Engineering School. The plan is to make the special areas of strength of the school clearly at or near the top and to develop some of the core areas of engineering to keep them competitive.

    The committee heard from the dean of the Medical School on that school's plans. The medical complex is in the middle of a substantial shift to a more inclusive health system approach, which has implications for staffing and for curriculum. There has been considerable growth in the number of clinician educators--practicing physicians with offices at Penn and substantial teaching duties along with clinical practices--and clinical associates--physicians located elsewhere who also do some educational work. Also, the school is beginning the process of a major revamping of its curriculum.

    Capital Council approved completion of the ResNet program, wiring the various student housing units for computing networks, cable TV, and so on. The Council also approved the final phase of the Franklin Field renovation which included moving the University Archives within the complex.

  2. Senate Committee on Committees. Nominations were made for the seven-member committee; the Faculty Senate Chair and Chair-elect are non-voting ex-officio members. A mail ballot will be circulated to SEC members. This committee nominates candidates for all committees to which the Executive Committee makes appointments except the Senate Nominating Committee and the Senate Committee on Committees.

  3. Arts and Sciences Proposed Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in Foreign Languages. Professor Sheila Murnaghan, chair of the Senate Committee on the Faculty, presented the committee's statement in which they recommended SEC approval of the SAS proposal as it adds some stability to the existing positions and addresses the need to teach an increasing number of students basic foreign language proficiency. The committee recommended support of it with reservation and a request to reinforce the limit on numbers of people in these positions in each department and to limit them to teaching introductory and intermediate courses.

    Extended discussion followed that included: (1) whether teaching foreign languages presents a unique need and whether that differs from special teaching needs in other courses; (2) protection of the concept of tenure and of the standing of the standing faculty; (3) concern that such proposals may be economically driven; (4) the suggestion to reallocate resources to hire additional standing faculty to teach these courses and to change expectations; (5) concern about exploitation of language lecturers and increasing student contact with non-faculty; (6) how, where, and in which languages to draw the line between language lecturers teaching only introductory and intermediate level courses and standing faculty teaching the upper level literature courses; and (7) whether language teaching specialists or standing faculty are better at teaching the introductory and intermediate level courses. It was also suggested that the language departments be polled.

    SEC referred the matter back to the Senate Committee on the Faculty to: (a) determine the numbers of courses taught by language lecturers; (b) determine the total number of courses taught by non-standing faculty upon completion of degree work; (c) provide reasons why language teaching is appropriate for these lecturers; (d) see how other universities handle this issue; (e) learn what other approaches were considered by SAS; and (f) present alternative solutions to the SAS proposal under consideration.

  4. Informal discussion with the President and Provost on the relationship between the Strategic Plan and the 21st Century Undergraduate Education effort. President Rodin pointed out that the first phase item in the Strategic Plan comments on undergraduate and graduate education. There will be a separate focus on training and research interests for undergraduates and graduate students. Recreational athletics is very important to undergraduates and an endowment will be raised for it. Provost Chodorow said that advising will improve with the fresh approach that will be undertaken; that is, to develop advising at appropriate stages and to look at group, professional and electronic advising. The President noted that advisors should be able to explain all the implications and variations of choices made. The Provost went on to say he has been working on quality of teaching in the Provost's Staff Conference as well as in the undergraduate education project. He will invite the faculty from all the schools to submit proposals for new interdisciplinary courses. Structural impediments to such courses are also being reviewed.


February 13, 1996
Volume 42 Number 20

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