SENATE From the Chair

The Senate Prepares to Meet the Benefits Redesign Challenge

Dear Faculty Colleagues:

In my welcome back column last September, I wrote that the University would be redesigning its benefits packages this year. In part, redesign is being driven by concern that Penn may not be in compliance with federal guidelines regarding comparability between its retirement plans for faculty and support staff, or among its plans and those of its hospitals. In part too, redesign is being pursued to determine what the University community wants its benefits package to accomplish as well as to make sure it remains competitive for attracting faculty without being overly costly.

Once the administration's proposal for redesigned benefits is presented, it will be the job of the Senate Executive Committee to make sure that the faculty understands the proposed package and is clear about its implications for our well being. SEC must then provide a voice for the faculty to say whether the package meets our needsas individuals and as a collective with a major stake in keeping Penn competitive among the premier research universities in the country. SEC must then help the faculty articulate what it wants in terms of benefits in such a reasoned and persuasive fashion that we can affect the shape of the redesign in an appropriate and responsible fashion.

Crunch time is fast approaching. The administration expects to go public with its redesign in January or February. To meet our duty to the faculty, SEC has authorized me to a appoint a committee of faculty experts who have the intellectual background and skills to thoroughly examine the proposed benefits package. They will be asked to examine its premises, ferret out and test its underlying assumptions and then help us understand its implications for both our welfare and the long-term welfare of the University. The administration has been apprised of the charge of the committee and has agreed to give it sufficient time to do its work.

I am pleased to announce that a splendid group of faculty have agreed to serve on the Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee to Review the Benefits Redesign Report. The members include Mark Pauly, Bendheim Professor of Health Care Systems; Jerry Rosenbloom, Frederick H. Ecker Professor of Insurance and Risk Management; Erling Boe Professor of Education and former member of the Academic Planning and Budget Committee and the Committee on the Economic Status of the Faculty; and Sheila Murnaghan, Associate Professor of Classical Studies and Chair, Senate Committee on the Faculty.

I believe we can all have confidence that this group of trusted colleagues will help us respond vigorously and appropriately to the administration's proposed benefits package. They will keep us informed of their work. When their report is ready, SEC will review it and will then propose what further actions the faculty should take to guard both Penn's interests and our own.

-- Peter J. Kuriloff


Volume 43 Number 17
January 14, 1997

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