At the year-end meeting of the University Council:

A Message from the Council Steering Committee Chair

I have three or four major points to share with you today.

First of all, several issues have come before Steering that require changes. We agreed to abolish the Student Fulbright Awards Committee as a committee of University Council and to exchange it for a broad University-based, faculty-based committee that would help Penn students achieve the kind of success in obtaining national and international awards that they really deserve. So, we've developed a plan for doing that, but it requires abolishing the Student Fulbright Awards Committee. That requires Council action and vote. It goes to the whole question of quorums. One issue before Steering at the beginning of next year will be work toward changing the quorum so it's more realistic and so we can have votes and important questions that don't get interrupted and squelched. That's one of the pieces that must be on the agenda for next year.

Another piece of work for next year is the question of ensuring fair and democratic elections among all the constituencies. And in order to do that, I'm going to recommend to Steering next year that at its first meeting it take up the following resolution, that Council should address. It will read something like:

In order to implement the requirement of the University Council bylaws that constituent organizations having representation on the University Council be democratic in both practice and principle, any such organization shall supply at the beginning of each year, as a condition of its representatives' being authorized to sit as members of Council, a clear statement of its current election procedures and a description of the most recent elections, practices, procedures and results.

In the meantime, in light of the serious questions that have been raised regarding last year's elections among the A-3 Assembly, I've appointed a committee consisting of Howard Lesnick, Larry Gross and Alex Welte, who will offer their good offices to assist in the structuring of the upcoming A-3 Assembly elections so that they will be fair and democratic.

My recommendation for Steering action goes to all constituencies, while the ad hoc election commission will address the upcoming May elections for the A-3 Assembly, hopefully with the collaboration and good will of all parties concerned.

The third thing I want to say is that I feel University Council has been spotty in its success this year. The bad news is that I don't think we have had the kind of stimulating intellectual discourse that we could have at all times, and that we should have, to serve our role of providing information to the President and the Provost regarding the sentiments of the various constituencies around key issues facing the University. And I urge both Steering and ourselves to work towards making our discussions next year much more lively, much more engaged, and much more directed towards providing the full range of thought and ideas that can help the President and Provost understand where the constituencies stand. We did work on this at Steering this year, but Steering is open to your advice about how to do it better next year. I have been at the University long enough that I can remember a time when University Council looked like the British Parliament, and it sometimes got out of hand but was always fun and always engaging, and I think we can strike a balance between that and some of our more boring sessions this year. Now, that isn't to say that all our sessions were boring; I do agree with the President that on some occasions we managed to engage actively around central issues. I just urge us to do better and work harder next year. When all is said and done, I believe fully in our capacity. I enjoyed meeting and working with all of you this year. I think that there is enormous ability around the room. I think it is fully possible for us to engage in lively intellectual debate about important issues and to have those be fruitful and useful. And I want to appreciate the opportunity I've had to get to know all of you. It's been wonderful, a great addition to my own education and to my own experience as a human being, and I look forward to working with all of you again next year.

-- Peter J. Kuriloff, Chair University Council Steering Committee


Volume 43 Number 34
May 13, 1997

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