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AAUP Penn Chapter

The following relates to the announcement that a Special Committee
on Consultation is being formed to examine the consultative process,
as called for in the November 5 Special Meeting of University Council
(see Almanac November 11 and 18). The make-up of the Special
Committee was announced in Almanac December 9.

Consultation as a Process and Procedure

The University is a very special community. Ideally, it would consist of just faculty and students. In this complex, modern society, administrative expertise is required to ensure that the faculty and students can serve the University purposes of knowledge creation, codification, preservation, and transmission. However, the faculty deserve and expect a substantial voice in the manner in which they are administered.

Our personal memories on the Executive Board of the University of Pennsylvania Chapter of AAUP go back to the Harnwell presidency and the formation of the Faculty Senate and University Council. Their formation was a reaction first by the faculty and later by other affected constituencies, against administrative fiat. The Harnwell and subsequent administrations learned that broad consultation from the very beginning leads ultimately to better decisions which are more easily and widely accepted. This consultative apparatus is in place and ready for use. To say that it is too cumbersome is truly disingenuous. Democracy may be cumbersome; judicial procedures may be lengthy and tedious to insure due process. But, would we have it any other way? It is the process and the procedure that we talk about here. Our experience amply demonstrates that early consultation, from the very beginning of a new initiative, builds trust in the relationships involved in the change process and in the administration of the system.

In the most sensitive and delicate decisions, where there is a genuine need for closely held information and confidentiality, the very minimum consultation would be to involve from the beginning the three Faculty Senate chairs. Collectively there is often 75 years or more of University experience which should not be lightly disregarded by high administrators who may be recent arrivals here. Their wisdom is a University treasure and should be valued as such. Most important decisions are neither so sensitive nor so delicate. In these circumstances, full information should be shared with and advice sought from the appropriate Senate or Council committees. These committees very often have among their membership faculty with great expertise in the matters at hand. The purpose of these committees is to provide advice to the administration. The current administration may have forgotten that. An administration that does not listen to its constituencies is an administration at risk.

In reflecting over our many decades of dedicated service to Penn, we realize that every time there was a serious problem, a committee was formed to consider the problem and make recommendations to the administration for the solution. A new "Committee on Consultation," to recommend to the administration how to consult with all of the University constituencies is redundant. It is all here: the Faculty Senate and University Council have a well established committee structure in place to do what is needed. Our strong recommendation to the administration is to use this existing structure in a continuing effort to involve the broader community in necessary and responsible decision making. Involve the committees very early, present alternative solutions under consideration and listen, yes listen to what is said in response. An administration that takes the deliberations of consultative committees seriously into consideration is an administration that will receive widespread support for the necessary decisions, however unpleasant they may be. We believe this is the only way to restore a full measure of trust, a sense of community, and a sense of shared destiny, to Penn.

The Executive Board of the University of Pennsylvania Chapter,
American Association of University Professors
President: Elsa Ramsden
Vice-President: Morris Mendelson
Secretary: Ira M. Cohen
Treasurer: Erling Boe
Executive Board Members: Helen Davies, Janet Deatrick,
Marten Estey, Peter Freyd,
Reuben Kron, Charles Mooney


Return to:Almanac, University of Pennsylvania, January 13, 1998, Volume 44, Number 17