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Pullout: 1998 February at PENN Calendar

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SENATE: From the Senate Office

The following statement is published in accordance with the Senate Rules. Among other purposes, the publication of SEC actions is intended to stimulate discussion among the constituencies and their representatives. Please communicate your comments to Senate Chair Vivian Seltzer or Executive Assistant Carolyn Burdon, Box 12 College Hall/6303, 898-6943 or

Actions Taken by the Senate Executive Committee Wednesday, January 21, 1998

1. Items from the Chair's Report.

a. SEC authorized the Chair to send a letter of congratulations to Samuel Preston from SEC on his appointment as Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. SEC acknowledged recognition of his service to the Faculty Senate.
b. Ralph Ginsberg's subcommittee on intellectual property expects to receive copies of the schools' reports from the Provost's Office. They will be forwarded to him by the Senate Office.
c. SCAFR has had a quiet year, thus far.
d. Committee on Students and Educational Policy interim report will be heard at the February 4 meeting.

2. Academic Planning and Budget Committee and Capital Council. Past Faculty Senate Chair Peter Kuriloff reported there had been one Capital Council meeting since the last SEC meeting and discussion was around a new site for another chilled water plant.

He had again expressed concern to the administration about Academic Planning and Budget Committee meetings being seminars and not a good use of the committee members. This week the topics were the Center for Technology Transfer and strategic goal number two to aggressively seek research opportunities. Funding is up and the future looks bright.

3. Discussion with SEC appointees to the Provost Search Committee. SEC members presented their views on criteria for a provost. Comments centered around: a strong provost who wants to be provost for some time; represents academic values and the primacy of the academic mission; understands budgets; wide understanding, appreciation and use of Penn's faculty expertise. A search committee member conveyed a collegue's view that it is time to rethink the position of provost and make it vice president for academic affairs. A SEC member said this was an interesting question since the enterprise is growing. SEC's consensus was that the provost should be chief academic officer and an equal partner with the president, with appropriate funding to carry out the office.

[See also SEC Actions of December 17, 1998]

4. Committee on the Faculty benefits discussion. Committee Chair Professor William F. Harris introduced the six proposals from the administration that had beezn sent to SEC members in advance: Long-term Care, Vision Care, Retirement Plan Issues, Mental Health Care Long-term Disability and Medical Plan Caps. Professor Harris stated that the administration plans to publish the proposals in Almanac shortly for comment. SEC supported proposals for the first three but asked that the Mental Health Care, Long-term Disability, and Medical Plan caps proposals be carried over to the next SEC meeting owing to their complexity and the number of questions raised. It was noted that Medical Plan Caps were not improved; the out-of-network cap is proposed to decrease from $2M to $1M and in-network from $2M to unlimited. Very few beneficiaries would be expected to spend $1M, and the option to go outside the network for an expensive case would be lost. The proposal gives a strong incentive to drive patients inside the Penn network.

Regarding long-term disability, while the proposal would increase the maximum benefit from $5,000 to $7,000 this would benefit only those earning $100,000 or more (LTD benefits cover 60 percent of salary) and few in this income bracket require long-term disability benefits. Under present policies, LTD also covers thecost of a beneficiary's health insurance. With the new proposal, it would pay only the amount of the current HMO premium. SEC members raised issues about continuing the present policy on medical and dental insurance. Serious questions were also raised about the absence of indexing benefits for inflation.

SEC members were also concerned that the Mental Health proposal indicated no movement toward parity in cost and was following a conservative interpretation of the law. The law requires no financial cap. There was also serious reservation about the negative impact on out-patient benefits for Blue-Cross, under which the proposed charges would reduce the number of covered visits-at a minimum-from about 38 to 30.

SEC withheld its endorsement for the proposed changes in these three areas to be published until those issues can be resolved.

5. Committee on Administration progress report. Committee Chair Professor Louis A. Girifalco reviewed trends revealed in an ongoing long-term time series analysis of University budgets from 1980-1997 and with estimated data for 1998. A full report will be presented to SEC in a forthcoming meeting after the data is checked for accuracy and published in Almanac in late spring.

6. Faculty Club. Professor John Keene, SEC liaison to the Faculty Club Board of Governors, summarized the status of plans for the new Faculty Club in the hotel under construction on Walnut Street. SEC members reiterated earlier concerns about the impending loss of a faculty club for what appears to be a two-hour lunch club as well as concern over availability of meeting rooms. SEC was asked to gather input from their constituencies for continuing discussion at the next SEC meeting.

Return to:Almanac, University of Pennsylvania, January 27, 1998, Volume 44, Number 19