SENATE From the Chair

Report of the Chair to the Faculty Senate

May 6, 1998

Until recently, annual meetings of the Faculty Senate were held in April where the President and the Provost presented reports directly to all members of the faculty. Chairs of major Senate committees and the Chair of the Faculty Senate also reported to the faculty at large. Questions were taken from the floor. In May, 1996, this custom was abolished by a close vote of the Senate mandating that in view of decreasing attendance a written report by the Chair of the Faculty Senate would reach a wider audience. I have often pondered whether eliminating the opportunity for any faculty member to address a question directly to administrative and faculty leadership might not have been short-sighted and restricted informal give-and-take. Thus, it is under this constraint that I render this year-end report of representative Senate activities for academic year 1997-98. I refer you to the full reports of the major Senate committees, Committee on Administration (Almanac April 21, 1998), Committee on Administration subcommittee on cost containment (Almanac March 24, 1998), Committee on Students and Educational Policy (Almanac April 28, 1998), Committee on the Faculty , Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (Almanac April 28, 1998). Please note the names of committee chairs and members of parent and subcommittees at the end of each report. Reports from the Committee on the Economic Status of the Faculty and the Faculty Grievance Commission have not yet been formally submitted, but will appear in Almanac in the Fall of 1998.

A few words of appreciation. I wish to thank Past Chair Peter Kuriloff and Chair-elect John Keene for their support and cooperation. They were generous with their time and with their ideas, were always ready to "pitch-in" when called upon. They advanced the work completed this academic year. Sincere thanks to Jack Nagel, Secretary of the Faculty Senate for his precision and skill in documenting the proceedings of our Senate Executive Committee meetings. I would also like to thank President Rodin, Interim Provost Wachter, and Past Provost Chodorow for their important initiatives and for their valuable time spent with SEC, in consultation meetings with the Senate Chairs, and for their considered judgments which they shared generously. I look forward to continuing to work with the President and Provost next year in my capacity as Past Chair. I would also like to thank Associate Provost Barbara Lowery for her good counsel and Executive Vice President John Fry for his collaborative spirit. Thanks to the Executive Assistant to the Faculty Senate Chair, Carolyn P. Burdon, for her assistance in expediting our work and in sharing the experience she brings in serving the Faculty Senate these past 27 years.


That higher education is undergoing change is true, but oversimplified. Many changes are accompanied by paradox. Not only is the rate of tech-nological change challenging and assaulting, but it impacts how we gather and transfer knowledge. Adjustment to these impacts may be less disconcerting for those in certain disciplines than in others and may bring further into question the concept of "One University." Realities extant in the University community have raised this dilemma before, e.g., variations in relative wealth among the 12 schools, or the extent to which responsibility center budgeting may impede support of interdisciplinary study. Nonetheless, we customarily address challenges and we go forward. Witness the various initiatives advanced by the administration that are now successfully under way. Yet, these few examples are typical of the swift-moving context which enveloped me last summer as I developed University-pertinent charges for Senate committee work for academic year 1997-98.

The Faculty Senate Executive Committee and its working committees operationalize the concept of "One University." When carrying out Senate business, faculty leave the psychological domain of their individual schools and collaborate with colleagues from across the University in what might approach "group think" processes-improving the University becomes the goal as they focus on all our 12 schools, rather than dynamics and needs of one. The welfare and educational advancement of the collective 12 schools become "the ball." Faculty serving the Senate keep their eye on the ball, working hard not to be diverted, interpreting and reinterpreting what that ball is.

Charges to the Senate committees define the scope and parameters of that ball for the forthcoming year and delegate segments of that ball to the appropriate committee. Since higher education is engaged in an expanding evolutionary process (with outcomes yet unknown), one essential question is, "Who should manage the character and context of those changes?" If the reply is that it is those individuals charged with developing curriculum for the University and granting its degrees-the faculty-then that faculty must possess the broader knowledge and the vision to approach this task. Within that context, the outline from which to develop the Faculty Senate agenda and set the its committee charges for this academic year became clear:

a. What is the nature of existing ground on which changes will fall?
b. What changes are taking place? What are present policies and practices?
c. Are we prepared for the impact of the changes?
d. Who is teaching our students as the impact is experienced? What are the safeguards?
e. What strategic approaches can be managed through budgetary policy?

Accordingly, interlocking tasks were assigned to committees on Administration, Students and Educational Policy, and Faculty.

Committee on Administration: Growth Patterns

A task charged to the Committee on Administration was "to examine the relative proportion of funding allocated to educational or non-educational enterprise in connection with shifts in administrative size, structure, regrouping and emphasis." Their findings have been published in the report of the subcommittee on cost containment (Almanac March 24, 1998). Please refer to this important factual report detailing such matters as the increasing growth and prominence of the Health Care System relative to academic activities, rising costs, impressive faculty productivity, decreasing ratio of faculty salaries to University budgets, and advances in unrestricted administrative/clerical salaries over that of faculty. The committee concluded that their "analysis of the University budgets over the past eighteen years reveals a major shift in the relative allocation of resources away from the support of direct academic programs to other activities." Faculty productivity was found to be high (the ratio of teaching and research revenues to academic salaries of 3.29), but rising costs in other areas (detailed in the report) caused faculty salaries to become an increasingly smaller portion of the annual budget. A major conclusion reached was that "each of the categories of concern...needs to be examined from a strategic standpoint relative to the basic University mission of education and scholarship." It was recommended that the Committee on Administration subcommittee on cost containment continue its examination of budgetary policy to complement and serve the broader interests of the already well-functioning University Committee on Cost Containment (on which faculty appointed by the Senate serve). Another recommendation emphasized the importance of continuing to examine closely "the effect that past history should have on future strategy and budgetary policy."

Committee on Students and Educational Policy: Pressures and Responses

Continuing in the spirit of past history and present practice, the charge to the Committee on Students and Educational Policy was to examine, "How do we fit educational policy to the current and foreseeable realities brought about by fiscal and technological 'pressures' that require educational adjustment in the highly competitive environment that faces us as an educational institution." The committee was asked to bear in mind three major pressures:

  • funding and pricing in a competitive environment,
  • distinctions between "research" and "teaching" universities, and
  • the arrival of information technology.

The charge further asked that the committee inquire into whether educational compatibility with these pressures required proactive involvement of faculty, and if so, are current mechanisms for securing such faculty participation adequate? Or, contrariwise, was there benefit to a reactive faculty exerting its influence in opposition to initiatives for change to protect traditional practices and policies?

Following a program of inquiry and recommendation similar to that of the Committee on Administration, the Committee on Students and Educational Policy first examined past and current practices before suggesting proactive steps. This committee also examined a number of attendant issues (other than major recommendations mentioned below) which appear in their report (Almanac April 28, 1998). The committee sent forward to the Senate Executive Committee three important conclusions and two recommendations for action. The conclusions were that:

  • they did not encounter any abuses that could be tied to pressures of the competitive marketplace or technological advance;
  • they did not believe the mix of roles and interests entailed by the concept of a "research university" is clearly understood;
  • in order to reconcile the necessity to keep pace with growing and changing demands and yet protect the central academic functions it was necessary to take a bold new step forward.

Two recommendations accepted by the Senate Executive Committee followed from this third conclusion:

  • that a mechanism be established through which Faculty Senate committees could, at the discretion of the chair and the committee itself, respond in a timely manner to requests for consultation and for faculty perspectives; and
  • since institutions of higher education, including the premier research universities, will continue to experience pressure to evolve and change in the years to come, academic concerns must be at the heart of all response, and faculty must meet their responsibility to play a central part in the process.The Faculty Senate's role is pivotal. The Senate Executive Committee shall appoint an ad hoc committee to develop guidelines for an "Educational Impact Statement," to become an integral part of every proposal for important initiatives.

The committee developed a suggested outline for an Educational Impact Statement which they prefaced with the following statement: "In order to make knowledgeable judgments, both the Faculty Senate Committee on Students and Educational Policy and the administration must have access to the same relevant information about, in addition to the rationale for, each proposed policy or program. The committee must also be given sufficient time to study the proposal and to engage in thoughtful exploration of its probable impact on the schools and the University as a whole." They set forth their belief, endorsed by SEC, that "this faculty initiative will contribute to goals that have been set forth in the Agenda for Excellence...."

Committee on the Faculty: Who Teaches Our Students?

The charge to the Committee on the Faculty necessarily included unfinished matters from the prior academic year: reworking current policy on employment of more than one family member; issues of ownership of intellectual property; and requests for support of new categories of appointments for new non-standing faculty positions. New charges to academic year 1997-98 were derived directly from the contextual outline of faculty responsibility expressed earlier in this report. This initiative dovetailed with a need identified by then-Provost Chodorow to examine just who is teaching our students. This committee was charged to examine the numbers, responsibilities, protections and benefits, and titles of non-standing faculty teaching in the 12 schools. The committee was also charged to respond to new recommendations expected to come forward from the Benefits Advisory Committee.

Since each matter in this rather extensive charge addressed "the nature of the role of the faculty at the University," in order to set a context for acting on their charge, the Committee on the Faculty devoted early meetings to robust discussions of the University's institutional character, and in particular the role and responsibilities of its faculty. They agreed that a University "incorporates an educational and research mission as well as its governmental organization. Furthermore, like a constitutional polity, the American type of university is not only a free enterprise of knowledge but also a purposeful system of governance....the correlate of the university's open community of free inquiry, then, is the blending of a differentiation of powers into a balanced structure of shared governance. Thus, it also embodies the definition, role, and meaning of 'shared gov-ernance.' " The place of the "Standing Faculty" within the University structure emerged as inappropriate to a single model but rather at times one of independent authority and at other times sequential or collaborative to and with the administration. (This expository aspect of the committee's work, not documented at any length in the committee report except as context for the actions taken, may lay the foundation for broader discussion with the faculty in the forthcoming academic year, subject to further development by the retiring chair of this committee). Operating from the contextual framework these discussions provided, some specifics of the charge were addressed and completed; others, embarked upon but not completed, will be carried over for next year's committee.

The Committee on the Faculty, too, followed the model set by the interlocking charges of inquiry consistent with that pursued by the Committee on Administration and the Committee on Students and Educational Policy of reviewing past and current practice and then proposing recommendations to enable SEC to move forward with certainty, not conjecture. It encountered some roadblocks. For example, in the absence of the availability of a University database which tracks information on non-standing faculty the committee was unable to act on requests for categories of new appointments. The subcommittee on the role of non-standing faculty then developed a standard protocol to be distributed to each school submitting a request for a new non-standing faculty appointment. The subcommittee recommended that "any future requests for new positions on the faculty of any school include information about the current distribution of the teaching role in that school, including the most recent available information about the number of enrollments in courses taught by faculty in various statuses, and the projected changes in those enrollments associated with the new appointments." Three proposals were sent by the Committee on the Faculty to the Senate Executive Committee and received its endorsement:

(1) Specific criteria on current distribution of responsibilities and titles must be submitted to the Senate Committee on the Faculty prior to consideration of requests for new categories of faculty;

(2) A reiteration of the standing faculty's right to know who is teaching our students and a request to the central administration to provide for availability of this information;

(3) Inauguration of a move toward working with the administration to make classifications of instructional and research personnel more coherent across the schools.

While the Committee on Administration encountered no obstacles to hinder or hold up their analyses, the Committee on the Faculty and the Committee on Students and Educational Policy were not successful in receiving the information necessary to complete their analyses or to respond more quickly to school requests. It was unclear as to why the information was not available. A request by one school which promptly returned the new protocol in time for SEC's final meeting was endorsed.

The Senate Executive Committee endorsed recommendations from the Committee on the Faculty on intellectual property. Just recently, a pertinent report on distributed education by the Provost's Committee on Distributed Learning (Almanac April 21, 1998) outlined opportunities, challenges, drawbacks and necessities for moving forward with models of distributed learning applied to higher education (Almanac April 28, 1998). This report stimulates closer attention to the intellectual property matter. Issues of ownership of intellectual property were debated late in the 1996-97 academic year in Senate Executive Committee meetings. This academic year, further examination of the matter was part of the charge to the Committee on the Faculty. It was also the topic of two informational columns by the Senate Chair (Almanac October 7 and December 9, 1997) and was often a topic of discussion at SEC meetings. Reflecting the general consensus of six schools responding to then-Provost Chodorow's request for a report on informal School practices on the intellectual property matter, and pursuant to its own examination, the Committee on the Faculty recommended that "the University should acknowledge that Penn's customary and long existing practice on copyright is the currently authoritative standard. Such existing practice converges with the recommendations of the Task Force Report on Copyright Policy (1995) submitted to the administration. "The committee further reported that the published policy on copyright in the Handbook is at variance with settled practice." The committee made two additional recommendations:

Policies to cover new technologies should be interpreted based on current established practices at Penn, and

An ad hoc committee be established to codify the settled copyright practice and a standard for new technology arising from the interpolation of copyright and patent practices.

The Senate Executive Committee endorsed these recommendations. (See the Committee on the Faculty report.)

Other Committees and Subcommittees

The Committee on the Economic Status of the Faculty had the distinction of having two chairs this academic year (due to the resignation of its first chair to become Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences). The Committee on the Economic Status of the Faculty was charged with continuing to assess and monitor faculty salaries for inequality and/or inequity between and within schools disclosed to be existent from prior years' reports. Secondly, the charge directed the committee to determine a reasonable parameter for open disclosure of salary information to be presented before the Senate Executive Committee to debate and draw forth a possible recommendation to the Interim Provost. A third charge directed the committee to develop a simple recommendation for normalizing informal communication and feedback between faculty and administration regarding salary decisions. Recommendations endorsed by the Senate Executive Committee this academic year will be forwarded to the Interim Provost prior to a meeting between the Interim Provost and members of the Committee on the Economic Status of the Faculty. They will appear in the committee's report in a forthcoming issue of Almanac together with the Provostial response.

The chair of the Faculty Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility reported that no cases were brought to the committee this year. The chair of the committee did consult with members of the faculty and with school committees on academic freedom and responsibility on procedural matters relating to academic freedom concerns. At the request of the Senate Executive Committee, the committee also undertook to ascertain what formal procedures for post-tenure review currently exist, or are being contemplated, in the various schools of the University (see report in Almanac April 28, 1998).

A number of recommendations emanated from work of subcommittees and were then presented to the full committee. The recommendations were either returned for revision, delayed for more information, accepted or rejected. Those accepted were brought forward to the Senate Executive Committee for endorsement. Among matters handled primarily by subcommittees were examination of the validity, purpose and use of course and teacher evaluations (Committee on Administration), faculty involvement in development of school strategic plans (Committee on Administration), faculty oversight of new degree programs (Committee on Students and Educational Policy), and faculty benefits and retirement (Committee on the Faculty). Space constraints limit discussion of these invaluable contributions. Please see the individual committee reports for specifics.

All recommendations brought forward to the Senate Executive Committee this year by Senate committees were discussed in depth--at regular and at special meetings called to afford appropriate and full opportunity for exchange of views and deliberation before a motion to accept or reject recommendations was heard and a vote taken. All recommendations referred to in this report, as well as others found in the individual com-mittee reports have been endorsed by the Senate Executive Committee.

* * *

In closing this abbreviated overview of Faculty Senate activities this academic year, I would like to take you back to my letter of "welcome" at the beginning of the Fall semester where I commented on the heartwarming and extraordinary experience of soliciting busy faculty to serve on Senate committees and receiving only one or two messages of non-availability (Almanac September 2, 1997). This spirit of involvement and willingness to serve where necessary prevailed throughout this entire academic year. Notwithstanding the imperative to respond to current expectations for an even more productive faculty, our colleagues find a way to serve our common cause. Increased pressures on the faculty to assume broader responsibilities constricts time available to devote to the central responsibility of the Faculty Senate--to represent the faculty and to contribute a faculty voice to University governance. Toward this end, pertinent are two recommendations from the Committee on Administration subcommittee on service, accepted by the full committee and adopted by the Senate Executive Committee. SEC should:

  • assemble existing policies on recognition of faculty service to the University into a single, consolidated statement in order to give it easy accessibility, consistency and the prominence it deserves;
  • appoint a subcommittee to identify an independent source of funds for the Faculty Senate that would provide the means and rewards for faculty involvement in the Faculty Senate as the main vehicle for the faculty to meet its obligation of service to the University. (Report of the Committee on Administration, Almanac April 21, 1998.)

These recommendations advance the position that a faculty which assumes responsibility for developing and maintaining curriculum and granting degrees should be budgetarily independent; should have the necessary person power and sufficient funds to insure full, informed and timely completion of the year's agenda. The Faculty Senate agenda is in service of our superordinate objective-advancing University initiatives of merit, such as the Agenda for Excellence.

I wish to thank my colleagues-to each member of the Senate Executive Committee for loyal and active participation in resolving Senate business, for perceptive questions and good advice. It was the crowded room and the lively exchange that inspired a constructive year. I am also grateful to members of Senate committees and subcommittees for dedicated and creative service and for many hours stolen from other tasks in order to discharge committee responsibilities. I am indebted to the chairs of the major Senate committees who assumed their extensive charges with very good humor and who executed their respective tasks with loyalty, wisdom and inspiration. A more general thank you to other members of the University community who serve the Faculty Senate in their various capacities. It was a privilege to work with you.


Respectfully submitted,

Vivian Center Seltzer, Chair of the Faculty Senate

Almanac, Vol. 44, No. 33, May 12, 1998