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University Council Meeting Coverage

On Wednesday--at the final Council meeting for the academic year--four year-end committees reports (Almanac April 22) were presented.

Dr. Edwards presented the report on Libraries, highlighting the new Meyerson Conference Room, the Library's new home page, the strategic plan and the new Collaboratory for Teaching and Learning, as well as the rising cost of journals.

Dr. Mauro Guillen reported on International Programs, noting the need for temporary housing for international scholars, and the time-consuming process of completing the new government-mandated forms. Provost Robert Barchi added that he has approved additional staff positions for OIP to cope with these requirements.

Dr. Helen Davies gave the report on Quality of Student Life, and noted that the FSAB will continue to meet with the fraternity and sorority chapters to review compliance. She also mentioned that smoke-free student housing was supported by the committee. President Rodin asked if there was a recommendation to ban smoking in University student housing, to which Dr. Davies replied, "yes." The recommendation was seconded by Nursing's Dean Afaf Meleis.

Dr. David Freiman presented the Personnel Benefits report which focused on the substantial increase in healthcare costs and the change to a two-tier premium system. He also suggested that the web site,, devoted to privacy should be promoted more widely.

The Patriot Act

The second half of the meeting was devoted to presentations concerning the implications of "The USA PATRIOT Act," which was enacted by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Bush on October 26, 2001, and the Bioterrorism Act of 2002. The USA PATRIOT Act is an acronym that stands for The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act.

Matthew Finucane, director of the Office of Environmental Health and Radiation Safety (OEHRS), gave some background that showed even before 9/11 there were other Acts such as the Antiterrorism and Effective Penalty Death Act.

The USA PATRIOT Act criminalized possession of biological agents that had a legitimate purpose. Anyone who meets the criteria in any of the categories on the lengthy list of "Restricted Person" may not have access to "select agents" of which there are currently 68 such agents that are restricted.

To comply with the USA PATRIOT Act, labs with select agents must be registered with the CDC. Penn has a newly appointed Task Force, chaired by Dr. Tom Lubensky, to review Penn's policy on classified research in light of the issues raised by the national and international climate and by the new Federal legislation. Laboratories will complete a BARF (biological agent registration form).

Additional training is being made available pertaining to the new laws and regulations and more record-keeping is required for tracking inventories, and transfer agents. There are some exclusions including: select agents in natural state, nonviable select agents, attenuated strains, and regulated toxins within limits. There are regulations concerning biosafety, to prevent the transmission of biological agents to workers or others, or to the environment. Others pertain to biosecurity, to prevent terrorism. OEHS can be reached at (215) 898-4453 and on the web at ˆThere are numerous resources available at the EHRS site, including the updated select agent and toxins list, the destruction of select agent procedures, research protocol approvals, and safety training programs.


Joyce Randolph, executive director of the Office of International Programs (OIP), discussed challenges of complying with The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), an internet-based database system intended to facilitate the transmission of data between schools and the government, and the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), a U.S. federal government program designed to facilitate and monitor the activities of foreign students and exchange visitors. SEVP and SEVIS were mandated by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), and implementation had been set for January 30, 2003.

Under SEVIS, Penn is required to compile and maintain report information about international students and exchange visitors, and to report such information periodically to the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly INS) and to the Department of State (DOS). Ms. Randolph said that OIP has been busy recently updating technological and informational resources in preparation for compliance with the requirements of SEVIS. See the OIP web site, for information.

At Penn there are about 5,800 individuals for whom SEVIS documents will be required; thus far nearly 1,000 have been issued by OIP with more than 5,000 still to be done by August 1, 2003, when data on all currently enrolled students and affiliated scholars, and their accompanying dependents, must be entered into SEVIS. New documents will be issued.

Colleges and universities must be approved by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services and the DOS and have been using SEVIS this semester for all new students and scholars and for certain changes in status of current students and scholars.

Wendy White, vice president and general counsel for Penn, and general counsel for UPHS, said that the impact of The USA PATRIOT Act requires the FBI to have a subpoena or a court order if they want information. She told Council members that if any member of the Penn community is in doubt about whether or not it is appropriate to divulge information, call the Office of the General Counsel, (215) 746-5200. She said that she felt it is important to notify the Penn community not to be intimidated.

President Rodin mentioned that there are multiple ways that Penn can and will be involved in protecting the University's international mission. She cited the speech she gave at Commencement last May (

GAPSA presented a Resolution "related to the USA PATRIOT Act and other recent legislation and regulations' impact on international students and scholars" which GAPSA admitted was essentially the same resolution previously approved by SEC. All Council members present voted unanimously in favor of the resolution:

University Council supports the administration of the University in its efforts to join the administrations of other colleges and universities throughout the United States in order to urge the executive and legislative leaders of the government of the United States to work together to monitor present and future governmental actions in order to ensure that freedom of speech is fully protected and that the research and educational missions of colleges and universities are not jeopardized. Areas of concern include restrictions on who may do research using certain biological materials, restrictions on the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act with respect to academic research, limitations on visas for foreign students and scholars, increased monitoring of public and private communications, and the proposal to broaden current security classifications to include areas of sensitive information. University Council should remain involved with this matter.

  Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 31, April 29, 2003