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COUNCIL 2004-2005 Year-end Committee Report


Also see the Bookstore and Community Relations Year-end Committe Reports.

February 4, 2005

On behalf of the University Council Committee on Facilities it is my pleasure to submit our final report unanimously adopted at our meeting on January 26, 2005. While the Committee considered a wide variety of issues and problems, we believe the three specified in our report are those requiring the immediate attention of University Council and the Administration. The Committee would also like to note that the issue of pedestrian safety was of particular concern to the student members of the Committee. We understand the political complexities involved in dealing with the City of Philadelphia and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on this issue.  Nonetheless, we believe that nothing less than a major push on the part of the University and its Administration will yield the kind of remedies the University’s pedestrians deserve.

On behalf of the Committee,
Robert Zemsky

In 2001 the University completed a master planning effort that was broad in scope, targeted in its provision of detail, and imaginative in its asking the University community to imagine how the Penn campus could become both more open and inviting. The current University Council Committee on Facilities both endorses and salutes the resulting Campus Development Plan (CDP), (as did prior committees) believing it provides an effective basis for campus planning for the next decade and beyond. The Committee also urges the University to take special note of its responsibility to provide fully accessible facilities and spaces.

Our specific recommendations to the Council and the University focus on three critical issues that require the immediate and sustained attention of University Council and the University’s Administration.

1. One of the trends noted in the CDP is that this University has increased its physical footprint by nearly 50 acres every 75 years. The conclusion drawn from this observation was that Penn necessarily grows whether it plans to do so or not. Indeed, the next addition to the Penn footprint has already been secured in the form of the “Postal Lands” adjacent to 30th Street Station. The key questions the Council must ask itself and the University’s Administration begins with “How should this large, strategically located parcel be developed? What principles will guide the location of University and related functions on this parcel? How rapidly should the University proceed with this development? To what extent should University resources be used to fund the development of this parcel?” At the same time the development of the “Postal Lands” ought to proceed in conjunction with the development of additional housing options immediately to the north and east of the campus core. In developing the policies to guide this aspect of the University’s physical expansion over the next decade, the University Council, in conjunction with the Administration, needs to ask “What ought to be the mix of private and University funding in the development of additional housing options?  What guidelines should apply? What are the attributes the University ought to expect in those private firms with whom it partners in the development of the additional housing the master plan calls for? What will be the programmatic impact on the University’s College Houses?”

We call upon the University Council to ensure that the Administration promptly drafts and presents for University consideration specific guidelines for the development of the “Postal Lands” and the development of additional housing opportunities to the immediate north and east of the campus.

2. Responsibility Center Management (RCM) has successfully guided the University through more than 30 years of growth and investment.  It has helped create strong Schools that have used the entrepreneurial freedom RCM bestows to establish new research and educational programs of the first rank. In two specific areas, however, RCM is perceived to have created disincentives that have had and will likely continue to have a negative impact on campus facilities.

• The first of these disincentives involves the budgeting for the repair and systematic replacement of major aspects of a building’s core infrastructure: elevators, HVAC, roofs, and common areas. The rule RCM imposes is that if it is “broken” the cost of repair will be borne by the Division of Facilities & Real Estate Services funded by Schools and Centers through an allocated cost algorithm. If, however, the building system needs to be “replaced,” because of age or wear and tear, the funding available to FRES is limited. Therefore these costs are to be borne by the School (or Center) that  “owns” the building. One result of this anomaly is that too often truly worn out systems are repaired rather than replaced as Schools seek to avoid the costs associated with replacement. There is a further complication in that the buildings occupied by Schools with distressed budgets become increasingly dysfunctional largely because they are in desperate need of the kind of rehabilitation the School cannot afford.

There are no simple answers to this problem in as much as what is involved is the scarcity of central university funds available for infrastructure needs. It is not surprising that under the RCM system Schools that have the wherewithal to fund their own deferred maintenance needs will be loath to agree to changes that call for a “needs based” approach to the allocation of facilities renewal. Nonetheless, that is precisely the task that faces the University and those responsible for administering the RCM system. 

We call upon the University Council to ask the Administration to establish a special task force to explore means for resolving these RCM associated conflicts. Such a task force should report to the University Council within the next calendar year.

• The second disincentive is actually more of a misnomer that has grown-up around RCM though it is not actually a component of the budget system. It is now the custom across the University that all research space must be “owned” by a single School. The result is that most research space becomes permanently assigned to departments within Schools whether or not their research programs and sources of funding continue to justify the allocation. At the same time, the building of collaborative, interdisciplinary research space of the kind called for by President Gutmann in her inaugural address appears to be difficult.

What is required here is the articulation of a set of policies that would allow the central Administration to own a limited number of interdisciplinary research spaces that it could either fund centrally or rent out to collaborative programs sponsored by two or more Schools. Such a policy would have the further advantage of allowing the central Administration to reclaim those spaces if and when the programs occupying them become smaller or close.

We call upon University Council to work with the Administration to develop and implement such a policy by which collaborative research space can be developed and owned by the central University.

3. The rapid development of the campus over the last decade has created a host of problems, not the least of which is the increasingly hazardous conditions faced by pedestrians at major intersections. Most pedestrians at Penn are students. As they move between the core of the campus and their residences, whether on campus or in West Philadelphia, they encounter badly-timed traffic lights, crosswalk locations that do not make sense, and automobile traffic that takes little if any account of adjacent pedestrian traffic. Because few of these problems are the direct responsibility of the University, what is required is an aggressive campaign to compel the City of Philadelphia and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to address these traffic problems now—before more people get seriously hurt and the University’s reputation and attractiveness suffers a major blow.

We call upon the Council and the Administration to mount just such a campaign, using the full resources of the University to call public attention to the issue of pedestrian safety and traffic problems that, if allowed to further fester, will diminish both City and University.

2004-2005 Committee Members

Chair: Robert Zemsky (GSE); Faculty: Tom Daniels (city & reg plng), Susan Wachter (real estate fin), Robert Zemsky (GSE); Graduate/professional students: Francis Hult (GSE), Sonali Madia (Wharton); Undergraduate students: Matt Lattman (EAS ’04), Herman Li (COL ’05); PPSA: Anita Mastroieni (graduate student center), Nancy McCue (housing services), Joanne Murray (nursing school doctoral programs); Ex Officio: Omar Blaik (facilities & real estate svcs), Alice Nagle (programs for people with disabilities), Ronald Sanders (registrar).



  Almanac, Vol. 51, No. 24, March 15, 2005


March 15, 2005
Volume 51 Number 24


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