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Welcome Back From the Senate Chair

Faculty Governance: To Have and To Hold……

N. Strumpf

It’s a sweltering Saturday night in August, and I’m thinking about the wedding I attended last week and an upcoming respite in the Adirondacks.  By the time you read this, I hope you have returned refreshed and renewed. Welcome back, or just plain welcome if you are new to our extraordinary community.

Pressed to write this message on time, when summer still magically seems to last forever, I naturally turned to the messages of chairs past, all of whom patiently and steadfastly upheld the leadership of the University Faculty Senate, established by the Trustees, at faculty request, in 1952. Imagine that different world and those very different times. Those wise persons, whoever they were, guided the creation of a formal liaison between the faculty and the administration, allowing for mutually beneficial dialogue and decision-making.

I have chosen the phrase, “to have and to hold,” so laden with emotion and open to interpretations from trite to serious, as a way to express my commitment to strengthen and re-energize faculty governance, just as the President herself has committed to an “ever greater Penn.”  Faculty governance is precious, especially in times where academic freedom is increasingly imperiled. We must recommit ourselves to that historic marriage of 1952 between faculty and administration at Penn. That means active discourse with one another, characterized by debate as well as compromise.

In its current incarnation, the Faculty Senate does its business through the Senate Executive Committee (SEC), an elected group which meets monthly, and through a number of important committees of the Senate. The SEC leadership team meets regularly with the President and Provost, assists in staffing and participating in key committees, and provides oversight, through the Steering Committee,  for the University Council, a deliberative and broadly representative body which considers matters affecting the common interests of faculty, staff, and students. In the coming year, we intend to use Council Meetings for important discussions affecting the entire university, including international programs and campus development.

President Gutmann has completed her first year, having laid out an ambitious compact focused on the integration of knowledge, greater access to a Penn education, and more dynamic engagement locally and globally. She and our new Provost, Ron Daniels, will be defining their priorities for fulfilling the Penn Compact in the coming year. There will be a number of opportunities to hear about these priorities firsthand, including at SEC meetings (open to all standing faculty), a SEC reception on September 21 at 5 p.m. in the Law School, as well as at the first-ever Senate sponsored university-wide symposium and reception on November 4, Youth and Aging: Penn Integrates Knowledge Locally and Globally.  The Senate tri-chairs meet regularly with the President and the Provost—so tell us about concerns you wish brought to their attention.

During the past year, SEC business included several items of importance to faculty governance, among them Just Cause Procedures, Practice Professorships, and final approval of the Intellectual Property/Patent Policy. Due to a groundswell response to the Task Force Report on Retiree Benefits, further discussion ensued at SEC and many written comments appeared in Almanac (March 15, 2005) or were sent to the Provost’s Office. The task force recommendations remain under review by the Provost and we expect to hear more about this later in the year.

Based on a survey by the Committee on Committees concerning participation in University Council Committees, the Senate tri-chairs are charging all Council committees with the task of evaluation, with the long-term goal of recommendations for the future of our committee structure. This will necessarily be a lengthy and thoughtful effort, one that we hope will result in a more transparent, seamless and efficient set of processes enabling faculty governance.

In my year as Chair-elect of the Faculty Senate, I learned much from Past Chair, Lance Donaldson-Evans and Chair, Charles (Chuck) Mooney; the University community is much indebted to both of them. Chuck will continue in the role of Past Chair, and we are now joined by Vincent Price, as the Chair-elect. We are very well served by Kristine Kelly, Executive Assistant to the Faculty Chair, and we look forward to hearing from you regularly, and in turn, keeping you apprised of our activities.

During my year as Chair-elect, I often tried to explain the role of the University Faculty Senate to colleagues at other universities; few reported on comparable structures at their institutions. I’m sure by now you have the message, so once again, let’s take seriously the vow of “to have and to hold,” and hold onto the covenant of faculty governance. Welcome to a new year at Penn.

Neville Strumpf



  Almanac, Vol. 52, No. 2, September 6, 2005


September 6, 2005
Volume 52 Number 2


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