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Welcome Back From the Senate Chair
September 5, 2006, Volume 53, No. 2

Our Success is No Accident

Signs of the new academic year—orientations, convocations, and double-parking—are everywhere. Penn is again welcoming a new class of students, as it has annually for two and a half centuries. 

Despite perhaps some sadness at the too-rapid passing of summer, and with it the free time that will now be consumed again by classes, faculty meetings and other obligations, we look forward to another great year in the University’s life. Over 20,000 immensely talented and hardworking students await our instruction and a chance to assist in our research. We are in the final phases of formulating an exciting plan for major expansion of campus. Our international reputation is gaining steadily, and deservedly so.

Penn did not arrive at this point by accident, of course. The unrivaled promise of this new academic year owes to the cumulative efforts of countless dedicated faculty and staff who have chosen, not only to teach, write and research, but also to design curricula; decide matters of educational and research policy; recruit and develop outstanding faculty; weigh in on issues of academic or professional conduct; and otherwise contribute to our shared system of largely voluntary governance and planning.

So, along with my greetings and best wishes for the new academic year, I ask that you keep this in mind. As you contemplate your good fortune at holding a position on Penn’s faculty, remember that the opportunities you enjoy to pursue freely your research and teaching with such outstanding students and colleagues are not self-maintaining. They depend upon our sustained, collective attention to ever-changing challenges and opportunities, both locally and beyond.  If you haven’t already joined with the Faculty Senate this year in meeting these challenges and opportunities, please consider doing so. We need you.

Since 1952 the Faculty Senate has served as a unique deliberative assembly, made up of all standing faculty and clinician-educators in all 12 of Penn’s schools. Our work is carried out principally through an elected Senate Executive Committee and several standing Senate committees, which consult regularly with central administrators, deans, and faculty colleagues on a wide range of current issues facing the University. Last year we developed key recommendations for faculty mentoring programs, and discussed and voted on, among other things, policies governing extensions to the tenure-probationary period and procedures for sanctioning members of the faculty. In the coming year, we plan to examine the contours of the non-standing faculty; review the faculty grievance procedure; and examine structural factors that facilitate or frustrate interdisciplinary educational programs. 

In all of this work, we count on your participation. Let us know your concerns, and consider serving on a Senate or University Council committee. The Senate leadership—Chair-elect Larry Gladney, Past-chair Neville Strumpf and I—would be delighted to know your interest or hear from you about any matter of general concern.  Please contact Sue White, executive assistant to the Senate, at the Senate Office (senate@pobox.upenn.edu or 215-898-6943) or visit the Senate website (www.upenn.edu/faculty_senate) for more information.

In asking your participation, I realize some may see faculty service as unnecessarily time-consuming and ineffectual, perhaps sharing the view of Sir Barnett Cocks, former Clerk of the UK House of Commons, who reportedly once described the committee as “a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled.” We’ll do our best to ensure Senate committees are productive thoroughfares leading to useful improvements in University life. It seems worth noting that our nation’s Declaration of Independence was the product of a committee, on which University founder Benjamin Franklin was fortunately willing to serve. Let’s follow his example.

 Vincent Price
—Vincent Price

Almanac - September 5, 2006, Volume 53, No. 2