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SENATE From the Chair
May 22, 2007, Volume 53, No. 34

Report of the Chair of the Faculty Senate

May 8, 2007

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For over a half century, the Faculty Senate has served as the voice of Penn’s standing faculty and clinician-educators in University governance.  Its work is carried out principally through an elected Senate Executive Committee (SEC) and several standing Senate committees, which consult regularly with central administrators, deans, and faculty colleagues on a wide range of issues facing the University.  Again this year, with the support and hard work of its many members, the Senate has played an active part in shaping faculty life at Penn.

The Road Traveled

The published reports of each Senate committee, and the monthly reports of Senate actions taken by the Executive Committee published in Almanac following each SEC meeting, provide a detailed accounting of our activities this year.  Some of the principal Senate actions included the following:

Developing and approving important new faculty policies. A very active Senate Committee on the Faculty and Administration reviewed and approved revisions to Penn’s Handbook for Faculty and Academic Administrators that permit greater flexibility in reductions in duty and extensions to the tenure-probationary period (Almanac May 8, 2007).  It also worked diligently and in close consultation with the Provost and the Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility to craft careful new procedures governing temporary exclusion of a faculty member (to be published soon in Almanac).

Monitoring the progress of newly-developed faculty mentoring programs. The Senate Committee on Faculty Development, Diversity and Equity, which played an instrumental role in working with the Provost’s Office to establish mandatory mentoring programs for junior faculty members in all schools, examined the present state of implementation.  As outlined in the Committee’s report, it found early uptake promising but uneven across the University.  An important task in the future will be to continue monitoring implementation, and to determine program effectiveness for the purposes of evaluation (see report in this issue of Almanac).

Examining graduate interdisciplinary programs and opportunities. The Senate Committee on Students and Educational Policy studied interdisciplinary research and education across the University, a major theme of President Gutmann’s Penn Compact.  The Committee recommends implementation of a comprehensive and University-wide survey, drawing confidentially on both students and their advisors, about key aspects of graduate and professional education (see report in this issue of Almanac).

Approving new categories of faculty in the schools. The Senate Committee on the Faculty and the Academic Mission carefully considered and recommended to SEC approval of a new senior lecturer position in the School of Design (Almanac March 27, 2007).

 • Advising the Provost. The Senate Committee on the Faculty and the Academic Mission also responded to a request by the Provost to offer its views on the case for disclosure of a prior criminal record for all prospective faculty members.  The Committee wrestled at length with a variety of difficult issues, meeting seven times to consider the matter, including meetings with both the Provost and General Counsel, and while it did not produce any firm proposals at this time, it did issue a careful set of considerations that should guide policy development in this area (see report in this issue of Almanac).

  • Sponsoring our first Founder’s Day Symposium. January 19 marked the debut of an annual symposium event to commemorate Franklin’s birthday, bringing together faculty colleagues from eight of Penn’s schools to explore the prospects, realities, challenges, rewards, and obligations of the University to reach beyond its borders in these increasingly complex times.  (A video webcast can be viewed on the Senate’s website, www.upenn.edu/faculty_senate.

The Road Ahead

These have been important accomplishments, just a few of many that can be found in the separate committee reports.  Yet they leave much still to be done. Here I will highlight two key lines of development needed to consolidate our gains and accelerate our progress. 

The first is improved collection and organization of faculty-related data throughout the University for the purposes of monitoring and self-study.  Senate committees this year attacked several issues critical to faculty recruitment, development, and retention; but in several key cases we were unable to make the sort of progress we had hoped.  The Committee on the Faculty and the Academic Mission, for example, began in earnest a comprehensive study of the present contours of the non-standing faculty, the range of appointments now in place across the University, and the various teaching, research, and administrative functions carried out by these appointments.  The Senate Committee on the Economic Status of the Faculty set about the task of obtaining and organizing data on faculty salaries, aiming to produce its first regular report since 2003-04.  In both cases, however, difficulties obtaining the necessary data–owing in part to the departure of the Director of Institutional Research and Analysis in the fall and in part by competing demands for federal reporting placed on the remaining research staff–stymied our important work.

In truth, even without the staffing changes and countervailing demands experienced this year, we still would have faced great challenges extracting the necessary information from Penn’s complicated, often antiquated and decentralized systems for maintaining faculty data in the various schools.  As so many earlier issues of Almanac will attest, this state of affairs, further hampered by the absence of agreed-upon standard operating definitions necessary for comparison and monitoring purposes, has plagued efforts by the Senate and administration alike for a number of years. Fortunately, Provost Ron Daniels and Deputy Provost Janice Bellace have begun to develop and implement a faculty information system that will be, we sincerely hope, capable of maintaining accurate and usable salary data, along with appointment data necessary for monitoring faculty recruitment, compensation, promotion, and professional development across all schools.  The Senate fully endorses this important central initiative, and should closely monitor its progress next year. We should furthermore call upon all academic and administrative officers of the University to cooperate fully in these efforts, since in any event this new faculty information system will only be as reliable as the data entered by the various schools.

A second critical focus in the years ahead will be the challenge of converting policy into practice. Thanks to the hard work of so many faculty colleagues, and with the support of the Provost and President, we have succeeded over the past several years in improving a wide array of faculty policies. They run the gamut from “family friendly” additions permitting more flexible working arrangements to allow for child and elder care, improvements in our policies on sexual and workplace harassment and the handling of complaints, fairer and clearer procedures governing extensions in the tenure-probationary period and how tenure reviews are handled in such cases, creation of faculty mentoring systems, and establishment of new resources for retired faculty, including the creation of the Penn Association for Senior and Emeritus Faculty, with (beginning next year) representation on SEC. 

These are just a sample of the policy initiatives, undertaken in the past couple of years, that seek to create for faculty at Penn an ever more intellectually vibrant, diverse, humane community where our scholarship, teaching, and service can flourish across the professional life-span. They are significant and welcome changes, of which we can be justifiably proud.  And yet, as members of the Senate Executive Committee have noted so often in our deliberations over the course of the past several months, they are on policies on paper.  In truth the hard job—and the obligation of every faculty leader and academic administrator on campus—is to use these new policy resources productively, to encourage our colleagues to take advantage of their possibilities, and to make them work even in (especially in) those departments where traditional academic cultures may find them discomforting or unwelcome. Difficult and protracted as policy creation can be, it is merely a first, and probably not the most challenging, step in developing the faculty. Needed as well is systematic and sustained follow-up: education, evaluation (where the need for improved data systems, highlighted above, comes critically into play), and effective adaptation. The Senate can and should find better ways, with our faculty colleagues and administrative collaborators, of persistent follow-up along these lines. Changing the faculty Handbook is the beginning and not the end of our work.

A Collaborative Journey

In all of its efforts, the Senate has benefited from the tireless and unselfish dedication of dozens of thoughtful committee members, ably guided by an outstanding group of Senate officers and standing committee chairs.  It has been my great honor to work with them this year. I extend especially heartfelt thanks to Past Chair Neville Strumpf and Chair-elect Larry Gladney. Their wisdom, friendship and good counsel have been steady and deeply appreciated, and they have served as equal partners in all of the Senate’s work. Ali Malkawi and Andrew Metrick both served capably and efficiently as secretary in the fall and spring terms, respectively; and Sue White, executive assistant, has been a constant source of support. The Senate has been fortunate indeed to draw upon her planning skills and managerial talents.

We are also fortunate to have enjoyed the dedicated work of so many truly excellent Senate committee and commission chairs: Claire Finkelstein (Faculty and Administration); Gino Segre (Faculty and Academic Mission); Sherrill Adams (Faculty Development, Diversity and Equity); Paul Sniegowski (Students and Educational Policy); Laura Perna (Economic Status of the Faculty); James Ross (Academic Freedom and Responsibility), Martin Pring (Publication Policy for Almanac), and Jennifer Pinto-Martin (Faculty Grievance Commission). They have pursued their charges with vigor and enthusiasm.

Beyond the Senate, we are deeply grateful to President Amy Gutmann and Provost Ron Daniels for their strong and open partnership with the faculty in leading the University. In regular consultations with the Senate tri-chairs and meetings with the Executive Committee, they have routinely engaged the faculty on pressing issues and shared in fruitful deliberations. We have benefited as well from numerous helpful collaborations and consultations with Deputy Provost Janice Bellace, Associate Provost Andy Binns, Vice Provost Steven Fluharty, Vice President Joann Mitchell and General Counsel Wendy White, among others. We have greatly enjoyed working with University Secretary Leslie Kruhly on matters pertaining to University Council, and with Linda Koons, executive assistant to the Provost, in coordinating with the Provost’s Office.

And finally I thank those of my colleagues, far too many to mention here by name, who served on a committee, spoke their minds at a meeting, dropped me an e-mail with a criticism or suggestion, attended our symposium, discussed some campus issue with a co-worker, or followed the pages of this Almanac with interest.  Good citizens all, in whose capable hands this great University rests.

Vincent Price

—Vincent Price

Almanac - May 22, 2007, Volume 53, No. 34