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Council Coverage
February 5, 2008, Volume 54, No. 20

On January 30, at the first Council meeting of the spring semester, Steering Chair Larry Gladney announced the schedule of focus issues for this semester’s Council meetings: at this meeting the focus was on Penn’s encouragement of political engagement on campus; the February 27 meeting will focus on recruitment and retention of preeminent and diverse faculty and scholars; the March 26 meeting will be the annual budget presentation and an update on Penn Connects as well as an Open Forum. The final meeting of the semester on April 30 will include committee presentations.

Dr. Gladney then read the Steering Committee’s statement regarding Open Forum. At Steering’s January meeting it reviewed the Council Bylaws governing agenda setting and is committed to “openness with regard to placement of items on the Council agenda and encourages all members of the University to submit agenda items that ‘affect the common interests of faculty, staff and students.’” Steering specified that there be an Open Forum this March and will review “in a subsequent year whether to mandate more than one Open Forum per year by a change to the Bylaws.”

President Amy Gutmann reported on global climate change, which she said the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calls “the defining challenge of our time.” She mentioned the Presidents’ Climate Change Commitment she signed last year; the Global Colloquium of University Presidents that she and Wharton professor Eric Orts attended in November (Almanac December 18, 2007) and the on-campus efforts such as RecycleMania and the research-based suggestions recently presented by students from a new environmental sciences course taught by Dr. Robert Giegengack. Their recommendations, which they shared with EVP Craig Carnaroli and FRES VP Anne Papageorge, include new organizational approaches toward developing recycling policy and ideas for sustainability projects. Dr. Gutmann also said that she co-chaired a session on Building Capacity Among Universities in the Developing World at the Global University Leaders Forum (GULF) in Davos, Switzerland late last month. Dr. Gutmann also noted that the Morris Arboretum’s new horticultural center will be Penn’s first building to be built with a LEED-certified green roof.

The remainder of the meeting was devoted to presentations and discussions focused on political engagement on campus. 

Dr. Matthew Hartley, assistant professor at GSE, gave a brief history of civic engagement as an important ideal in American higher education and discussed the resurgence of interest over the past two decades. He said it is important to encourage students to take an active role as citizens of a democracy with so many issues facing the country.

Then there was a joint presentation by the Penn Democrats and the College Republicans. Michael Shiely, president of the Republican group, spoke about some of the problems they perceive at Penn, such as wanting to have more political leaders come speak or hold debates here. Then, Clayton Robinson, president of the Penn Democrats, presented some suggestions that both groups favor, to facilitate reserving rooms and accommodating speakers’ schedules. VPUL Val Swain-Cade McCoullum volunteered Matt Waller, director of communications and external affairs for the VPUL, to provide assistance to the student groups.

Joseph Tierney, executive director of the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program, described how the group Penn Leads the Vote, which was established in 2004, was effective in getting students registered to vote and to have a high voter turnout on campus. For the 2008 presidential election, their goal is to get 80 percent of the eligible Penn student voters to vote.  Stephanie Simon, the student president of Penn Leads the Vote, explained the peer to peer strategies and how they hope to eliminate information barriers which might prevent students from voting. The group wants to make voting easy, quick and fun.

Allison Evans, a PhD candidate in political science and a fellow at the Graduate Student Center, spoke about the efforts being made to also engage the graduate students on campus. There is a voter registration drop box at the Center and there is information available for students who want to volunteer for candidates or at the polls. The Center will have the CNN coverage of today’s Super Tuesday primaries all day on the big screen.

Almanac - February 5, 2008, Volume 54, No. 20