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February Council Meeting Coverage
March 4, 2008, Volume 54, No. 24



At last month’s Council meeting, the majority of the agenda was focused on “Faculty Recruitment and Retention at Penn” which was introduced by Provost Ron Daniels who said that there has been some “significant movement forward” in the past few years. Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs Vincent Price gave the presentation that provided a look at the faculty, the challenges, opportunities and strategies for success. He said that excellence is the top priority, which involves attracting world-renowned leaders in research and teaching from diverse backgrounds and dealing with interdisciplinary scholarship.

Penn’s faculty consists of some 2,485 Standing Faculty (those with tenure or in the tenure track, and Clinician Educators in the Health Schools) as well as an additional 1,549 in the Associated Faculty. Dr. Price noted that the nearly 1,300 Standing Faculty in the School of Medicine account for more than 50% of the total, with about 500 in SAS and approximately 200 in Wharton and 150 at the School of Veterinary Medicine. Each of the other schools at Penn has 100 or fewer Standing Faculty.

Overall, the representation of women as a percentage of the Standing Faculty at Penn has increased about half a percent per year on average. For example: in 1984 academic year (15.9%), 1994 (21.3%), and 2001 (24.6%) and in 2006 (27.5%). For women’s representation in the Standing Faculty in 2005 at Penn, compared to Ivy institutions plus MIT, Chicago and Stanford, puts Penn at third out of ten.

Minority representation as a percentage of the Standing Faculty has also increased over the years: 1991 (8.9%), 1996 (9.4%), 2001 (13.7%), and 2006 (16.6%). Minority representation in the Standing Faculty in 2005 at Penn was compared to a larger group of peer institutions and for Black faculty Penn was fourth out of 18; for Asian twelfth out of 18 and for Hispanic 16 out of 18. Dr. Price pointed out that the low to high ranges among the peers was small for Hispanic faculty: ranging from 0.8 to 3.2%  and for Black faculty: 1.6 to 4.1%.

He then turned to SAS as an illustration of the growth of the Standing Faculty over the past seven years (2000-2007). The Standing Faculty in SAS has increased by 11.4% overall while the percentage of minorities has increased by 61% and women faculty representation increased by 33.9%. In the past two years, due to faculty turnover, there has been a net increase in the racial and ethnic diversity of the Standing Faculty hired, with 15 Asian, 3 Black and 4 Hispanic in addition to the 57 White faculty.

Among the challenges facing Penn that Dr. Price discussed as part of the recruitment and retention reality: the competitive peer environment; the need for superior laboratory space, facilities, and resources for research; the restricted pipeline of candidates; faculty attrition and work/family conflicts. For instance, he noted that in the US, of some 45,000 doctoral degrees conferred, only 100 went to Native Americans which limits the pipeline of potential recruits. He showed that Penn’s salaries for full professors, in the past three years, is nearly comparable to Yale, and exceeds that of such peer institutions as NYU, Northwestern, MIT, Duke, UC Berkeley and Michigan.

Penn has certain opportunities, Dr. Price explained: a strong student body; regional strengths; committed faculty; and an institutional commitment to excellence and diversity. He mentioned the new Faculty Senate Committee established to address Faculty Development, Diversity, and Equity.

The strategies for success in recruiting and retaining faculty include mentoring support for faculty that has resulted in facilitators at each school at Penn managing the faculty mentoring programs. Dr. Price also noted that the Campaign for Penn, the Penn Integrates Knowledge Professors, the Faculty Opportunity Fund, along with Dual Career Support also contribute as well. There is now a regional community of higher education institutions that are supportive of the dual career considerations. Penn has adopted some family-friendly policies, such as the reduction in duties for the birth of a child, with a commensurate extension of the tenure review period, that benefit faculty on the tenure track.

Diversity initiatives include pipeline programs like the McNair Scholars and Pre-Freshmen Programs, a new online faculty application system, the higher education recruitment consortium  (NJ, eastern PA and Delaware), the Diversity Fund and outreach to the schools’ search committees.

SAS Dean Rebecca Bushnell said faculty come to Penn for the “intellectual community” and opportunities to collaborate with faculty in other schools at Penn and in other disciplines. She also said that the presence of international students is seen as an asset and the resources of the city are also a draw. Dr. Bushnell said that SAS seeks the “very best scholars and teachers” who come from around the world; her goal is to hire “rising stars.”

When asked questions about the breakdown of minority faculty and women faculty by school, Dr. Price noted the reports that have been published in Almanac: “Gender Equity Report” April 25, 2006 and “Progress Report on Minority Equity” December 4, 2007.

Related: University Council Open Forum

Almanac - March 4, 2008, Volume 54, No. 24