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Welcome Back from the Senate Chair
September 2, 2008, Volume 55, No. 2

What Does it Mean to be a Faculty Member in the 21st Century?

On behalf of the University of Pennsylvania Faculty Senate, I invite you all to join me in celebrating the beginning of a new academic year—and for those of you who aren’t familiar with the Senate, I would like to tell you a little about what we do and encourage you to become involved. 

The faculty, through the Senate, plays an important role in determining the intellectual direction of the University. Since its inception over half a century ago, the Senate has worked collaboratively with the administration in the process of shared governance. All standing faculty are members of the Senate, although our work is carried out principally through an elected Senate Executive Committee (SEC) and several standing committees. These committees consult regularly with the President and Provost, as well as other central administrators, deans and faculty colleagues, on a wide range of issues facing the University. 

One only has to read the Report of the Chair of the Faculty Senate for the 2007-08 academic year (www.upenn.edu/almanac/volumes/v54/n34/sec-chair.html) to realize how active and engaged our faculty are and what important roles the Senate plays. Some highlights of recent accomplishments include:  development and oversight of junior faculty mentoring programs; an ongoing study of non-standing faculty; analysis of the implications of graduate tuition reform; preparation and analysis of reports on the economic status of the faculty and recommendations regarding mandatory self-disclosure of criminal records by prospective faculty. Many of these topics will carry over into the current academic year; additional topics to be considered this year include:  intellectual property rights in the classroom; the role of emeritus faculty; a review of sabbatical leave practices and a discussion of faculty recruitment pipeline issues.

Last year the Senate Executive Committee initiated a discussion of the topic “what it means to be a faculty member at a research university in the 21st century.” The “millennium discussion” is one that will continue throughout this academic year, as we believe it is important for the University to continue to re-define its identity in the face of the dramatic changes in the world that affect the academic enterprise.  As part of our ongoing discussion about the identity of the University and its faculty, we have planned an extensive discussion of the importance of a diverse faculty and how we can best achieve the desired diversity.

 The Senate also sponsors an annual Founder’s Day Symposium, designed both to commemorate Benjamin Franklin’s birthday and to highlight our outstanding faculty. The most recent symposium was Aristotle’s Brain:  Integrating Knowledge in the 21st Century, a lively discussion with four of the PIK (Penn Integrates Knowledge) professors moderated by President Gutmann. The 2008-09 symposium, organized by Senate Past-Chair Larry Gladney, is sure to be an equally stimulating discussion.

I’m sure you all know of other universities at which the faculty plays only a minor role in governance. There are several important reasons our Faculty Senate works so well. We have a highly dedicated and energetic group of faculty comprising SEC and the standing committees. We will benefit greatly this year from the wisdom of Past-Chair Larry Gladney and the fresh insights of Chair-Elect Harvey Rubin, as well as the outstanding organizational skills of Sue White, executive assistant to the Senate. Finally, President Gutmann and Provost Daniels have demonstrated their commitment to shared governance through regular meetings with SEC, the tri-chairs of the Senate, and participation in the Senate symposia. 

I hope you will join us in our Senate activities; the more of us who are involved, the more influential we can be. Let us know your concerns, and consider serving on a Senate or University Council Committee. Please contact me (sherri@biochem.dental.upenn.edu) or Sue White (senate@pobox.upenn.edu, 215-898-6943) or visit the Senate website (www.upenn.edu/faculty_senate) for more information.

Welcome to a new year at Penn.


—Sherrill Adams, Senate Chair

Related: Faculty Senate Executive Committee Agenda

Almanac - September 2, 2008, Volume 55, No. 2