From the Senate Office: Faculty Senate Executive Committee Actions

The following is published in accordance with the Faculty Senate Rules. Among other purposes, the publication of SEC actions is intended to stimulate discussion among the constituencies and their representatives. Please communicate your comments to Patrick Walsh, executive assistant to the Senate Office, either by telephone at (215) 898-6943 or by email at

Faculty Senate Executive Committee Actions

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Chair’s Report.  Faculty Senate Chair Jennifer Pinto-Martin reported that the Senate is in early planning stages for a Mini Teach-In during Spring 2019 that will follow on the successful Knowledge Teach-In held in March 2018. The Mini Teach-In will comprise one session at a public, off-campus location in which members of the Philadelphia community will be encouraged to engage with Penn faculty, students and staff. Faculty interested in helping to plan this event are encouraged to contact the Senate Office.

Past Chair’s Report.  Past Chair Santosh Venkatesh reported on the work of the Capital Council. Professor Venkatesh will deliver a more in-depth report on Penn’s annual budget planning effort at a future SEC meeting.

2018 Senate Nominating Committee. SEC members voted to adopt a membership slate for the 2018 Senate Nominating Committee. The slate will be published in a future issue of Almanac for comment by Standing Faculty members.

Moderated Discussion.  Two topics were identified for focused attention by the SEC throughout the remainder of the year. On the first topic of improving Penn’s academic diversity pipeline, SEC members agreed to assemble a set of best practices that can be shared with Penn schools and departments, and to consider ways these practices could be implemented and tested at Penn.  On the second topic of improving Penn’s faculty climate, SEC members discussed factors that may lead faculty to feel undervalued in their work at Penn. They also discussed initiatives at peer institutions that could serve as models for data collection on climate-related factors.

Wellness at Penn.  Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush and Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé provided a number of updates on wellness and security at Penn:

(1) The Department of Public Safety has been working closely with Jewish centers and groups on campus, as well as other places of worship at Penn, to ensure security in the aftermath of the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh on October 27.

(2) Penn community members are encouraged to contact Public Safety (by calling 511 or 911) to report any suspicious activity they observe.

(3) Public Safety runs a federal liaison vetting program for any persons from federal or state investigatory agencies wishing to speak with faculty members in an official capacity.

(4) A pilot program of the Medical Emergency Response Team known as the Alternative Response Unit was launched this fall; the program is staffed by Penn paramedical staff who provide on-site medical assistance between 5 p.m. and 3 a.m., Wednesdays through Sundays. To encourage students to call in emergency situations, no bill is sent to students or their families. The University’s Office of Alcohol and Other Drugs follows up with students who are treated for alcohol- or drug-related poisoning and offers to connect the student with counseling.

(5) To increase access to mental health services by students in crisis, students may now reach a licensed counselor 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) by phoning 898-HELP and pressing 1. If a student calls when CAPS is closed, the counselor will work with the student to address the situation and, if needed, will transfer the student to the care of a CAPS counselor when CAPS reopens.

(6) A platform for students—the Student Wellness Advisory Group (SWAG)—will be created to supplement existing student committees and resource groups. SWAG will be comprised of 10-15 students ambassadors from representative groups including, but not limited to, the LGBT Center, the United Minorities Coalition and the Women’s Center. Similar groups of faculty and staff will also be convened, although planning for these groups is still in the early stages.

(7) A “big idea” contest will be launched in January to crowd-source novel wellness initiatives at Penn.