September Council Meeting

The first University Council meeting of the new academic year was held on Wednesday, September 5 in Houston Hall’s Bodek Lounge. Provost Wendell Pritchett welcomed everyone and said that President Amy Gutmann sends her regards but was on University business. Provost Pritchett announced the appointment of Caryn Lerman as this year’s moderator; she is the John H. Glick, M.D. Professor in Cancer Research at the Perelman School of Medicine. The Provost also announced the appointment of Lauren Steinfeld, chief privacy officer for Penn Medicine and senior advisor for privacy for the University, as the parliamentarian for a fourth year.

Jennifer Pinto-Martin, chair of the Steering Committee, announced the four focus issues for the year: there will be presentations on the following areas—Arts at Penn and the Sachs Program, the Power of Penn Campaign, Campaign for Wellness and Penn First. Dr. Pinto-Martin mentioned that Open Forum sessions will be held on December 5 and on February 20.

Provost Pritchett introduced the presentation and discussion on Penn’s Theme Year and Penn Reading Project, then turned it over to Beth Winkelstein and David Fox. Dr. Winkelstein thanked the President and Provost for their support and the committee that makes the recommendations about the theme and the PRP book. Mr. Fox noted that this year’s theme, the Year of Why and the PRP book, The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, offer many opportunities for integrating knowledge since the book raises philosophical and religious questions. He said that there will be a multidisciplinary event pertaining to these topics later this year.

There are grants available for relevant programs that are proposed by groups such as the College House communities or others from the Penn community. There are normally about 60-80 events supported each year with grants of approximately $500 each.

The 2019-2020 academic year will be the Year of Data, as proposed by Bethany Wiggin, associate professor of Germanic languages and literatures and Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities founding director, along with David Toccafondi, manager of the Vitale Digital Media Lab in the Weigle Information Commons at Van Pelt-Dietrich Library. The PRP book will be Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil.

Mr. Fox noted that any member of the Penn community may submit ideas for future years’ topics. Email him at