On behalf of the Faculty Senate, I am delighted to welcome you to a new year at Penn. The Faculty Senate is the official voice of the faculty at the University. It acts through an Executive Committee representing different schools and constituencies on campus, through standing committeeson the faculty, the administration, the economic status of the faculty, students and educational policy, academic freedom and responsibility, and misconductand through a consultative committee (to the President and Provost) made up of the Past Chair (William Kissick), the Chair-elect (Vivian Seltzer) and myself. Several issues of major concern to the faculty confront us this year, and we will all work hard to address them.
In addition to salaries, the University will be redesigning its benefits packages this year. In part, redesign is being driven by concern that Penn may not be in compliance with federal guidelines regarding comparability between its retirement plans for faculty and support staff, or among its plans and those of its hospital. In part too, redesign is being pursued to determine what the University community wants its benefits package to accomplish as well as to make sure it remains competitive for attracting faculty without being overly costly. The job of the Senate will be to make sure that the faculty is clear about what it wants in terms of benefits and loud enough to affect the shape of the redesign in an appropriate and responsible fashion.
The School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) faces long term, serious, structural, financial problems that must be addressed. In a university with "responsibility centered" budgeting, solving the problem is the responsibility primarily of the school's administration. However, we must not view it as only "their" problem. SAS is the very heart of our great, liberal arts university. Because of this, the University's reputation depends, in good measure, on the health, quality and reputation of SAS in general, and on its undergraduate programs, in particular. Concern for the robust health of SAS is widely shared. SEC and the Senate leadership will work closely with the University administration and with SAS faculty and administration to improve the situation as much and as rapidly as possible.
Our status as a great university is linked not only to SAS but to the overall quality of the undergraduate education and experience we provide our students. Over the last two years, the Senate Committee on Students and Educational Policy (SEP) has proposed major changes in the ways we organize, administer and budget for undergraduate education. Last year's report, "Making Penn the Undergraduate University of Choice in the 21st Century," built on the work of previous Senate committees and University planning groups and argued that interdisciplinary, cross-departmental and cross-school programs can provide students with the kinds of unique perspectives they will need to face the harsh economic realities of the next century and, along the way, give Penn a major competitive advantage over its key rivals. The report, endorsed enthusiastically by SEC, recognized that a lack of central planning, organization and funding were major road blocks to developing these kinds of programs. It went on to propose the appointment of a Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education with central responsibility for developing such programs. It also proposed that responsibility based budgeting practices be altered to adequately support them. Such changes could help break down the barriers that keep students from crossing academic boundaries and departments and schools from developing them. They also could go a long way towards helping the rest of the University take advantage of all SAS has to offer and, in turn, towards enabling SAS to avail itself of the tremendous resources of other schools. Besides working to encourage the institutionalization of these ideas, this year's SEP will think about how to foster the continuing development of lively residential options for undergraduates, and to insure that initiatives such as Writing Across the University (WATU) and Math Across the University (MATU) truly become university wide and not just primarily SAS based.
The other major concern of the Senate this year will by the changing relationship between the north and south sides of Spruce Street. Faced with the turmoil and tremendous competition in health care, the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) is growing very rapidly. This growth is changing the culture of medicine and medical education. To quote Past Chair of the Faculty Senate, Pepper Professor of Public Health and Preventative Medicine, Bill Kissick, "The days of the triple threat in most medical specialities, where a doctor could be a clinician, an educator and an outstanding researcher, are over. Furthermore, changes in hospital stays mean patients aren't there long enough for medical students to learn from them anymore." To cope with this situation, UPHS is attempting to create an adequate patient base for education and research by developing Clinical Care Associates (CCAs), doctors in other parts of the city and suburbs who are part of the system and who may, perhaps, play some role in educating medical students. The relationship between CCAs and the University has still to be worked out. We need to work together with our colleagues in the Medical School to understand these changes and their implications for both the long-term shape of the University and for the future of faculty governance. Early in the fall, the leadership of the University Senate and the Medical School Senate will meet to create a task force to examine these issues in depth. I expect the work of this group to take 12 to 18 months and to have a major impact on the way we think of our university as we enter the 21st century.
Beyond these central issues, the Senate will be addressing a variety of other important matters during the upcoming year. Among other things, we will work to finalize the new parental leave policy and the new policy for the renewal of terms of deans, to insure schools have effective methods of getting teaching evaluations, and to make Penn an even more hospitable place for graduate students. Finally, we will vigorously monitor school-based restructuring efforts to insure that downsizing does not negatively affect the educational and research missions of the University.
In all of these matters, we welcome your ideas, your support and your help. The well-being of the University depends on the active participation of faculty members in university governance. Penn needs your involvement. Please feel free to contact me at the Faculty Senate Office (898-6943) or e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Carolyn Burdon, Executive Assistant to the Faculty Senate Chair (email@example.com). I look forward to hearing from you and to working with you.
On behalf of the Faculty Senate, I wish you all a productive, engaging and successful year.
Volume 43 Number 2
September 3, 1996
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