SENATE: From the Senate Office

The following statement is published in accordance with the 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 Senate
Chair Vivian Seltzer or Executive Assistant Carolyn Burdon, Box 12 College Hall/6303,
898-6943 or

Actions Taken by the Senate Executive Committee
Wednesday, September 3, 1997

1. Academic Planning and Budget Committee and Capital Council. Past Faculty Senate Chair Peter Kuriloff reported that the committee had not yet met this academic year.

Capital Council has met once to discuss ongoing projects. Voting on projects takes place by mail.

2. Informal discussion with the President and Provost. Faculty Senate Chair Vivian Seltzer noted that some questions for the President and Provost had been submitted in advance of the meeting by SEC members.

President Rodin drew attention to her Welcome Back feature in Almanac September 2, 1997, giving an account of the University's progress on the Agenda for Excellence. Responding to a SEC member, the President said the administration is concerned about holding down tuition costs and has taken cost-cutting steps. They are also working with the Federal government to realize overhead cost return on research at a time when the government share continues to decrease. The President stated that the SAS Dean search continues and that Professor Walter Wales will continue as interim dean.

The President observed that at the June international conference on information technology she was struck by how much further along Penn is in the use of technology than many other institutions. A Penn retreat was held one week later attended by a wide range of people. The Provost said the retreat produced a set of proposals that include consideration of new technologies and their effect on teaching as well as their global effect on a residential university. Questions emerged about the importance of the residential component of education as we confront issues of distance education.

Another question from a SEC member was whether the Financial Management Information System (FinMIS) reports to research investigators could provide only the information that was needed and omit the large amount of detail that was not needed to track research grant funds. The Provost said that shadow systems had been done away with and that under the new system a report standard has been set. The President noted that FinMIS now provides aggregated data that is defensible to the Federal government. Some people will receive more information than they require. Everyone has had to learn how to read the new reports generated by FinMIS and the form of the reports is regularly adjusted to meet campus needs. He invited faculty to organize a small group to meet with the Comptroller or to have the Comptroller attend a SEC meeting.

A brief discussion was held on the purpose and function of a survey recently conducted by the Director of Communication. Concern was expressed over the small number of individuals surveyed on which decisions may be made. The Faculty Senate Chair asked the President to get back to SEC with additional information.

At a SEC member's request the President reviewed the proposed vendor policy. Statistics show that as vending sites have been closed in other parts of the city the number of vendors has increased markedly in West Philadelphia around the University. Four years ago the campus area had 45 vendors. In 1997 that number has grown to 99 vendors. She said the goal is to rationalize vending on campus, not to close it down, and to provide healthy vending and safe vending areas for everyone who uses the vendors. She further stated that a communication problem had brought about the misunderstandings about the plans. Vendors had been consulted about the plans from the beginning. The proposed vendor policy will be discussed in City Council in the Fall.

Regarding the role of the University in setting up and supporting research, the President assured SEC that most research funding is provided by the University and invited SEC to communicate any University research funding cutbacks to her.

3. Disability Policy. The policy on short-term disability proposed by the 1996-97 Faculty Senate Committee on the Faculty (see below) was adopted unanimously.

4. Information Technology. Vice Provost for Information Systems and Computing James O'Donnell stated that they have an ongoing task of measuring and responding to technology demand. He pointed out that the information technology restructuring group recommended decentralized computing support and that was implemented July 1, 1997. The first point of computing support is now provided by individuals within the schools and units of the University rather than by a central office. He noted the overwhelming success of a new program that hires freshmen to provide basic level computer support in the residences. This semester 11 college houses are covered and all residences will be covered by next year. Then ISC will need to determine how and what services to provide for students living off campus. He went on to say that an information technology steering group of campus citizens meets twice a month to make harmony out of the varied groups on campus; many of the members are users as well as providers. The group discusses problems and solutions. Vice Provost O'Donnell also mentioned a two-day international conference organized by Engineering Dean Gregory Farrington. The first day was sponsored by the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE) on the future of distance education and implications for universities. The second day [one week later] focussed on specifics of addressing the questions raised the first day.

A speedy solution to providing computer support to students residing off-campus was urged by a SEC member given the rapidly increasing use of technology in teaching.

Responding to a question, the Vice Provost said that by using technology for information interchange that faculty -student face-to-face time can be more effective and more valuable.

Regarding a question about the rising cost of software and site licenses, the Vice Provost replied they would set up key servers for suitable software and had already done that for statistical software. He then invited people to let him know about other software that might be in demand and suitable.

5. Faculty Liaisons to Trustee Committees. Discussion was deferred to the next meeting.

RETURN to Almanac Home Page