COUNCIL Statements November 12, 1997
Council: A Seat for UMC; Rejection of Booklist Recommendation
At Council November 12, all of the proposed bylaws changes (Almanac November 11) were passed, with extensive debate only on the motion to add a seat on Council for the United Minorities Council. Although Undergraduate Assembly Chair Noah Bilenker and several others spoke or wrote in opposition to the seating of UMC, Mr. Bilenker said a recent D.P. report of that the UA as a whole had "denounced" the proposal was not true. "Despite what my personal views might be, we decided that it wasn't like an electoral college system and that we should let the 15 UC representatives vote as they wished. But the UA as a whole did not vote against UMC getting a seat."
UA statements of opposition cited partly the principle that only students should choose who represents students on the University Council, and partly an anticipated problem of "drawing the line" if other groups also ask to be represented.
Positions that carried the motion included those of Senate Chair-elect John Keene and others who underscored the advisory nature of Council and the advantages of greater breadth of representation-to the extent that Dr. Larry Gross said, "I see no reason why future requests to further guarantee the appropriate representativeness of these discussions would not be seriously considered."
The Rev. Will Gipson said, "For a university as large and as complex as Penn, it seems to me that we want to position ourselves to hear as many voices as possible, so that our voice of opinion to the president and provost is as comprehensive, nuanced, and textured as is the University itself....The UA is very important to the University, because it is one important source of what student concerns are on any number of issues and I think in many ways it's a great tribute to great a American tradition of acknowledging the role of students in governance at the University. However, I don't believe that any one student site of governance really can represent to the Council all of the kinds of concerns of students here at Penn. And I do believe that because of the kind of historical realities that are represented and embodied in students of color here, it's probably to our real advantage to pull up one more chair to the table and ask a member of the UMC to take a seat." As Council resumed its agenda following the favorable vote, President Rodin asked literally that a chair be pulled up to the table for Topé Koledoye, current chair of the UMC. She was seated, to applause.
Bookstore Recommendation: Although the Steering Committee did not bring to the floor a recommendation to enact the proposal that all faculty post their textbook lists to the web (see the Bookstore Committee Report, Almanac October 14), a motion was made from the floor to reject the proposal. Passed on a hand vote was the resolution:
The University Council rejects the recommendation of the 1996-97 Bookstore Committee that "University Council urge the Provost to ensure that all departments place their course descriptions and titles and ISBN number of all texts on their PennNet home pages well in advance of the commencement of preregistration and that enrollment numbers be made available to all booksellers who may desire them."
Reports: Learning Disability . . . SATU in Pilot Phase . . . Alcohol
Provost Stanley Chodorow reported on the evolution of a new committee on students with learning disabilities, to be headed by Dr. John Richetti of English. Its membership and charge will be published next week. Dr. Chodorow also described a new pilot project in Speaking Across the University-SATU, a companion to WATU, which works to improve Writing Across the University. Training is in progress this fall for those who will work with students to improve their speaking abilities, and students are to be involved in a pilot in the spring.
Alcohol & Civility: President Judith Rodin said she will follow up on the October Council meeting on binge-drinking and alcohol-related assault by appointing a small, high-level committee in the near future "to review and make recommendations on the very helpful suggestions that came out of those conversations."
Following is the presentation of James Bean, the director of PennMail who chairs the Penn Professional Staff Assembly. Note that discussion on the Bookstore is at bookstorediscussion.html.-Ed.
During the past three or four months many members of Council have called for a more lively and interactive forum at our meetings. To that end I'd like to digress from our usual reporting format and pass along some of the thoughts and feelings expressed to me by members of the A-1 community on a couple of recent hot topics.
I have been following the ongoing debate in Almanac with respect to the Bookstore Committee report. While I do not profess to know all of the issues involved, it is interesting that on one side are faculty members who cherish their ability and right to use alternative sources for their courses texts; on the other hand there has been sentiment expressed by some student groups of the desire for one stop shopping due to the convenience it presents. I do not pretend to have some magic solution to resolve this debate. Nor do I wish to pass judgment.
However, one disturbing inference I have read in some of the exchanges indicates a dissatisfaction with the level of service provided by the employees of our University Bookstore, and the anticipation of a continual decline in these services levels with the opening of our new bookstore. I'd like to remind all that approximately one-half the current bookstore employees were in fact employees of the Bookstore prior to the Barnes & Noble agreement. These employees see themselves as important members of the University community first and foremost. These employees, and the store in which they work, are still very much Penn-oriented. The signature on their paycheck is the only thing about them that has changed. They do not deserve to be treated, implicitly or otherwise, as outsiders. The B&N contract is a management one; the culture of the store remains Penn.
I mention this because we now have another group of employees facing the same situation, specifically those employees in Facilites Management. Much of the fear and uncertainty that has been expressed to me concerns these employees losing their Penn identity. It is important for all of us to remember that whoever cuts our paychecks, we are all still members of this Penn community. The support of this community mindset can be a significant step in the healing process we now must undergo. I ask that individuals on both sides of these issues remember those employees within the affected areas are dedicated first and foremost to supporting the mission of our university. Thank you.
Consultation is important in the life of a university. Penn is full of wonderfully bright people who are potentially interested in a wide range of issues, including almost anything having to do with the University itself.
But consultation cannot be focused on every aspect of University life. The goal is to strike the right balance that moves the University forward. You-our faculty, our students, and our staff-have demonstrated repeatedly that you can-and do-make real contributions to University policy and decision-making. We need your input on a wide range of issues. At the same time, realistically, it is impossible to consult with every member or even every constituency of the community on every issue that arises in the course of an academic year.
In an effort to deal with this fact constructively, members of the administration frequently consult with elected and other representatives of the Penn community. Often this "representative consultation" may proceed over a lengthy period and lead to resolution of a particular matter. The risk in doing this is that our constituents may not agree with that resolution, or the adequacy or timing of the consultation. And some will be disappointed. Changes that affect all of us are inevitable. My administration and I want and need your continued input into those changes. At the same time, we also need to be able to be decisive. During my first year as President, in fact, I heard over and over again that decisiveness was badly needed at Penn. We will have to wrestle together with the right balance between consultation and decisiveness, not with rancor but constructively for a University we all care deeply about.
To those ends, I will work with University Council Steering to appoint a special Committee on Consultation that will submit its report to Council on April 1, as recommended in last week's resolution. This will be a temporary committee: I would expect it to disband after the submission of its report.
There is, of course, a standing University Committee on Consultation,
but it exists to advise on appointments. I will discuss with Steering whether
it may be appropriate to build on that committee. I look forward to talking
with the members of Steering about the composition and charge of the Committee
on Consultation at our upcoming meeting next week, and to consulting regularly
on a wide range of issues.