COUNCIL continued coverage of March 4
At Council on March 4, an extended report was Executive Vice President John Fry's update on several topics including three (vending, the transfer of facilities management to Trammell Crow, and options in food services) that were summarized briefly in Almanac March 17. As promised there, this is a fuller summary of his report, which consisted of three sections, on administrative cost reduction, quality of worklife and neighborhood development.
Notes from the EVP's Presentation
Administrative Activity: As part of the goal to "identify and implement administrative improvements throughout the University," Mr. Fry discussed the Trammell Crow transition and the food services report that was then in preparation (see Almanac March 24 for the final report and the announcement of a mixed model with Bon Appetit as consultant to an in-house operation). He continued with a rundown on procurement and the continued effort to leverage buying power for cost reduction. After information-gathering by a team from schools and centers across campus, the decision was made to consolidate with one provider, Xerox, with its minority West Philadelphia subcontractor, Tel-Rose Corporation. Projected results are
Other commodities are being looked at, Mr. Fry said: travel, where the University spends about $25 million a year; computers, also about $25 million a year; printing at about $12 million; furniture, $7 million; books $4 million; and lab supplies $18 million.
In response to query, Mr. Fry said lab supplies for the medical school are not included in the above list, though some procurement planning is being done jointly with Medicine.
Worklife: Mr. Fry summarized the joint session held February ... on quality of worklife, staff development, flexible work options, dependent care support services (childcare and eldercare), service recognition with separate awards for excellence, a staff appreciation week with health promotion activities, and "other things that basically help people balance out work and homelife issue." He gave the thrust of the skills development programs for for manager and non-mangers, and for neighbors as well as Penn staff. (This content overlapped with that of a report on the PPSA/A-3 Assembly meeting carried in Almanac March 17.)
Neighborhood: Mr. Fry gave an update minority-based purchasing efforts that have generated business activity in West Philadelphia, particularly in relation to Sansom Common where "we're trying to make the project basically a model of ways we procure service through minority and women owned businesses. He also described 40th Street's "basic clean-up and brightening," and an ongoing process with faculty, staff and community for "brainstorming the future of 40th between Market and Baltimore.
"We've had a series of charettes where we bring in various groups to figure out the right mix of commercial activity, what we want the streetscapes to look like, what kinds of partnerships we need to build with local businesses," he said. Learning that about $400,000 in City funds are designated for street improvement projects such as 40th Street, "we now have joint venture going with the 40th Street Business Association to see if we can capture [some of those funds] for remedial work from Walnut to Market Street, given the work that we've done from Baltimore to Walnut to date has already been successfully completed."
Penn is also working with banks and the city on taxes, loans and rebates for property improvement and business expansion, he said, and "We have a very significant effort on Market Street to help a group of organizations including the West Philadelphia Enterprise Center and West Philadelphia Partnership, to develop a plan to attract commercial activity on Market from 40th to 52nd Street. We've also participated in a revolving loan fund with about four or five other banks basically to seed money so this group can go out and acquire and clear property and then basically prepare sites for commercial ownership. So Market Street has been a big emphasis."
He ended with notes on the West Philadelphia Internet Business Mall, sponsored with Libertynet to create "an electronic commerce engine for local businesses to tap into" for opportunities in construction as well as in doing business with Penn, Drexel and other West Philadelphia-based instituions. "A lot of the smaller businesses are sort of shut out from various opportunities; they need to know what we're buying and what our requirements are, and by putting a little seed capital into this we're effectively creating a web-based capability for these small businesses."
A speaker said that "Dining right now is ranked second or third in the country nationally for its quality of food, but the one problem is that its cost is exorbitant," and asked how Penn would address quality and cost in its outsourcing decision; she also asked if quality of food was discussed with students in visits to other campuses such as MIT.
Mr. Fry said, "...We ate the food, we talked to students, we talked to other people who use the facilities; we also did that at places like UCLA and Stanford that are self-operated, and the results which we will share with the commitee are very interesting. One thing reinforced on the visits was that the quality of facilities has a lot to do with how people about things in general, and one of the things that has inhibited us has been the quality of the facilitieswe have right now.
"I'm not sure I recognize this ranking number 3...," he continued, and President Rodin intervened: "It was ranked the second most healthy because it provided the wok and fresh vegetables and those kinds of options. It was not a quality ranking."
Mr. Fry, returning to the cost issue, said the cost of Penn Dining food is significantly higher, and is being addressed in the outsourcing decision.
"We have, obviously, some opportunities to buy smarter. I think [cost] also has to do with the way we prepare our foods, and we need to do some planning. There are some real opportunities, whether we outsource or self-operate, to reduce the cost of our food; I'm confident we can do it either way. Quality is really the most important issue. This is not a process just to reduce cost; this is a process to increase the quality, selection and availability of good food, all of the time 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That's the driver here. The real criteria for selection in the end will be who can help us really ramp up the quality of the food, and at the same time how do we put in place reasonable business measures to get that cost per meal down to a reasonable level. I can assure you that based on some of the models we've seen out there the two are not mutually exclusive."
A question on computer procurement-would the centralization and cost benefits obtained through changing computer procurement have any consequences in terms of platform migration?-was answered:
"It would, and it's a tricky issue. Right now I think the number of vendors is about18 or 20. Clearly you can't go to a single vendor on this, because of the many different platforms on which we have to operate, but at the same time we think there's a middle territory that would allow us to gain efficiencies in purchasing while at the same time preserving the flexibility that we need. The committee is about three or four months into its work, I haven't received my brief on it, so I'm not sure what all the particular issues are; but we're not thinking of migrating to one single platform. At the same time we [need to] rationalize the way we go about this: Parts of the University are getting terrific deals and meeting all their needs and in other cases I don't think we're purchasing in a particularly smart way.
Dr. Anthony Tomazinis asked if there is a process for third-party evaluation of the plan to control vending, and Mr. Fry responded, "I'm not sure we've considered a full-scale evaluation at any one point in time other than a regular monitoring to make sure that standards are upheld and rules and regulations which we put in place are being accurately implemented."
After the Moderator's clarification that Dr. Tomazinis meant evaluation of the standards themselves, Dr. Rodin said to Dr. Tomazinis, "I think we benefited from your suggestion at the last Council meeting, as part of your interim report on campus master planning, that you would assist us in developing that sort of broad and large-scale planning and self-referential process, and we would look forward to the opportunity to learn from your suggestions.
"I think if you are asking for something beyond physical campus master planning, a broad-scale, every action planning and evaluation process, I'm not certain that would serve the institution well for all of the many, many hundreds of actions that are taken...but why don't we begin with the campus physical planning and see how that works, then learn from that?" Moderator Will Harris added that the topic of physical planning is to be added to the agenda "before the end of the year."
This year Council Steering is asking committees to make interim reports, allowing for feedback from Council members and their constituencies as they carry out their charges. Three such reports were made at Council on March 4. This coverage concludes with a report from the VPUL, on student activities space allocation.
Reporting as the new chair who assumed leadership when Dr. Charles Bernheimer became ill, Dr. Karen McGowan began with the results of a survey of the faculty:
"The faculty survey is the first thing we looked at. In fall 1997, the Library administered surveys to the faculty, actually done twice- to a limited group of 500, and because of the poor response it was attempted again and all standing faculty (1940) were sent survey forms. Unfortunately only 301 responded, so the survey represents 16% of the faculty. The returns are heavily weighted because 40% of the returns are from the Medical School, and that creates some problems for the committee: when you look at the numbers and the most important thing ranked by respondents is "journals" I think it's appropriate to realize that that is because of the heavy weight of the medical faculty. My colleagues in the humanities were horrified that books were ranked third. So I think the survey in terms of what the Library does with it will be on some level limited.
"Another survey is planned for 1999, and I think one of the charges next year to the committee should be "How are we going to get more of the faculty to respond?" It's critically important for the survey to really represent the faculty here if we want the Library to respond to the survey.
"Some interesting aspects of the response:
"Sixty percent said they now access library resources from their home or office more than once a week, so we are all clearly making use of computer access. When asked how to rank library resources, in terms of if we could choose how we think they should concentrate their finances, network citations and abstracted databases were the second highest faculty priority. When asked to rank the strengths of the library, network resources were also ranked second, so that's very important to the faculty here. The survey also showed there is a very high level of faculty satisfaction. Nearly 80% of the faculty said they were satisfied or highly satisfied with the services of the library. But when they were asked to compare Penn's library to whatever library they used prior to coming to Penn, it was interesting that 40% of the responders said that Penn's library was inferior. An interesting dichotomy. When we looked at why, it then appeared to be related to library expenditures, and that led the committee to something we spent a sizable amount of time on, which has been increasing, or hoping we can advocate increasing, library funding.
"There are 107 academic peer institutions that make up a body called the Association of Research Libraries, the ARL. And when you are evaluating libraries in this country for institutions such as ours, ranking from the ARL is very important. Penn ranks near the top in education and general expenditure monies for an institution: we are number four behind Stanford, Harvard and the University of Michigan. That looks terrific, but unfortunately Penn is near the bottom of the list of the 107 when we look at the percentage of those general expenditures that are allocated to the library. For the 107 peer institutions the mean was 3.1% of that expenditure budget allocated to the library; Penn rolls in at 2.1% and those are 96 figures, and they have my committee and myself quite concerned. We rank in the twenties or the thirties among those 107 academic libraries for collection size, volumes added, staff numbers, staff salary, current serials and expenditures. That to us appears to contradict the top ten aspirations for Penn's agenda. And there appears to be minimal indication that the University intends to increase the library's funding. We've been shown the five-year budget proposed by the University for the years 1999 through 2004 and when you look at that, a .1% decrease each year for the five years is expected from the library. Thirty percent of the library's entire budget is spent on what is called by librarians information; and information consists of journals, books and databases. The ARL says that nationally we should expect that information is going to cost at least 7% more per year for the next five years. So the library is going to have to make some incredibly difficult choices.
"Should they just process less information? I suspect if I polled the room no one wants to give up or hear that there are going to be even fewer books, even fewer journals and fewer databases available.
"We could have the Library teach fewer courses, but when I talk with students and we look at student surveys, those courses are critically important. So my committee would like to refer this issue...upward. [Our] role is to advise the library; we cannot do something about their budget. But I think Council should look into this more seriously if it's possible.
The next thing we've begun looking at is the Libraray's Assistance in Residence Program, and this Friday a presentation will be made by Paul Mosher's staff to my committee. We will then give them feedback and work with them. I've suggested that we create a subcommittee of students...for input and feedback and interface directly with the library staff. I'm going to ask the three students (two undergraduate and one graduate student) on the committee to help me create a subcommittee. If students here [at Council] have ideas I will appreciate hearing them.
The Year 2000 is the 250th birthday of the library. I think it will be a cause to have a tremendous celebration on this campus. I say that as someone who spent her graduate school years at a medical school, Temple Medical School, which for all the years I was there was ranked the fifth lowest, I mean from the bottom, library for a medical school in the United States. I spent inordinate amounts of my time in the subway and on the buses in the City, coming to Penn's biomedical library and Jefferson's; it was a miserable way to be a graduate student. The students here don't have to do that; it's an outstanding library system. We have great cause for celebration.
In the comment period, Dr. Michael Wachter said the Library needed more aggressive fund-raising, and this led to a discussion of access to donors. "The Development people in the Library are outstanding," said Dr. McGowan, "but I think a little more freedom has to be given to the Library. Most of the capital expenditures that have been done by the library for the last six years have been from soliciting alumni classes. There is no "school" that goes with the library; unlike the Medical School and the Law School, they can't tap into people who graduated from the Library. Everyone uses it but they don't have their own constituency to pull from." Dr. Rodin responded that the Library is one of the handful of Penn units allowed to solicit the alumni reunion classes, and "has been consistently been given the opportunity to be first on the list for that solicitation. So that should be seen as a positive-not a negative-that they're soliciting from the alumni reunion classes. There are also many other donor prospects. I think that one of the challenges for the University is that there are school based donors and then there are donors that have interests in other activities, as we talk about recreational athletics, another issue that has been of concern to Council and on the campus more broadly, we face the same issue: the athletics donors are also donors who have gone to a particular school at Penn, and are often torn apart in terms of their loyalties for giving. So it's a very significant systemic problem but it's not unique to the library."
In her conclusion, Dr. Lawrence urged continuity in the membership of the Library committee because of the complexity that calls for reeducating members every September. She has asked to continue as chair and seven members have volunteered to continue to serve.
A portion of Dr. Sean Kennedy's report as chair of this committee was alluded to in March 17 coverage of the Council meeting (concerning the use of surveillance cameras, which is being jointly addressed with the Committee on Open Expression). Noting that the committee had two charges for the year, he said:
"One was to develop a continuum of education in safety. We've begun that, but one of the issues that has come through rather clearly on that is the difficulty of maintaining a level of interest among the student body, in particular for an ongoing curriculum. This is the feedback that I'm getting from the active student members of the committee, who are heading up the subcommittee looking into the issue. It brings up a question I would like to bring to Council for their advice:
"Is a four-year continuum a practical approach to this?"
"Obviously, safety should not be something that's an orientation-week token issue that is put away for the rest of the year while we hope that nothing happens. The question is how to maintain the level of interest. How do you get people to come to events and so forth?
"So I put this issue back to Council. There are obvious advantages to a four-year continuum, with several events during the year. On the practical side, as is pointed out many times, events are planned and nobody comes. Are there any thoughts that would help guide us in our committee that the Council might be able to offer?
VPUL Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum asked "What other types of venues can be used, including possibly departmentally based programs and the like, that are more localized and go into different members of the community's homes, as it were, to provide support?" and Dr. Peter Kuriloff proposed "creating a spirit of teaching each other, much like STAAR [Students Together Against Acquaintance Rape]; you would reach a lot more students."
Dr. McCoullum noted that there are other peer to peer organizations that provide supports for both undergraduate and graduate/professional students, was well as outreach activities that partner students, faculty and staff. "A lot of the peer to peer work is the most effective student to student outreach that we currently provide." She said a list is available.
University Police Director of Operations Maureen Rush added that Penn Watch also does education projects with other students informally and formally, and reminded that a College House program is under way, in which detectives meet with RA's and other officials within the houses. "That's going to expand; formally RA's are required to do safety presentations, so this is another venue."
Turning to the second charge to his committee, Dr. Kennedy said, "The issue of the video monitoring policy is one we are working on with the Committee on Open Expression and there is an active and effective dialogue between the two groups [working on drafts to bring to Council]. I hope that Council understands the importance of this. As we look around the universities we find that although video monitoring is very common, including in large universities, nobody has a policy. The implications of that are really astounding. Most [administrations] throw up their hands and say "I don't know!" We have an opportunity here to come up with a policy that allows a major university to embrace technology for a good purpose, yet maintain some of the other goals that are important to a university-issues that don't come up in surveillance or monitoring of a city or a factory. This is an enormous opportunity. I think it will be worth the extraordinary amount of work that has gone into it when we finally come up with that policy."
Dr. Barbara Medoff-Cooper reported that the Committee had no new charge this year but:
"We have decided to continue last year's committee's work as it relates to postdoctoral experience. Dr. Trevor Penning, the associate dean for postdoctoral research training at the medical center, has joined us in this work.
"There are a lot of postdocs on campus. Many of them, the most part, are in individual researchers' labs and we are concerned about the issue of continuing education for them. Very few of the shools have a model-perhaps I'm prejudiced because the School of Nursing has one-in which postdoctoral education really means education, not just coming in to work with individual investigators, learning new techniques but not having other skills added to their bag of tricks to go out into the world.
"So we would like to explore this particular issue: How we can provide a rounder, fuller educational experience for our postdocs? Looking at different schools and models, I the schools that have training grants are very different from those that don't. Nursing has one from NIH, and has promised NIH we will indeed provide our postdocs with a particular bag of tricks. I know in epidemiology that it is also true. But I don't believe it is true in a lot of other places. So that's something we'd love to have some feedback from around campus. We'll be touching base with a variety of schools so that we can have a better understanding of what the experience is from school to school."
Dr. Michael Wachter, the Interim Provost, said he was " very eager for you to do that, and I will be interested in the results. This is an important issue, and important group of researcheres that make an important contribution to this university, so we need to be supportive of their career development.
Added Dr. Kuriloff: "One of the things the Senate became concerned about last year was how the University can provide some procedural protections for postdocs, who tend to be working very closely with one mentor. When relationships become strained a person can be in great jeopardy. So I wonder if the committee is thinking about that..."
"We have been thinking about that," Dr. Medoff-Cooper responded.
"That's something Trevor Penning has been involved in in the Medical school where they have a huge number of postdocs. Around the rest of the University, the numbers are small, so I think the opportunity for taking advantage of postdocs is to a lesser degree a concern. But we did discuss that piece as well. It's grievances: that's the piece that you're really alluding to. In many situations there is no format for grievances, and we will look to Dr. Penning for some work on this." A lot depends on how the postdoctoral candidate comes to the University, she added. "If they come as part of a training mechanism, many more protections are in place."
The VPUL reported on expansion of the role of what began as the Houston Hall-based space reallocationi board. "The Board was originally not to have been established until all of the Perelman buildings came on line, but as we talked with students who were potential members of the committee we felt it important to start meeting earlier so students could be active partners as we move forward through the transition."
"We summarized the expansion of purview of a committee originally set up for overall planning with Perelman Quad units, to give advice to the University on Houston and Irvine and those parts of Logan and Williams that are parts of Perelman....But the student members of the committee and those of us been working with them recommedned that they expand their oversight to give advice on other spaces in which students are now using as Houston Hall and Irvine Auditorium close down for the term."
After brainstorming interim needs from student perspective, the student Board heard a presentaiton by the Perelman Quad architects and developed a further list of needs, which they prioritized in the fall while also taking in reports on space availibity. Then they gave the VPUL a set of recommendations which were forwarded them to the University Space Commmittee.
One of rececommedations is for a a central online reservation system for the spaces avail for students to reserve. "Again instead of waiting," Dr. McCoullum said, "we have purchased the system and will have it online by September." In discussion of detailed space needs, she mentioned the search for "ideally a permanent for the Health Education Office and Peer Health Education so don't have to move twice." One recommendation was to look for a house near campus, but none has been found. "If you know of any, send me an email," said the VPUL. Units that are now housed include the Irongate Theater for performing arts groups and the scene shop at 4100 Walnut Street. A student media center is also being set up, temporarily at 3611 Locust Walk but eventually for Houston Hall, where student organizations can craft brochures and other print materials on site.
She closed with an exploration of "rethinking opportunities to use
classrooms, in ways respectful of our faculty. A lot of student groups have
needs that are after 6 p.m., and we've asked the Space Committee to think
about creative use of classroom facilities."
Almanac, Vol. 44, No. 27, March 31, 1998