The following report is on the agenda of the
University Council meeting April 22 meeting (see the complete agenda here).
Comments may be sent to the chair of the Committee, Professor Howard Lesnick,
by email to email@example.com, or to the Chair of the Steering Committee c/o the Office
of the Secretary. Members of the University may also forward their views
to their Council constituency representatives (see the list in Almanac
January 20, 1998). Letters for publication
in Speaking Out on April 21 should be
sent by noon April 16, by e-mail to gaines@pobox, and will be published as space permits. --Ed.
Report of the
University Council Ad Hoc Committee on Consultation
March 31, 1998
I. The Committee's Charge
Drs. Judith Rodin, University President, and Vivian
Seltzer, Chair of the Steering Committee, University Council, appointed
the members of this Committee by letters dated February 2, 1998, charging
us to report our recommendations by April 1, so that the Steering Committee
might place our report on the agenda of the Council for its April 22 meeting.
We have met weekly since February 16, guided by
the following charge:
Consultation is a central dimension of the life
of the University and critical to the well-being of our community. To maintain
a consultation policy which is both dynamic and functional, it is necessary
to assess current practices and to design additional initiatives. Within
this framework the charge to the University Council Ad Hoc Committee on
Consultation is to:
1. Identify the current vehicles for consultation.
Could they be more effectively deployed?
2. Develop a continuum of consultation models
in different contexts broad enough to encompass the major kinds of issues
and circumstances the University is facing.
Anchoring one extreme of the continuum of consultation
is information by an authorized decision maker to the authorized head of
one or more other constituencies so that person or persons is not "blind-sided."
Anchoring the other extreme of the continuum is genuine collaborative work
from the beginning for which effective problem solving requires hearing
a wide-range of voices.
3. Develop specific models of consultation appropriate
for each location on the continuum.
4. Identify the appropriate officers/persons from
the relevant constituencies to participate in the consultation process.
The first sentence of the first charge presents
essentially a factual question, to which we respond in Section III. The
remainder of our charge, however, implicates normative premises, by which
past (No. 1) and future (Nos. 2, 3, and 4) actions may be evaluated and
guided. We have deemed it important to begin by making explicit our proposed
articulation of those premises. Terms like "effectively deployed"
and "appropriate" should not be taken to pose only technical questions.
An explicit focus on norms can serve several purposes: (1) it provides a
basis for deciding what consultation is, and is not, and what the source
of its importance is; (2) it can bring to light divergent assumptions about
norms, and subject them to discussion and resolution; and (3) it can inform
application of the guidelines that emerge from our report to questions that
inevitably will arise in the future. We therefore begin with a proposed
articulation of what we call "primary principles," by which we
contend the meaning and value of consultation should be judged. Our remaining
charges are addressed in context in the body of this report: the second
sentence of Charge 1 throughout the report, Charges 2 and 3 in Section IV,
and Charge 4 in Section V, A.
II. What Consultation Is
(and Is Not): Primary Principles
The first principle of consultation is that its
contours should be shaped to the greatest extent possible by the nature
and mission of the University.
A University is a special kind of place. First,
it is a non-profit organization, in which fiscal responsibility and revenue
generation are means toward the end of pursuit of educational, research
and charitable endeavors in the public interest. As such, its decisions
and activities are gauged in a broad social context, by standards that are
different from those applied to for-profit firms. Moreover, the mission
of an educational in-stitution commits it to open expression, the pursuit
of knowledge, the free interchange of ideas, and the structuring of the
work and educational activities of students, staff, faculty and administrators
so as to sustain a campus community. The University must strive to provide
opportunities for all who live, teach, carry on research, work, and study
here to be full participants in that community. Finally, as the largest
private employer in Philadelphia, making its home in West Philadelphia,
the University is an integral part of both the West Philadelphia community
and the city as a whole, and has an important responsibility to take account
of the effect of its decisions on those larger communities.
The University should recognize that the practice
of confidentiality, and narrowness in the scope and quality of consultation,
while justified when they are in fact necessary, are in serious tension
with the nature of the University's mission. All reasonable steps should
be taken to consult as openly, as broadly, and as deeply as possible. Consulters
and those consulted should take genuine account of the importance of explaining
and justifying, to the campus and neighboring communities, the contours
and limits of confidential or proprietary decision-making that is thought
necessary. Cases of doubt should be resolved in favor of consultation; consultation
should be frequent and thorough.
The second principle of consultation is that members
of the campus and neighboring communities, both as individuals and as constituency
groups, have a stake in the welfare of the community as a whole. Successful
consultation avails itself of the expertise and interest of individuals
and constituencies in order to make decisions and craft policies that improve
the quality of life at the University and in the surrounding community.
Successful consultation goes beyond the model in which constituencies are
seen merely as "special interests" with narrow agendas; it rather
acknowledges fully the skills, resources and perspectives they often can
bring to the decision-making process. Students, faculty and staff are not
simply buying a degree or earning a living. They typically make a major
commitment of time and devotion to the enterprise, the spirit and consciousness
of which have always reflected in large measure the dedication of many employees
and students to the common enterprise. The term "stakeholder"
more adequately perhaps than "constituent" describes the attitude
with which their interests should be taken into account.
The third principle of consultation is mutual accountability.
Consultation is a two-way process that can work only if consulters and consultees
make themselves accountable to each other and to the process itself. Consultation
by the University administration should be understood as conferring on those
who are consulted an invitation to respond, an invitation that those consulted
have a correlative responsibility to take up. All parties to consultationstudents,
staff, faculty, administratorshave a responsibility to apply our norms of
consultation in good faith, to respect confidentiality when it is promised,
and to report and represent accurately the views of constituents and superiors.
Accountability entails too the recognition, incumbent
upon members of both the campus and neighboring communities, that ultimate
decisional authority rests with the Trustees and the President, in order
that they may fulfill their responsibility to ensure the overall health
of the University. The administration of the University is responsible for
taking established goals, however they may have been developed, and formulating
overall strategies and specific sequences of actions for meeting those goals.
This is a complicated, often difficult, process, plagued by considerable
uncertainty and serious limitations in the financial and other resources
available to carry it out. Strategic concerns may reasonably be thought
at times to counsel secrecy or, at least, as little public knowledge or
awareness as possible. If, for example, the University is contemplating
purchasing a piece of real estate, it is usually in its interest to keep
that possibility confidential so as not to distort the market price. Decisions
involving the participation of outside organizations, such as may have been
the case in the outsourcing of the facilities department, might require
that they be given time to decide whether to sign on before the proposed
collaboration is made public. Premature announcement of contemplated decisions
concerning closing or significant down-sizing of departments may damage
the ability of the department to carry out its mission effectively during
By contrast, the level of confidentiality posited
as necessary in these examples is at times not required. In such cases,
it is the administration's responsibility to allow for fuller and more open
discussion. The irreducible power differential injected into the consultative
process by the administration's special responsibility and authority gives
rise to a structural tension between the organizational hierarchy of the
University as an institution and the democratic aspirations of the University
as a community. It is a central task of the administration to keep that
tension as compatible as may be with the underlying normative stance appropriate
for a University.
In this context, it is especially important that
consultation by the administration should embody the spirit of give-and-take
whereby information of all typesspecific questions, concerns and methods,
but also broader strategies, principles and frameworksis exchanged and incorporated
into the consultative process. While the views of members of the University
community may not be embodied in specific decisions or policies, the decision-making
process should clearly reflect the fact that those views have been heard
and taken into account in a meaningful way. For the consultative process
is distinct from the outcomes of that process. A democratic, substantive,
two-way process of consultation may be expected significantly to enhance
consensus and therefore to strengthen communities, but it cannot resolve
all conflicts. Neither the administration nor the other members of the campus
community (or of the neighboring community) should misunderstand the consultative
process: It is neither a mechanism for ensuring specific outcomes nor one
for suppressing disagreement on substantive issues.
III. Existing Vehicles
The codified vehicles for consultation,
though relatively few, are important in the areas of their applicability.
The Handbook for Faculty and Academic Administrators spells
out consultative models for use in the appointment (and in some cases, the
reappointment or removal) of a president, provost, dean, or other academic
administrators. It contemplates consultation with the University Committee
on Consultationthe three Senate Chairs and the Chairs of the Undergraduate
Assembly (UA) and the Graduate and Professional Schools Assembly (GAPSA)
on the resolution of cases of doubt as to the proper method of consultation.
The Handbook says
almost nothing about the consultative roles of the University Council
or Faculty Senate. The president, provost, and other administrators
are to report to the Council annually, and "may be questioned"
by its members on any topic. The Council may "request information"
from any member of the administration.
A few Council committees are given some explicit
consultative functions. For example, the chair of the Community Relations
Committee is to meet quarterly, or more often if needed, with a senior officer
for real estate "to be informed of pending real estate activities that
affect the community." The entire committee "shall, with discretion,
discuss relevant cases," and "may inform the community as the
need arises." The Academic Planning and Budget Committee is charged
with giving "informed advice" on resource allocation issues.
More important, perhaps, are a number of uncodified
practices. We set forth here those of which we have become aware. There
are doubtless others.
The three Senate Chairs normally meet twice
monthly, and the Senate Executive Committee (SEC) meets periodically,
with the President and the Provost. Senate committees often meet
with administration representatives in connection with their ongoing work.
Committees with overlapping interests in a matter at times meet together.
The UA Executive Board and the Chair
and one Executive Board member of GAPSA each meet monthly with the President.
The Chair of the Penn Professional Staff Assembly
(PPSA) meets monthly, and the Chair of the A-3 Assembly Executive Board
meets quarterly, with the Executive Vice-President, the Vice-President for
Human Resources, or both.
Senior and mid-level administrators meet periodically with groups of students, faculty, and
staff. Some of these are informal and situational, while others are institutionalized.
Those of which we have become aware include: The Graduate Deans and the
Graduate Council of the Faculty meet regularly with the Vice-Provost for
Graduate Education; the President and the Provost meet regularly with the
Council of Deans, the President's Advisory Group, and, in the case of the
Provost, the Council of Undergraduate Deans; the Vice-President for Government
and Community Relations meets monthly with West Philadelphia community advisory
boards. Administrators meet with the University Council, and with
specific Council committees, in a variety of ad hoc
an actual and potential vehicle for consultation between the administration
and others, and between constituency representatives and their constituencies
(and others as well). The "For Comment" tradition provides a flexible
source of consultative opportunities for individuals and groups. The
Daily Pennsylvanian and Current provide additional vehicles
Emergent technology has
given rise to new avenues of communication, such as newsgroups, e-mail,
and the World Wide Web, in which are embedded possibilities of consultation.
IV. Articulating the Scope
and Timing of Consultation
The policies and decisions facing the University
as an institution range along a continuum, from major "developmental"
decisions, on one end, to narrower "operational" decisions, on
are those that affect many people, have
a long-term impact, involve major commitments or expenditures of money,
and generally influence in an important way the quality of life on campus.
Examples of developmental decisions would be to move the campus to the suburbs,
to abolish or create a school, to mount a major development campaign, to
adopt a long-term strategic plan for a school or the University, to out-source
a major component of the University's activities, or to build a new hospital
or school building. Decisions involving major cost-cutting steps and major
changes in compensation design, benefit plans, or other matters implicating
significant quality of work life issues for employees, may fall into the
include making marginal changes in the benefits package, deciding that TV
surveillance cameras should be installed throughout the campus, moving the
headquarters of the Public Safety Department to a new site (because of the
significant perceived impact on student life and concerns), and channeling
the location and operations of campus-area vendors (because a large percentage
of University personnel and students patronize vendors).
Examples of operational decisions are the
steps taken to carry out an already approved budget, to construct a building
already agreed upon, and the day-to-day decisions that concern all sectors
of the community.
Broad consultation is needed most in the case of
developmental decisions, and least with respect to operational decisions.
Yet, it is often the case that a specific decision partakes of each of these
three characteristics over the course of its gestation. The critical question
is, At what point or points in the decision making process should consultation
be sought? We have found it useful to approach this question by noting how
any decision-making process contains a number of steps, which may be described
1. Gather data
2. Formulate Goals
3. Develop major alternatives
4. Provisionally evaluate each alternative
5. Provisionally select the most desirable alternative
or set of alternatives
6. Implement the decision made
7. Monitor and adjust the action to be taken
The process is often sequential, but may be cyclical
rather than linear. Decision makers often revisit some or all of the steps
as they move toward a decision, refining and understanding it better with
each cycle. Moreover, it is important to recognize that, while adjoining
steps (for example, steps 4 and 5) may tend to merge in a decision maker's
mind, they are analytically distinct.
We propose the following norms to guide the administration
in applying the "steps" model to the question of the appropriate
timing of consultation:
(a) Consultation is presumptively obligatory no
later than the conclusion of Step 3. Evaluation will often carry a decision
maker into at least the beginnings of preliminary selection, and it is
important for a decision maker to remain aware of that process, and respond
by seriously considering prompt consultation.
(b) Earlier consultation is presumptively obligatory
in a particular case if, in the considered judgment of a reasonable person
in the position of the decision maker, the momentum inherent in moving
through steps 1-3 would be recognized as sufficient to significantly inhibit
even though not preventing entirelygenuine consultation at the conclusion
of Step 3.
(c) Earlier consultation should be considered
in all cases, and engaged in where the decision maker in fact believes
it feasible or perceives its utility.
(d) Consultation may be deferred, notwithstanding
it being presumptively obligatory under paragraphs (a) or (b), where and
only to the extent that, for concrete and specific reasons, the need for
confidentiality is reasonably believed clearly and strongly to counsel
against it; provided, that in such event the procedures specified
in Section IV (B) shall be followed.
(e) Because a specific matter may, as noted, cycle
through the process of decision making more than onceperhaps beginning,
for example, as a developmental decision, but then returning to an earlier
step in the sequence described above as an intermediate or operational
decisionthe scope of consultation required in the succeeding stage may
take account of what has been done previously.
V. Identifying the Participants
One cannot decide on an optimal scope and timing
of consultation without having in mind the persons or bodies with which
consultation is to be carried on. This is partly true for normative reasons:
A specific requirement of consultation may be appropriate with one consultee
in mind, but not another. Beyond that, it is unrealistic to expect the administration
to take the entire laboring oar in identifying consultation partners in
each new situation. By specifying guidelines for participation, we hope
to facilitate a system of shared responsibility between administration and
(A) One forum for consultation is the University
Council through its Officers and Standing and ad hoc Committees.
Initially formed to facilitate faculty participation in governance, the
Council for many years has had membership from every constituency (other
than the political communities, West Philadelphia and the City); indeed,
the "open forum" practice enables it to hear directly the concerns
of those not members of the body. It meets monthly, with the President as
its president. As noted in Section III, senior administrators are to report
to Council sessions, and may be questioned on any topic of concern to the
membership. Its deliberations are reported, in summary form, in Almanac.
The Council has a mature and flourishing committee
structure, similarly broad-based in its representativeness, to which the
administration should turn naturally for consultation. Indeed, we believe
that the practice should be institutionalized whereby mid-level and to some
extent senior administrators meet at stated regular intervals with the chair
of the relevant Council committeeat least quarterly, and whether a specific
agenda is in contemplation or not. In that connection, we suggest that the
Steering Committee consider whether to propose revision of the current committee
structure of Council, so that there will be, as there may not be now, readily
identifiable committees to whom administrators and others may turn for consultation.
(We note, for example, that Council has no committee on administration,
as the Senate does).
The several "independent committees"
listed in the Council by-laws (e.g., the Committee on Open Expression
and the Academic Planning and Budget Committee) are a second logical place
to which the administration might turn for consultation. In some cases,
however, these committees do not include representatives of each constituency,
and the administration should take this into account as it decides what
group to consult.
The Committees of the Faculty Senate represent
yet another alternative avenue of consultation. While they have only faculty
representation, they can provide advice to the administration on certain
strategic concerns prior to the seeking of broader input from the wider
While we encourage the use of these committees
for consultation when appropriate, we recognize that there will be concerns
that will not fit within any existing committees. If ad hoc committees are
to be used in such cases, the relevant constituencies should be consulted
on their membership.
(B) One of the constraints affecting the willingness
of senior administrators to engage in timely and open consultation is a
concern over confidentiality of nascent and controversial ideas. We believe
that this question need not be viewed in a wholly "either/or"
manner: Either the matter will "go public" or it must be kept
"in house." A body now exists, which has the potential, in our
view, for bringing much-needed flexibility into the process of sharing emergent
plans and thoughts.
We have in mind the three Senate Chairs.
This is a unique group in the University. The Chairs are not only facultyand
as such have a degree of ambiguity in their status, neither administrators
nor employees in any traditional sensethey are typically teachers who have
been at the University for many years, have served it in several capacities,
and have been selected (by a nominating committee itself containing many
seasoned colleagues, and broadly representative of the faculty) with the
qualities of judgment, fair mindedness, and devotion in mind. Their acceptance
of the job of Chair-elect begins a three-year undertaking. If there is any
group on campus (not selected by the administration) whose judgment, discretion,
and loyalty it can trust, it is this one.
Our proposal is that the practice of semi-monthly
meetings between the Senate Chairs and the President not only be codified,
but that it be the administration's responsibility, in applying the guidelines
proposed in Section IV, to turn to the Chairs in doubtful cases, under a
pledge of confidentiality, to advise them of the matter in question, and
to seek and take seriously their counsel whether, how and when any consultation,
going beyond them, should take place. It would in turn be the responsibility
of the Chairs to advise the administration if they believed that the sharing
of information should be broadened, for the Chairs should not forget that
their role is ambiguous, and that consultation with them is not equivalent
to consultation with the faculty, let alone other constituencies. In that
connection, one specific responsibility of the Senate Chairs should be to
consider whether to suggest to the President that, in light of the specific
issue at hand, it would be appropriate, still on a confidential basis, to
bring the UA and GAPSA Chairs, the PPSA and A-3 Assembly Chairs, or both
groups, into the discussion of a matter.
It would also be the Chairs' responsibility to
advise the President, during a regular meeting or outside it, of any concerns
abroad regarding a matter that has not been disclosed to them, and to invite
the President to consider the question of the timing and manner of consultation.
In all of these cases, there is a certain awkwardness
for those consulted, who are after all accountable to their constituencies,
to agree to consult with the administration in confidence. But the solution
is not for the administration, nor even for the Senate Chairs, to presume
more or less reflexively that the question should not even be broached.
Officers representing each of the constituencies in the University community
are members of our Committee, and believe that the proposal is feasible.
One safeguard that occurs to us is to specify that,
when a constituency representative has been consulted in confidence about
a matter not thought by the administration to be ripe for broader disclosure,
the representative shall, at an appropriate later date, report the fact
of confidential consultation to his or her constituency. In that way, constituency
representatives may derive future benefit from the responses post hoc of
their constituents to specific applications of the practice.
VI. Additional Responsibilities
of Those Consulted
Confidentiality apart, there are several respects
in which the consultation process can be improved through the assumption
of specific additional responsibilities by those with whom the administration
does or might consult.
(A) Students involved or wishing to be involved
in campus life are often especially in need of a full orientation to emergent
questions. Undergraduates are here in most cases for only four years, and
not infrequently come to campus with no knowledge of the history of a matter.
Graduate students may span a somewhat longer period, but in both cases student
members of committees often come to an issue "cold." Informal
methods of orienting members of a committee exist, and are useful, but sole
reliance should not be placed on them. We believe that it should be the
responsibility of the leadership of student constituencies to take the necessary
steps to orient the relevant student committees to the background and origin
of a timely question, perhaps inviting faculty or others to play a role
in this work. Student leaders need also to monitor the work of student committees,
to assure that their membership is active and increasingly informed and
sophisticated about important issues. Membership on a student committee
is more than a resume enhancement; it is an exercise in citizenship, and
entails obligations accordingly, but members sometimes need the guidance
and attention of more seasoned colleagues to enable them to carry out their
(B) When a person, group of people, or committee
or other body is consulted by the administration on a matter, it is natural
for the administration to presume that by that act it has to that extent
met any need for consultation. The person or body consulted "represents"
the constituency. While we believe that the administration should not take
refuge in a narrowly legalistic application of this idea, our proposal is
that primary responsibility should be lodged with those consulted to consider
whether that act suffices as consultation with the constituency itself.
It too should not seek refuge in legalisms. Whether the body is the three
Chairs, the Senate Executive Committee, a Council Committee, staff- or student-organization
officers, or (to take a recent example) the Faculty Club Executive Board,
those consulted should feel obligated to consider on their own motion whether
they should share the information, seek administration approval to share
it (where the information has been given in confidence), or suggest that
the administration itself share it, with a broader range of the relevant
constituencies at an appropriate time and in a sufficiently public fashion.
We note too that, where there is a need for consultation
with a committee of Council or the Senate, or with officers of constituency
bodies, the need is ordinarily not satisfied by consultation with an administrative
committee that contains faculty, staff or student members among it. Those
members, of course, serve a useful function, and can provide important consultative
input, but they cannot be thought to represent their constituency. We suggest
in the preceding paragraph that designation as a representative by a constituency
body may not be a sufficient warrant of representativeness in a particular
context; it is, however, certainly a necessary condition.
VII. Proposed University Council
We believe that, in establishing our committee,
the Council had in mind, not only the articulation of recommended principles,
but their embodiment in a form enabling it to expect that their adoption
by the Council, and acceptance by the President, would affect future practices.
Accordingly, we here include an implementing recommendation in our proposed
the University Council:
1. Accepts the Report of the ad hoc Committee
2. Endorses the statement of primary principles
governing consultation, as set forth in Section II of the Report;
3. Adopts the recommendations contained in the
succeeding sections of the Report; and
4. Suggests that the Senate Executive Committee
consider drafting and adopting specific language codifying, so far as feasible,
the recommendations contained in the Report, for submission to the administration
University Council Ad Hoc Committee on Consultation
Donna Arthur (career planning & placement,
James Bean (mail service)
Bill Conway (College `00)
William Gipson (chaplain)(ex
John J. Heuer (human resources)
John Keene (city & regional planning)
Lynn H. Lees (history)
Howard Lesnick (law)(chair)
Barbara J. Lowery (provost's office)
Matthew Ruben (GAS `99)
Committee appreciates the high level of professionalism with which our
work was aided by the staff support of Ms. Robin Shepard of the Office
of the Secretary.
Almanac, Vol. 44, No. 29, April 14, 1998
PAGE | CONTENTS
| BETWEEN ISSUES