COUNCIL
from Proceedings of the April 22 Meeting
 

Deliberations on the Consultation Report

Following are the remarks made at Council on April 22 by Professor Howard Lesnick concerning the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Consultation published in Almanac April 21. Highlights of the debate follow. --Ed.
 

I won't summarize the report or the history that led to our creation, or the history of our work.

There are three aspects of our work: One is its premises, another is the guidelines we set out, and the third is the question of implementation.

The premises are articulated as best we could in the section entitled principles, and to us they are quite important for the reasons we set forth there.

On the guidelines, I want to say a word or two. We can think about guidelines for consultation in terms of the types of decisions, (what should be subject to consultation?); the identification of the parties (with whom should consultation take place?); and the timing (when should it take place?). On the first, although we try to present a little taxonomy of types of decisions we found it not useful or even possible to identify in advance categories by which future decisions can be easily slotted into one or another. So we are very general there: we say broad consultation is needed most in one of the spectrum and least with respect to the other end, but that it often interpenetrates.

With respect to the identification of the parties, we leave the Administration greatest flexibility there. We have some general language urging them to think about this body and its committees as natural places to turn; we also talk about the Senate. But there is, similarly, such a variety of possible consultation partners that in general we do not say "You must consult with this group on this issue." We do have a couple of what I think of as constraining principles that are articulated, mostly in Section VI.B.--I won't even refer to them specifically now--that guide the way in which particular groups or bodies or even individuals are consulted with.

It's with respect to the timing that we thought it was useful to have a fairly clear set of rules, and in Section IV we have five paragraphs that attempt to articulate the moment at which consultation is in our terms presumptively obligatory. And in Section V.B. we have a safety valve--in the institution of the three Senate chairs--to meet the problem, when it is a real one, of confidentiality and the like.

On the third point, implementation, here we are presuming there is agreement on norms and guidelines. If there's not, then we have to talk about norms and guidelines. But assuming there's agreement on norms and guidelines, we think it is important not to rest with this document. Wonderful as it is and beautifully worded as it is, indeed as terse as it is, it is long enough that it will quickly sink beneath the waves in the memory of all of us and of course in the consciousness of those who join the University after today. So we think it's important to attempt to give it a longer half-life, and also a greater clarity, by reducing its norms and guidelines to language that--I won't use the legal term for it--but that are more prescriptive and clear. And so, our last recommendation proposes that that job be done as a follow-up to this one.

Mr. Moderator, I invite you to solicit a member of this body to move the adoption of the resolution in four parts that is at the close of this report.

Discussion on Codification

Moderator Will Harris explained that Professor Lesnick's delivery of the report put on the table the four-part resolution [which reads:
 
[Resolved, that the University Council:
[1. Accepts the Report of the ad hoc Committee on Consultation;
[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 for adoption.--Ed.]
 
In the absence of a quorum, Dr. Harris stressed the importance of deliberation and comment even without formal action. Dr. Larry Gross submitted a substitute to part 4, reading:
 

The University Council instructs the chair of the Council Steering Committee to appoint a small ad hoc committee that would be charged to draft specific language codifying, insofar as feasible the recommendations contained in the report. The ad hoc committee's report would be due by September and would be discussed by Council before being forwarded to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee for their approval and submission to the Administration for inclusion in the Handbook for Faculty and Academic Administrators.

Among those speaking against the substitute were the three Senate chairs and the chairs of PPSA and A-3 Assembly, most of them indicating either the breadth of the committee that made the recommendation that placed codification with SEC, or expressing concern about delay in routing action through Council. Professor Lesnick, while supporting his own motion, said he assumed SEC would appoint a group to do the work and "I don't know of anything that prohibits them from appointing people to that group who are not faculty members; and the concern that was expressed here, which I totally share, can be taken into account." Moderator Will Harris indicated that in any case the codification would need to return to Council since a Council without a quorum (the April meeting) could not give away an action taken by a Council that did have a quorum (the November Special Meeting). But he also said that codification could done under SEC auspices and come back to Council for discussion: "Council can expect reports from the SEC just as it can expect reports from the Administration."

Dr. Gross's substitute was defeated on a straw vote, and the Committee's original motion passed on a show of hands with two members in opposition. At the conclusion, Dr. Rodin said, "I agree with Will that we would benefit from a considered discussion of principles which really are the crucial part to our community, the principles of deliberation and consultation. Nonetheless, I share the concern of my colleagues that this not fall into the ether, and therefore having seen what wasn't a vote, but I would take from this deliberative body as the consensus..., I would like to go forward and ask SEC to move and to appoint a subcommittee and to commence work. Unless I hear otherwise, which I invite you to say now, that is my intention."

'Shake Hands and Move On'

Council adjourned its stated meeting but reopened immediately for a Special Meeting to discuss the consultation process surrounding the University's proposal of a Vending Ordinance that was subsequently passed by the Philadelphia City Council. After speeches critical of the process, Vice President Carol Scheman gave a list of consultation meetings held and responses made. At the end of the Special Meeting, President Rodin closed with:

I think it is worthy of noting in conclusion that we received today the study [of the Ad Hoc Committee on] Consultation, and we've now had a discussion about one in vivo example of the process of consultation-but I want all of us to recognize that this community does not rest solely on having consultation and debate. This community rests on civil discourse and the na-ture of the debate. That is what differentiates a University from other places in society. The language of civil discourse, the language of mutual respect, is what we are all responsible to one another for. As members of this communi-ty, we are entitled to an expectation of civility.

Reasoned discourse is the bedrock of a university. We have to get through contentious interactions. This will not be our last contentious interaction, but we must do it without personal attack. Fundamentally, this is because we are a community based on free thinking and free ideas and free speech. But free speech is a responsibility as well as a right, and I hope it's a responsibility that we will continue to respect and continue to cherish as a community.

I have been very concerned about the nature of the rhetoric, and I do hope that we will learn a lesson from that as well. There has been excellent discourse through this process, and great respect, and there has also been some extraordinary level of disrespect and personal attack, and I am disheartened by it. Perhaps in conclusion we can take a lesson from the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court argues about every case. They fight, and then when they have made a decision they shake hands, and they let it go, and they move on, and that is because they need to continue to work together on the next case. I think we need to continue to work together on the next case.

I hope that we will shake hands now, and move on.



Almanac, Vol. 44, No. 35, June 16, 1998

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