SENATE From the Chair
Reaffirming the Faculty's Central Responsibility for the
Administration of the Academic Enterprise at the University of Pennsylvania
Welcome back to the University. As you begin to teach your fall courses
and continue your research, please attend to a number of broad, fundamental,
issues that face us over the next year or two. Most have been addressed,
at least preliminarily, in the actions of the Senate Executive Committee,
and in the 1998 reports of the major Senate Committees--the Committee on
Administration, the Committee on the Faculty, the Committee on the Economic
Status of the Faculty, the Committee on Publication Policy for Almanac,
and the Committee on Students and Educational Policy--and in the 1998 report
of the Council Ad Hoc Committee on Consultation. Some have emerged with
new clarity and urgency over the summer.
The Governance Structure of the University
The success of the academic enterprise at American universities --the
totality of the work that goes on at a major research university like Penn,
including the creation and dissemination of knowledge--is the envy of the
world. It is deeply rooted in beliefs in academic freedom and responsibility.
These beliefs, as Professor Will Harris has observed in a memorandum reflecting
the work of last year's Senate Committee on Faculty, are anchored in a system
of governance that envisions "two major powers --the Standing Faculty
and the Administration--that operate with separated authority arising from
distinct grounds of institutional competence, under the external supervision
of the Board of Trustees. Within the institution, some things can be decided
by one branch acting alone but others require their mutual concurrence."
The two powers interact vigorously through consultation, and the other processes
of shared governance. As Professor Harris observes, "In a balanced
system of shared governance, forceful executives work best with assertive
The standing faculties, on a school-by school basis, are responsible
for designing degree curricula and courses, teaching, determining and implementing
appropriate research agendas, and participating in university, school, and
departmental governance. The principles that guide them are rooted in professional
competence and freedom of inquiry.
The administration is charged with the broad articulation of the University's
strategic mission, and for financial management, facilities management,
development and alumni relations, information systems, etc. These responsibilities
are guided by principles of managerial accountability.
We are all familiar with the restructuring that has been occurring in
major private corporations. Buzz words such as "re-engineering,"
"downsizing," and "total quality management" abound.
Across the country, there is a sentiment to apply these concepts to large
universities. This could result in a different, and we would argue, undesirable,
organizational structure for Penn that would create a three-tiered corporate
hierarchy of Trustees, Administration, and Faculty.
This year, the Committee on Students and Educational Policy will be
elaborating its proposal to establish an Educational Impact Statement procedure
which would regularize and open up the process by which major University
decisions are made.
- The Growth of the University of Pennsylvania
- and of the Role of Untenured Faculty
At the beginning of this decade, the Board of Trustees of the University
and the leadership the Medical School decided that it was necessary to build
the capacity of the Health System to deliver health services, in order to
compete successfully in the rapidly changing world of health maintenance
organizations. The Committee on Administration documented the financial
consequences of this decision last spring: the University's expenditures
for health care services have risen from 28% of total University expenditures
in 1980 to 52% in 1998, and the proportion is expected to rise further with
the acquisition of Pennsylvania and Presbyterian Hospitals. The standing
faculty of the Medical School now constitutes more than half of the standing
faculty of the entire University. Clinician educators (who have significant
clinical responsibilities but do not have tenure) constitute almost 60%
of the Medical School's standing faculty and about 30% of the entire standing
faculty in the University.
These developments have paralleled events in other parts of the University
and in other universities. They are examples of the growing use of non-tenure
track, part-time, and adjunct faculty. There are clearly benefits from using
such faculty, especially in professional schools and in areas requiring
specialized skills, such as language instruction. However, such a development
has the effect of diluting the role of standing faculty in teaching, research,
and university governance. They may well result in a decline in the quality
The Senate Committee on the Faculty will be addressing the urgent issues
raised by the Medical School's intent to expand its clinician educator position
well beyond the 40% of standing faculty limitation that is now part of University
regulations. It will continue its examination into the questions of the
general structure of academic teaching positions at Penn and of who is actually
teaching our students. Last spring, the Senate Executive Committee voted
to consider approving expansion of existing faculty categories or additions
of new ones, only if the school requesting them provides specified information
about its teaching staff.
- A Comprehensive Policy on Faculty Compensation
- Will Maintain Faculty Salaries at Competitive Levels
Last May, the central recommendation of the Senate Committee on the
Economic Status of the Faculty was that the faculty and administration develop
a principled comprehensive faculty compensation policy embracing both salaries
and fringe benefits. Such a policy should correct any verified inequities
in the salary system, and should be designed to permit Penn to continue
to attract first rate scholars.
The institution of tenure has long existed at American universities.
It is grounded on the principle of professional responsibility for membership
in and promotion within the community of scholars, and a deep commitment
to academic freedom and responsibility. Rigorous evaluation at the time
of achieving tenure and on promotion to full professor is supplemented with
continuing evaluations, such as the annual performance review for purposes
of determining salary levels, and peer review in connection with publication
in scholarly journals and the awarding of research support. Perhaps the
strongest guarantees of academic performance are the high personal standards
and dedication of first rate research university faculty members.
At other universities across the country, there have been calls for
the abolition of tenure or at least, the institution of "post-tenure
review." At Penn, the Dean of the Graduate School of Fine Arts established
a post-tenure review process last year, in which the performance of three
senior professors was reviewed by a panel of one internal and one external
reviewer. The Committee on the Faculty and the Senate Committee on Academic
Freedom and Responsibility will be examining this issue carefully. Suffice
it to say that, first, the unilateral institution of a post-tenure review
process which contains possibilities of discipline or termination in addition
to those already provided by the University statutes, constitutes a retroactive
change in the basic relationship between faculty members and their school.
As such, it is simply unfair. Implemented fully, it would undermine the
status of the faculty as a key component in a balanced system of University
governance. It would have a chilling effect on the faculty's expression
of their views. It certainly would consume a lot of time and energy on the
part of senior faculty. But further, adoption of post-tenure review by a
school will make that school less attractive relative to other leading schools
in the U.S., and therefore make it more difficult to attract first rank
Revision of the University's Policy on Intellectual
Last year, the faculties of several schools reviewed the University's
policies on rights to intellectual property, especially its copyright policy.
On the recommendation of the Committee on the Faculty, the Senate Executive
Committee resolved that "The University should acknowledge that customary
practice on copyright at Penn is the currently authoritative standard....
The University should acknowledge that its published policy on copyright
in the Handbook for Faculty and Academic Administrators is at variance
with this settled practice and should not be regarded as authoritative."
A committee will be asked to codify the settled copyright practice and a
standard for new technology arising from the interpolation of copyright
and patent practices.
One of the principal weaknesses of the Handbook's policy is that,
if it has any effect, it is to discourage faculty from publishing original
work by seeking to secure ownership of such intellectual property for the
University. Very simply, this lines up the financial incentives against
faculty publication, rather than in support of it.
Restore a More Appropriate Balance in the Allocation
of Funds among Competing University Priorities; Contain Costs
Last year, the Committee on Administration conducted an exhaustive probe
into the cost containment and budget allocation polices of the University
since 1980. Among other things, this analysis showed the remarkable growth
during that time in the share of the University's budget that is allocated
to health care services delivery. It raised questions about that growth,
questions that have become more pressing with the bankruptcy of the Allegheny
health system's Philadelphia operations, and the July decision of Moody's
Investors Service to lower its rating of $159 million of the new University
Health System Bonds from Aa3 to A1 because of the system's anticipated operating
loss for the 1998 fiscal year.
Among the Committee on Administration's other proposals were that the
administration find ways to lighten the burden of financial aid on the unrestricted
budgets of individual schools and to reduce the widening gap between the
central costs allocated to each school and the subvention made to each to
help balance its budget. These are items demanding continuing attention
this year. These burdens substantially restrict the capacity of many schools
to improve their curricula and to attract first rate scholars.
Let Us Work Together
As we work together and with the administration, students and staff,
to articulate ways of meeting the many challenges that confront the University,
we must, first, get the facts straight, and, second, evaluate the costs
and benefits, including the often unanticipated side effects, of various
courses of action. For the members of the Faculty Senate, this means participating
in the work of the committees and letting your representatives know your
views. Vivian Seltzer, the Past Chair, Peter Conn, the Chair-elect, and
I look forward to hearing from you.
--John C. Keene, Chair
Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 2, September 8, 1998
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