On December 2, 1998, the Senate Executive Committee approved a Policy
on Consultation Where the Administration has Primary Decision-making Responsibility.
SEC proposes that it be adopted and placed in the Handbook for Faculty and
Academic Administrators. In accordance with Senate Rules, it is published
--John C. Keene, Chair of the Faculty Senate
Proposed Addition to the Handbook, on Policy on
VI.H. Policy on Consultation where the Administration has Primary
This statement sets forth the policy of the University on consultation
between officers of the University and their representatives ("the
administration") and persons or bodies who are members of constituent
groups having an interest in the adoption, modification or implementation
of various programs, actions and policies of the University in those areas
of decision-making where the administration has final or primary responsibility
and the faculty does not have a distinctive role.
Thus, this policy on consultation--which includes the standing faculty
as one among several relevant constituency groups--does not pertain to those
areas of decision-making where the standing faculty holds primary responsibility
or where responsibility is held jointly by the administration and the standing
faculty, under the University's system of coordinate powers and shared governance.
Nor does it apply to those areas of primary administrative responsibility
in which the standing faculty's distinctive role in the University would
justify differential access to consultation as compared with the other constituency
groups referred to in this policy.
1. Norms governing consultation policy
This policy shall be interpreted and applied in light of certain underlying
premises and norms:
a. The University is a non-profit organization committed to
the structuring of its work and educational activities so as to provide
opportunities for all who live, teach, carry on research, work, or study
here to be participants in the campus community.
b. Except where strategic concerns actually and reasonably counsel
little or no public knowledge or awareness of emergent policies or actions,
it is the administration's duty to allow for full and open discussion,
that is consistent with the democratic aspirations of the University.
c. Faculty, students, and staff, both as individuals and as
constituency groups, have a stake in the welfare of the community as a
whole, typically make a major commitment of time and devotion to the common
enterprise, and often possess skills, resources and perspectives critical
to the making of decisions that improve the quality of life at the University
and in the surrounding community.
d. 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
e. Consultation by the University administration should be
understood as conferring on those who are consulted an invitation and a
responsibility to respond, to respect confidentiality when it is promised,
to report and represent accurately the views of constituents and superiors,
and to report in a timely manner to their constituents.
f. In the decision-making areas to which this policy on consultation
applies, ultimate decisional authority rests with the trustees and (pursuant
to authority delegated by the trustees) the president, in order that they
may fulfill their responsibility to ensure the institutional and financial
health of the University, as distinguished from its academic and scholarly
mission, where the faculty holds primary responsibility under the trustees
or, in some cases, shares such responsibility with the administration.
The consultative process itself may be considered separate from the outcomes
of that process, and a democratic, substantive, interactive process of
consultation is not a mechanism for ensuring specific outcomes or for suppressing
disagreement on substantive issues.
Consultation includes, but goes beyond, the disclosure of information
about emergent decisions and policies. It is a process that embodies the
spirit of give-and-take, whereby information of all types--specific questions,
concerns and methods, but also broader strategies, principles and frameworks--is
exchanged and incorporated into the process throughout its duration.
3. The framework of consultation
a. Selection of consultation partners
It is for the most part in the administration's discretion to determine
the identity of those bodies or individuals with whom to consult on specific
matters. (Consultative procedures for use in the appointment, reappointment,
or removal of academic administrators are specified elsewhere in this Handbook,
and are not addressed here.) The University Council and Faculty Senate,
and their appropriate committees, as well as the independent committees
provided for in the bylaws of the Council, are the means of carrying on
the process. They are readily available.
b. Structures facilitating consultation
The long-standing practice of the president and provost to meet regularly
with several groups provides a flexible established mechanism for raising
matters on which consultation is appropriate, including the further specification
of consultation partners. Specifically (but not exclusively), the chair,
past chair, and chair-elect of the Faculty Senate ("the three chairs")
meet frequently, and the Senate Executive Committee meets periodically,
with the president and the provost and, as needed with other senior administrators.
Similar practices exist with respect to the chairs or other officers of
the Undergraduate Assembly, the Graduate and Professional Students Assembly,
the Penn Professional Staff Assembly, and the A-3 Assembly Executive Board.
c. Range and timing of consultation
(1) Range of decisions subject to 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 the other. Broad consultation is
needed most in the case of developmental decisions, and to a lesser extent
with respect to operational decisions.
(2) Timing of consultation
A decision-making process contains a number of steps: (1) gathering
of data; (2) formulation of goals; (3) development of major alternatives;
(4) provisional evaluation of each alternative; (5) provisional selection
of the most desirable alternative or set of alternatives; (6) implementation
of the decision made; and (7) monitoring and adjustment of the action to
be taken. The process is often sequential, but may be cyclical or overlapping
rather than linear, with decision makers often revisiting some or all of
the steps as they move toward a decision, refining and understanding it
better with each cycle. The following norms shall 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, and should be considered earlier, and carried out,
where the decision maker in fact believes it feasible or perceives its
(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 entirely) genuine consultation at the conclusion of Step
(c) Consultation may be deferred, notwithstanding it being presumptively
obligatory under sections 3.c.(2) (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 it shall be the administration's responsibility to consult
the three chairs, under a promise 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
shall be the responsibility of the three chairs 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, or in any other manner to broaden the sharing
of information. Where there has been such a deferral of a more open consultation
with the constituencies themselves, the administration should be especially
attentive to the need for consultation more broadly at the later stages.
a. When a constituency representative has been consulted in
confidence about a matter thought by the administration not 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.
b. When those consulted by an administration representative
believe that the issues involved are such that it is important that more
senior administrators hear their views directly, it shall be their responsibility
to bring that belief to the attention of the president or provost, utilizing
the mechanisms described in section 3.b.
c. It shall be responsibility of the three chairs to advise
the president or provost of any serious concerns that they have, or have
come to their attention, regarding a matter that has not been disclosed
to them by the administration, and to request the president to consider
the timing and manner of consultation.
d. It shall 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 question, and to monitor the
work of student committees to assure that their membership is active and
increasingly informed and sophisticated about important matters.
e. It shall be the responsibility of a person, group of people,
or committee or other body consulted by the administration on a matter,
to consider whether that act suffices as consultation with the constituency
itself, or whether it should share the information, propose that the administration
itself share it, or (where the information has been given in confidence)
seek administration approval to share it, with a broader range of membership
within the relevant constituencies.
f. 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.
Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 14, December 8, 1998
PAGE | CONTENTS
ISSUES | DECEMBER at PENN | TALK