President's Message on Consultation Policy
I am pleased to inform you of my acceptance of the Policy on Consultation as reviewed and approved by the Senate Executive Committee and University Council. It is a document that will help guide the consultative process at Penn in constructive and meaningful ways.
Importantly, the policy distinguishes operational from strategic, developmental decisions, and it distinguishes the different levels of consultation required for these different kinds of decisions. Just as importantly, the policy articulates the responsibility of persons who are consulted to respond and accurately reflect the views of their constituents. It recognizes that "consultation" does not mean "agreement," and that final decision-making authority in areas where the administration has ultimate or primary responsibility rests with the Trustees, the President, the Provost and the Executive Vice President. Further, the policy appropriately leaves to the administration the determination of which groups or individuals should be consulted in particular cases, while recognizing the wealth of existing mechanisms for such consultation.
It would be difficult for any policy to enumerate all of the consultative bodies that exist at Penn, and I note that a number of important groups are not explicitly mentioned in the policy. These include the Academic Planning and Budget Committee, the President's Advisory Group, the Council of Deans, the Graduate Council of the Faculties, and many other committees, working groups, and advisory groups such as the WXPN Policy Board and the Archives Advisory Committee. The Provost, Executive Vice President, and I will, of course, continue to seek the guidance of these and other existing consultative bodies when appropriate.
The policy thoughtfully articulates procedures for confidential consultation and recognizes the responsibilities of those so consulted. As you know, it will be necessary, on occasion, for administrative officials, as fiduciaries of the University, to conduct confidential discussions with internal and/or external parties in carrying out University business. As one obvious example, early negotiations on the University's acquisition of strategic real estate would clearly require such confidentiality. If such negotiations were disclosed, the University's negotiating position could be seriously undermined. In any future case of this sort, a decision by the administration to conduct University business on a confidential basis will be made only for compelling reasons, and, as stipulated in the policy, I will inform the Chairs of such a situation.
In closing, I will make sure that the senior officers of the University and their staffs are informed of this policy and its requirements. I look forward to working with you on the implementation of the Policy on Consultation.
--Judith Rodin, President
Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 29, April 20, 1999