Speaking Out

The following letter was addressed to President Rodin and was also sent to Almanac for publication.

The Value of Human Capital

The human resources consulting firm Watson Wyatt has recently published a report entitled "Human Capital Index: Linking Human Capital and Shareholder Value." In companies studied, they found a strong correlation between the degree to which employees are valued in the organization and the return realized by shareholders over a five year period.

In my six years at the University, I have noticed an increasing trend towards management principles used in business, as opposed to those traditionally found in academia. That is, an increasing attention to quantifiable financial interests, as opposed to nurturing human capital resources. Examples are the alienation of employees by outsourcing, the alienation of graduate students by ignoring their voices in issues where the University perceived a financial stake (health insurance, vending, exclusive service contracts, misleading crime reporting, etc.). More and more, the 'democratic' nature of the academy is being replaced by a more hierarchical management style of business.

These changes seem to come at a time when businesses are actually moving the other way, and recognizing that their human resources are their most valuable assets, and that respecting and empowering their employees yields immense benefits for the organization. The Watson Wyatt report is only one indicator of this trend. I hope that you will study this report (available at www.watsonwyatt.com), and consider how your administration can take steps to appreciate the value of the University's human capital. Tangible improvements in the consultative process will help to heal the marginalization which has already occurred. I'm confident that tremendous improvements in Penn's stature can be realized by reinvigorating a sense of loyalty and belonging among faculty, staff and graduate researchers and teachers.

--David Bergeron, GSAS, Physics & Astronomy

Historical Role of Penn Med

Although considerably outside the inner circles of the debate on separating HUP from the Medical School, and therefore not privy to the details, I am disturbed by one feature seemingly absent from the discourse and that is the unique traditional and historical role of Penn Medical School and its contribution to our history. Severing the centuries old connection of these two institutions is bound to diminish the status of both because this deep pride of origin permeates the medical institution and diffuses into the attitudes of the community and the country. This bond also instills pride into students and faculty, and adds to the motivation of both clinical and basic research. Particularly, as regards research and teaching, the Medical School and the hospital are a complex in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and like history itself, they can only be diminished by sub-division. True the effects of tradition are subtle but they are all pervasive and long lasting. Can the losses due to separation be measured in $$$?

--Robert J. Rutman, Emeritus Professor, Animal Biology, Veterinary School

Cost Cutting in Context

I fear that your 12-word excerpt of my question to Medical Faculty Senate Chair James Saunders at the special meeting of the University Faculty Senate (Almanac, March 7, 2000, p. 2) may have left readers with an inaccurate impression of the issue I was seeking to raise. I did say the words you quoted, but I was expressing a wish to know more detail about the "efficiencies" being sought in the Health System, rather than merely scoffing in a rhetorical way. More to the point, my comments about administrative cost-cutting were in the context of observing that faculty typically come up with ideas (usually good ones, I will presume) that cost either a little money or a lot of money, and typically view skeptically (often with good reason, I will presume) administrative moves to save money. This division of labor goes far to assure that the hopes of many of us for a real faculty voice in governance will not come to fruition. How, I asked, can the faculty begin to develop its affirmative ideas about judging among differing modes of costs savings?

I did not ask rhetorically; I do not know the answer. Neither did Dr. Saunders, if I understood his response right. But he did, I believe, appreciate the salience of the question. An "answer" cannot be expected unless the Faculty Senate(s) address the question of devising a structure by which the answers can be seriously sought and developed.

--Howard Lesnick, Jefferson B. Fordham Professor, The Law School

Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions. Short, timely letters on University issues can be accepted by Thursday at noon for the following Tuesday's issue, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated.--Eds.

Almanac, Vol. 46, No. 25, March 21, 2000