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March Council Meeting Rescheduled

Dear Council Members,

Due to a scheduling conflict, the Steering Committee has rescheduled the Wednesday, March 26, University Council meeting for Wednesday, April 9, 4-6 p.m. in Bodek Lounge, Houston Hall.

--Leslie Laird Kruhly, Secretary of University Council


Council Coverage

At the February 26 University Council meeting, the Committee on Pluralism, represented by Committee Chair Dr. Dennis Culhane, reported on the issue of Gender Identity and Gender Expression. This issue had been raised in an Open Forum (Almanac December 11, 2001) and the Steering Committee had referred it to the Committee on Pluralism.

The Committee on Pluralism considered the proposal to include an affirmative statement regarding non-discrimination for gender identity in the context of the recently passed City ordinance that essentially addressed the same issue.

At issue is whether Penn would want to include in its standard nondiscrimination language a phrase stating that gender identity is included among those categories which are protected from discrimination. The City's bill focuses specifically on housing, employment and public accommodations. Dr. Culhane noted that Penn would not be the first university to be taking this issue up. The University of Michigan and the University of Iowa confronted a similar situation. The Pluralism Committee advised that Council should recommend to the administration that Penn adopt the City's policy of nondiscrimination concerning gender identity.

The motion passed with no opposition and several abstentions. Additionally, Council recommended that a mechanism for working out the implementation details be developed when necessary.

The next topic was also in response to an issue brought up in an Open Forum, namely Investment Responsibility (Almanac December 17, 2002). Dr. Mitch Marcus reported that after much discussion, Steering Committee fully supports the creation of the Penn Social Responsibility Advisory Committee. The Committee would be charged to make recommendations to the Trustee Proxy Voting Subcommittee of the Executive Committee concerning decisions on proxy voting. President Judith Rodin has been working with the Trustees towards them accepting input from this committee. In the current draft, the committee would have a membership of 12 voting members: 4 faculty members--nominated by the Faculty Senate; 4 students--2 graduate (1 GAPSA, 1 GSAC) and 2 undergraduate (1 appointed by NEC, one appointed by the UA); 2 alumni representatives appointed by the President, and 2 staff members appointed by the President. This committee will have access to materials from the leading socially-responsible investment advisory company in the country and will be based on the stocks that the University's funds hold which will be provided by the Office of the Secretary. The Committee will make recommendations to the Proxy Subcommittee of the Trustees on when this committee recommends the Trustees vote their proxies either for or against certain kinds of motions. This is a substantial move forward and it looks like the Trustees are favorably disposed, said Dr. Marcus.

Dr. Marcus spoke about the issue of Divestment. Steering Committee wants to note that it, as a University-wide body, is actually the appropriate mechanism for hearing the voices of the community about a formal recommendation as "extraordinary matters in extraordinary times that might lead to extraordinary recommendations" such as divestment. The sense is that a move to divest as was done with South Africa, is something that is not impossible but should be held to be extraordinary and therefore suggestions of that kind should be presented to Steering and Steering will carefully consider such recommendations.

As Chair of the Council Steering Committee, Dr. Marcus gave a presentation on Revitalizing Council which covered the following points and is presented for comment.

Working Proposal from Steering Committee for Revitalization of University Council

Goal: Make University Council More Effective

Council Meetings

The majority of Council's time should be focused on:

  • Significant issues for the University community as a whole.
  • Recommendations from Council committees for Council feedback or Council recommendation to the administration.

Committee Charges

  • Steering as a whole should carefully construct charges.
  • Charges should be focused, strategic, and on issues where the administration seeks information and/or feedback. They should be appropriate for the larger University community to discuss.
  • Council's work should be done in the committees.

Committee Reports

  • To be most effective, committees should work closely with the administrator(s) whose area is most affected.
  • He/she should be present when reports are presented.

Committee Schedule

  • Committees should report at mid-cycle. After such updates, Council should provide feedback.
  • Committee schedules should be staggered; half should be on a January-January schedule.
  • A fixed meeting time: Wednesdays, 5-6 p.m. Those with time conflicts should decline membership.

Open Forum

  •   Continue fully Open Forum in fall mandated in bylaws.
  •   Publicize that additional Open Forum issues of significant concern to the University Community should be funneled through Steering, which will decide if these additional issues are appropriate for Council as a whole.

Committee Chairs

  •   Faculty should chair Council committees.
  •   But chairs not filled by the end of the first month of the semester would become the responsibility of Steering as a whole to fill.

SEC & Council

  •   SEC will act to minimize the duplication of reports to both SEC and Council.

Open Questions

  •   Do all existing committees need to continue?
  •   Should committee chairs be members of Council?


  Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 24, March 4, 2003