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Participation, Communication and Representation

I want to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Faculty Senate, to welcome you back to Penn for the beginning of a new academic year.  For those of you who are new to the University, the Faculty Senate is the deliberative body and the voice of the Penn faculty. The Senate functions primarily through the Senate Executive Committee (SEC), a group of faculty members elected from the various constituencies of the University to represent the interests and concerns of that constituency. SEC meets monthly. The Senate also establishes and has oversight of a number of committees which investigate matters of concern to the faculty (faculty benefits, teaching evaluations, conduct of research to name just a few). SEC's agenda and actions are published here in Almanac in order to keep you informed of what is going on and to give you the opportunity to provide us with your feedback.

SEC also gives advice on current issues and problems facing the University through frequent consultations between the Senate leadership (the Chair Elect, Charles Mooney; the Past Chair: Mitchell Marcus; and myself) and the President and Provost. So that this process of consultation may be a real dialogue, it is most important that you keep SEC and its leadership informed of your own concerns and views; you can contact either your SEC constituency representative (consult either the Senate web page or Kristine Kelly in the Faculty Senate Office) or the Senate leadership directly by phone or e-mail. I can be contacted at (215) 898-6970 or by e-mail at

The most important task facing the Senate and its leadership this fall is the selection of a new President of the University. The procedures for the election of a President are set out in the Faculty Handbook and can be summed up as follows: the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees convenes a Consultative Committee, composed of trustees, faculty and students, to identify and recommend candidates for review by the Executive Committee. The Consultative Committee is advisory to the Executive Committee, is chaired by a trustee, and is composed of an equal number of trustees, faculty and half that number of students. The Consultative Committee endeavors to carry out a broad search and solicits suggestions from the entire University community, alumni, and friends of the University. It is the responsibility of SEC to select the faculty component of the Consultative Committee. Since President Judith Rodin has announced her decision to step down at the end of academic year 2003-2004, it is of the utmost importance that we move as quickly as possible so that a new President can be in place by July 1, 2004, thus avoiding an interregnum which risks braking the momentum the University has acquired during President Rodin's term of office. 

The Faculty Senate Committee on Committees is already at work establishing a slate of candidates for the faculty component of the Consultative Committee. It is required by the regulations in the Handbook to present a slate of at least one and a half times the number of places available to faculty on the Consultative Committee. The exact size of the committee has not yet been finally established but the number of faculty positions will most likely be of the order of 7 or 8. This slate will be presented at a special meeting of SEC to be held on Wednesday, September 3, when a vote will be taken. The names of the faculty selected will be published in the next Almanac.

This is obviously an extremely important year for the University as a whole and in particular for its faculty. The Trustees have asked us to solicit the opinions of the faculty as to the desired qualities and qualifications of a new President and we will be asking your advice on this matter in the near future. I do ask that you already begin to give this important matter some thought. We will be setting up meetings to this end, but you can certainly let us know your ideas by e-mail.

SEC has other ongoing and new projects in the coming year. One of the most important is the establishment of an ad hoc Committee on Faculty Development which will investigate the mentoring process at the University and see how it can be improved, particularly with respect to women and minority faculty. While some departments do an excellent job of mentoring their faculty, in others it is haphazard or even non-existent. SEC believes that it is of the utmost importance that a university-wide system be established if we are to attract and retain talented faculty.

SEC will also be looking at gender and minority equity in the course of the coming year, undergraduate research, and a new faculty track in the School of Medicine. It will also work on the implementation of a program to be known as the Penn Fellows, which aims to broaden faculty and senior administrative staff members understanding of the University by addressing and discussing issues related to governance, institutional priorities, and relations with internal and external constituencies. We will also be looking at ways to improve the workings of SEC to encourage greater participation of faculty in Senate activities. There are still constituencies which have failed to nominate a representative to SEC and we want to investigate the reasons for faculty apathy and indifference with regard to the Faculty Senate and how this situation can be ameliorated. Your input on this matter is also welcomed.

The coming year promises to be a particularly interesting and exciting time for us all and I would urge you all to be participants and not just spectators. If faculty are to play a central role in the university community, they must be willing to devote time and effort to serve on committees that are dealing with areas of vital interest to them and to the university community as a whole. I encourage your active participation and look forward to working with you during the coming year. As always, I will keep you informed about Senate activities through Almanac. I wish you all a very productive and successful year.



  Almanac, Vol. 50, No. 2, September 2, 2003