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Welcome Back From the Senate Chair

Consultation, Representation and Participation

C. Mooney

On behalf of the University of Pennsylvania Faculty Senate, I wish to welcome you back to Penn as we begin the 2004-05 academic year.

In last year's welcoming message, Past Chair (then Chair) Lance Donaldson-Evans provided a bit of background. Because it may be helpful to some of you, it is worth summarizing here. The Faculty Senate is the deliberative assembly of the Penn faculty. All members of the standing faculty and standing faculty-clinician educators who hold the rank of professor, associate professor, or assistant professor are members of the Senate and are entitled to attend and participate in Senate meetings, introduce and vote on resolutions, and serve on Senate committees. The Senate functions primarily through the Senate Executive Committee (SEC). SEC is composed of faculty representatives elected by the various constituencies of the University faculty. Some members are elected on an at-large basis. SEC meets monthly from September through May. The Senate also oversees several committees that address matters of concern to the faculty. SEC's agenda and its actions are published in Almanac in order to keep the faculty informed and to provide an opportunity to receive feedback from the faculty. For more information, consult the Senate website at  www.upenn.edu/faculty_senate/.

SEC provides input on current issues and problems facing the University through regular meetings with the President, Provost, and senior administrators.  In addition, the Senate leadership—the Chair Elect (Neville Strumpf), the Past Chair (Lance Donaldson-Evans), and myself—will frequently (usually bi-weekly) meet with the President and Provost. To ensure a constructive dialogue through this process of consultation, it is essential that you keep SEC and the Senate leadership informed of your own concerns and views. You can contact either your SEC constituency representative (consult either the Senate website or Kristine Kelly in the Faculty Senate Office) or the Senate leadership directly by phone or e-mail.  Feel free to contact me at (215) 898-6075 or by e-mail at cmooney@law.upenn.edu.

One  important task facing the Senate and its leadership this fall is the selection of a new Provost. The procedures for the selection of a Provost are set out in the Faculty Handbook. To summarize, the President will establish an ad hoc consultative committee consisting of twelve faculty members (six selected by SEC and six selected by the President), two undergraduate students, and two graduate students. The consultative committee is advisory in nature, and the ultimate selection of a Provost will be made by the President and Trustees. The Faculty Senate Committee on Committees has begun work to propose a slate of candidates for the six faculty members of the consultative committee to be elected by SEC.  This slate will be presented at a special meeting of SEC to be held on Wednesday, September 8, when a vote will be taken. The names of the faculty selected by SEC will be published in the edition of Almanac next following the meeting. Over the fall term, I am sure that the consultative committee will be interested in soliciting the opinions of faculty as to the desired qualities and qualifications of a new Provost. I do hope that you will be giving this matter some thought.

Many members of SEC also sit on the University Council, which also includes the President, the Provost, the Secretary, and representatives of staff and student organizations. The Council's website (www.upenn.edu/secretary/council/) describes this body as follows:

The University Council of the University of Pennsylvania is a deliberative and broadly representative forum which exists to consider the activities of the University in all its phases, with particular attention to the educational objectives of the University and those matters that affect the common interests of faculty, staff and students.

Council and its executive arm, the Council Steering Committee, also oversee several committees whose members are faculty (including many faculty who are not members of SEC), staff, and students.

SEC, Council, and their respective committees will deal with various other matters this year, some ongoing and some new. For example, the new Senate Committee on Faculty Development, Diversity and Equity, which began last year as an ad hoc committee, will begin its first year as a standing committee. Its initial efforts are likely to focus for the most part on the mentoring of junior faculty across the campus. Council's Committee on Pluralism will review and advise University Council concerning the minority equity report that we expect to be released in the fall 2004 term.  Also, it will assess and advise University Council concerning any need for curricular reform to provide a wider cultural experience to undergraduate students. In particular, I will ask the committee to give attention to concerns expressed by a number of minority students during the recent past.

One matter of more general concern is also high on my list of priorities for the coming year. Former Senate Chair Mitchell Marcus observed in his welcome message (Almanac September 3, 2002),  "The willingness of the faculty to serve on committees that wrestle with difficult, sometimes contentious issues is a prerequisite to our University functioning as a living community of scholars and teachers." I agree completely. However, I remain concerned about the level of the essential willingness of faculty to serve that Mitch emphasized. In his welcoming letter last year (Almanac September 2, 2003) Past Chair Lance Donaldson-Evans noted that "[w]e 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."  As I write in mid-August, once again a few SEC constituency slots remain unfilled.

During the past year I have devoted by far the majority of my Senate- and Council-related time toward the end of identifying and soliciting faculty to chair and serve on Senate and Council committees. I am not complaining, of course, as these are very important tasks. During this time  I have focused on possible answers to the question that Lance raised about faculty apathy and indifference. In one sense these are good signs that reflect the absence of profound and general unhappiness of the Penn faculty.  We are not putting up barricades and setting fires. On the other hand, I sense that some faculty perceive that the work of SEC, Council, and their committees does not matter. Having observed this work, as a SEC member and committee member for several years and as Chair Elect last year, I can assure you that the work does matter. If you are unconvinced, why not take a closer look? Volunteer for a committee. Or when you receive a call or e-mail asking you to serve, step up to your responsibility as a member of one of the finest faculties in the world. This year we welcome our new President and we prepare for the selection of a new Provost. Let us also make it the year that we begin to establish our role as an initiators of institutional policy rather than critics and reactors to proposals of others. I welcome your participation.

This year holds the promise of many successes for Penn and all its constituencies. I am looking forward to the ride. I will keep you informed in Almanac about the Senate's activities. I wish each of you a successful, productive, and enjoyable year.

Charles Mooney

Save The Date:

On Wednesday, October 13, 2004, at 4:30 p.m.,

at the Annenberg School for Communication,

the Faculty Senate will host a reception

as a part of Dr. Amy Gutmann's inaugural festivities.

All Senate members will receive an invitation. 

We hope that many of you will join the

Senate leadership at this happy event.

 

 

 

 


  Almanac, Vol. 51, No. 2, September 7, 2004

ISSUE HIGHLIGHTS:

Tuesday,
September 7, 2004
Volume 51 Number 2
www.upenn.edu/almanac

 

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