|University Council April 25 Meeting Coverage
May 1, 2007, Volume 53, No. 32
At the outset of the last Council meeting of the semester, President Amy Gutmann reaffirmed Penn’s solidarity with the Virginia Tech campus community whose tragedy was of “truly cosmic proportions.” She mentioned the Penn vigil and commended the students who organized it. Dr. Gutmann said that the victims’ dreams, hopes, talents and diversity are indistinguishable from those of students and professors in the Penn community. She said that what is impressive is how the Virginia Tech community made meaning out of such a senseless tragedy. She referred to the message she wrote to their Class of 2007 at the request of the Chronicle of Higher Education. It, along with a message from Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and others from academia are posted on the Chronicle’s website. Dr. Gutmann also encouraged any Penn students, faculty or staff who are troubled to reach out to the many support resources available.
UA Chair Brett Thalmann called attention to their End of Year Report for 2006-2007 which highlights the UA’s accomplishments in education, facilities, housing, student life. He noted that there is a new CAPS campaign—“Real Students Go to CAPS” featuring more than 20 student group leaders on posters to de-stigmatize the use of mental health services. He also said that Spring Fling and Hey Day both “went extremely well.” He said the UA is pleased that Student Health is moving. He also congratulated Jason Karsh, the new UA Chair for the coming year.
Faculty Senate Chair-elect Larry Gladney, on behalf on the Committee on Committees, gave a brief report on the operation of the new structure of Council committees. He said that the report, which was given to the Steering Committee, noted that the new committees’ charges were clear and consistent and the committees have all been actively meeting. He added that the committees, which have been formed by merging more than one committee, would make more use of subcommittees to deal with the full range of charges in the future.
Dr. David Freiman, chair of the Personnel Benefits Committee, summarized his committee’s findings from this year. They looked at behavioral health benefits available. He said that Penn is on the leading edge for mental health benefits. One of this year’s accomplishments was getting a new benefit, supplemental long-term disability insurance; almost ten percent of those eligible have signed up this spring. The cost of providing prescription drugs has gone down due to use of generics and mail order options.
A preliminary discussion of issues to be dealt with in the coming academic year yielded a suggestion for an assessment of satisfaction of all members of the Penn community in relation to experiences dealing with diversity, and a suggestion to consider mental health concerns, for instance of Asian Americans, especially in light of fear of a backlash.
Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush gave a presentation on Emergency Preparedness at Penn, on how we communicate today and research being done. In light of the Virginia Tech tragedy, she outlined Penn’s Crisis Management Plan, which she said was reconstituted in 2001. There are three levels of response in the plan. There are several modes of communication available for use in the event of an emergency including University-wide mass e-mails, telephone banks, the Penn website, the emergency line: 898-MELT, the PA systems in buildings, person-to-person, loudspeakers from the UPPD patrol cars, electronic access control lock-down procedures and the new fire alarm systems which allow message to be disseminated within the College Houses and Sansom East and West. She introduced Michael Fink, deputy chief of Tactical and Emergency Readiness and Eugene Janda, deputy chief of Fire and Emergency Services. Ms. Rush explained how they recently conducted an active shooter practice drill in Veterinary Medicine’s old building after a year of classroom training. They have been exploring other options for communication, sending and receiving information such as text messaging, reaching out to emergency contacts, or perhaps old-fashioned sirens. The College House System has four emergency drills each year, some are shelter-in-place. She said that since the Virginia Tech situation, questions have been raised about what Penn does when there is a concern about someone. The Penn approach is an interdisciplinary response involving the UPPD Special Services as well as the VPUL’s Campus Student Emergency Procedures, SHS, CAPS, EAP and others. In instances where it is necessary to reach a faculty or staff member’s emergency contact person, the UMIS database is used. Each Penn person can update their profile information through U@Penn. The DPS also works collaboratively with the five-county Counterterrorism Task Force to provide a comprehensive regional response in times of crisis.
Dr. Gutmann said that she had recently attended a conference of the American Association of University Presidents where they discussed best practices in emergencies: prevention, response and recovery. She noted CAPS for prevention; UPPS for response and the whole Penn community for recovery.
Associate Provost Andrew Binns announced that Student Health Services (SHS) would be moving from the basement of Penn Towers to larger quarters on the first floor of 3535 Market Street. He introduced the speakers who then spoke about trends and initiatives on the issue of the campus community health.
Dr. Ted Emmett, professor and director of Occupational Medicine, described ‘presenteeism,’ people who are present but not functioning optimally, due to health issues. He also described disease management programs that provide targeted information and resources to those who have certain conditions. He said it is important to improve the health of a workforce to reduce the amount of time people miss work.
Marilyn Kraut, director of HR’s Quality of Worklife Programs, described what Penn does to help faculty and staff cope with rising healthcare costs. The health and wellness programs are aimed at encouraging a healthy lifestyle. HR offers interactive programs presented by experts, often from Penn. The walking program has exceeded expectations. At Penn the average staff person is 44; the average age of Penn faculty is 51.
Dr. Michael Diorka, director of recreation sports programs & services, discussed the PennFit program which is intended to get the Penn community actively involved in keeping physically fit. He wants to get people proactive before problems set in.
Dr. Evelyn Wiener, director of Student Health Services, spoke about health promotion and education for students. She focuses on public health issues, primary prevention. Stress, sleep deprivation and flu are common problems among students.
Susan Villari, director of the Office of Health Education, concluded with information about establishing priorities that impact students’ wellbeing and academic performance. There will be an expansion of the farmers’ market at University Square in conjunction with wellness issues.