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Welcome Back From the Senate Chair
September 4, 2007, Volume 54, No. 2

A Tradition of Renewal and Recommitment

In an age where the summer respite from the many duties of a faculty member at a research university seems all too short—indeed it seems it’s over before we realize that it has begun—the words of “welcome back” seem out of place. With the amazing innovations in communication, both personal and global, we are rarely ever far enough away from our responsibilities to warrant a welcome back. And yet each fall begins a near-timeless tradition of renewal and recommitment to the miraculous thing that is the modern university. As faculty, we are privileged to engage in research, teaching, and service beside other faculty, staff, and students who are among the world’s best at discovering and applying knowledge to the many problems of the world. As part of that privilege, we must be dedicated to the principle of shared governance that lies at the core of how this university operates.

Throughout my past year as Faculty Senate Chair-elect, I’ve discovered a new appreciation for the principle of shared governance, as it applies to the faculty. It gives faculty a substantial voice in the creation of policies by which Penn governs itself. As such, shared governance also requires us to be responsive to the necessity of reviewing, deliberating, and, occasionally revamping past policies that have become outmoded or no longer reflect the identity of a university in the 21st century. Events of the last academic year make us all too aware of the very high standards of conduct to which faculty must adhere and the necessity of forethought and careful thinking in anticipating where ubiquitous access to information may lead us. We were also reminded last year that the Penn faculty has traditionally upheld a special duty as the voice of the moral conscience of the university. We have the bully pulpit in classrooms, committees, and the common forum that no other constituencies on campus do. It is a responsibility that demands that we be constantly informed of and involved with all our campus constituencies.

The Faculty Senate, which consists of all standing faculty and clinician-educators in all 12 of Penn’s schools, carries out this responsibility for communication and consideration through an elected body, the Senate Executive Committee (SEC), the offices of Chair, Past Chair, and Chair-Elect, several committees of the Senate, and the representation of faculty on committees of the University Council. These groups consult regularly with the President and Provost, deans, administrators, and representatives of constituency groups on campus, debate and develop policies for consideration by the Trustees, and inform the campus community. In the past two years alone, this work has produced a new and more family-friendly policy on the Reduction in Duties policy, changes to the Grievance, Sanctions Against a Faculty Member, and Temporary Exclusion policies, a new focus on Faculty Mentoring, and in-depth discussions on a wide range of issues spanning from the use of personal information in faculty hiring to reconsideration of the process for selecting the President. For the coming year, SEC and the Senate Committees will examine the contours of the non-standing faculty, review the current policy for Appointment and Reappointment of Deans and University-wide Administrators, examine the current status and future trajectory of graduate funding across the schools, and examine issues connected with intellectual property rights of faculty in classroom situations.

The above is a sampling of the substantive, vital issues before the Senate this year. It is a daunting list. I am heartened by a few important facts:  the wise counsel of Neville Strumpf in the role of Past Chair (to whom the campus owes deep gratitude for her willingness to share her incomparable experience with the workings of the Senate), the commitment of Sherri Adams in the role of Chair-elect, and the continued trust and dedication of the President and Provost in the principle of shared governance.  Their engagement with the tri-chairs and SEC last year was profoundly respectful of the collective wisdom of the faculty. We also have an excellent slate of faculty committed to the work of the Senate committees. The only remaining piece necessary for good governance is the active involvement of the faculty through dialogue with your SEC representatives, Senate committee members, and especially with the tri-chairs. I welcome your input at any time. You can reach me at (215) 898-4683 or through e-mail at larryg@hep.upenn.edu or senate@pobox.upenn.edu . Also be sure to check the Faculty Senate website (www.upenn.edu/faculty_senate) for news, SEC meeting times (all standing faculty and clinician-educators are invited to attend every meeting), and updates on faculty-led events.

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Almanac - September 4, 2007, Volume 54, No. 2