May 27, 2008, Volume 54, No. 34
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Report of the Chair of the Faculty Senate
May 14, 2008
Penn operates by a shared vision of governance wherein the faculty is regularly consulted on academic matters and under which, with rare exception, faculty decisions determine policies which fall under the purview of faculty responsibility. Since its creation in 1952, the Faculty Senate has served as the main mechanism for representing the voice of full-time teaching faculty members in shared governance. The work of the Faculty Senate is largely carried out through an elected Senate Executive Committee (SEC) and several standing Senate committees. The members of these committees engage in substantive discussion, investigations, and deliberations with the University’s administrators on behalf of faculty interests. In addition, the Past Chair, Chair, and Chair-Elect of the Senate have consultation meetings, about twice a month, with the President and Provost. These meetings allow for what have been very fruitful exchanges on the issues raised by SEC, its committees, or from the many constituencies of the University.
So, while the work of the Senate is summarized within brief reports from each Senate committee at the end of the academic year and even briefer write-ups of SEC actions in Almanac, each finding or recommendation is always the result of months of work and thought on the part of a considerable number of our University’s leaders. In my role as Chair, I have seen firsthand the dedication to Penn and the best ideals of faculty governance of our colleagues who serve on the Senate committees. The entire University community owes them our thanks.
The Year In Review
As stated above, a record of the activities undertaken this year can be found in the monthly reports on SEC meetings (published in Almanac) and in the year-end reports of the Senate committees. The following is an abbreviated list of issues considered this academic year.
• Mandatory self-disclosure of a criminal record by prospective faculty. The Senate Committee on Faculty and the Academic Mission (SCOF) and the Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility (SCAFR) submitted recommendations to SEC on the question of whether or not Penn should attempt to develop a policy, hereafter referred to as simply “self-disclosure,”which requires all future candidates for faculty positions to disclose prior criminal convictions. The work of this year’s committees was greatly aided by the Report on Disclosure of Prior Criminal Records in Faculty Hiring of May 16, 2007 from the previous year’s SCOF (Almanac March 18, 2008). This report laid out many of the issues involved with self-disclosure. SEC voted to recommend against the development of such a policy for Penn faculty who are not already subject to self-disclosure because of regulatory or accrediting agency policies or federal law. Furthermore, SEC does not support mandatory self-disclosure for any constituency at the University.
• Graduate tuition reform. The Senate Committee on Students and Educational Policy (SCSEP) looked at a number of issues connected to Penn’s imminent move to a uniform system of graduate tuition charges. SCSEP examined the academic motivations for this move as pointed out by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and several internal graduate program review committees and also worked with the administration to understand the implications, intentional and possibly unintentional, of moving to such a vastly different system of financial support for graduate education. The work of SCSEP and SEC, in consultation with University administrators, on this issue will continue in the next academic year.
• Monitoring the progress of newly developed faculty mentoring programs. The Senate Committee on Faculty Development, Diversity and Equity (SCFDDE), which played an instrumental role in working with the Provost’s Office to establish mandatory mentoring programs for junior faculty members in all schools, met with the mentoring facilitators of all 12 of Penn’s schools. These meetings served to inform SCFDDE on the implementation status of the mentoring plans put into place a year ago, to explore current challenges, to share some ideas among mentor coordinators in the hopes of establishing a set of best practices for mentoring, and to determine how SCFDDE might be of assistance to schools in improving implementation and eventual evaluation of their plans. SCFDDE also produced a summary of general findings, concerns, and best practices in consultation with Dr. Mary Croughan of the University of California, San Francisco—a nationally recognized expert on faculty mentoring.
• Consultation procedures for the appointment and reappointment of Deans and University-wide administrators. The Senate Committee on Faculty and the Administration (SCOA) took up this issue from discussions with the Provost concerning reappointment of department chairs in the School of Medicine and other health schools and a request from the faculty to examine whether there have been any variances between past and present practices for consulting faculty on the appointment of deans. SCOA closely examined of the procedures followed in the appointment of the four most recent deans, deliberated extensively with the Provost and the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs on the reappointment procedures for department chairs in the health schools, and considered all aspects of the Faculty Handbook policies for appointments and reappointments for deans and chairs. SCOA found the current Handbook policies compelling for appointments and reappointments, determined that those policies are being followed in the selection of deans, and was convinced that these policies will be followed for the reappointment of department chairs of the health schools in the future.
• Reports on the economic status of the faculty. The Senate Committee on the Economic Status of the Faculty (SCESF) received the information to make two reports this year and thereby close the gap of four fiscal years since the last report of this committee. We note the herculean efforts of the Administration, especially Vice President for Institutional Affairs Joann Mitchell, in getting the financial data in the absence of a Director of Institutional Research and Analysis. We also note that this year marks the first for information on gender equity in salary as a regular part of this report.
• Study of non-standing faculty. SCOF created an outline for a study of the role of non-standing faculty in undergraduate education. While the eventual goal is to determine the role of non-standing faculty in all phases of the University’s operations, the sheer size of that task led the committee to produce two plans. One is to develop a concrete view of teaching roles based on quantitative information starting with case studies of the contacts, through courses for academic credit, of 30 of this year’s graduates from the College of Arts and Sciences. Another is to examine the philosophical issues surrounding the hiring of non-standing faculty and the appropriateness of their responsibilities. In the former plan, SCOF will work closely with the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs and the Director of the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis.
• Sabbatical policy at Penn. In response to a request from SEC members, SCOA began an examination of sabbatical policy and its usage, especially by research faculty in the schools doing health-related research. SCOA received information on sabbatical credits from the Provost’s Office and determined that indeed there is evidence of some under-utilization of sabbatical leaves by particular departments in the medical, dental, and engineering schools. The committee recommends that faculty receive their individual accruement of sabbatical credits each year, preferably with their annual salary letter. The Provost has agreed to take this under advisement with the Deans.
• Sponsoring our second Founder’s Day Symposium. On January 18, 2008, the Faculty Senate sponsored the second of its annual symposia to commemorate Franklin’s birthday. This year’s symposium brought together four of our Penn Integrates Knowledge faculty colleagues in a discussion moderated by President Amy Gutmann. The theme, Aristotle’s Brain, was based on the quest for truly interdisciplinary creation of new knowledge through scholarship that allows for crossing of multiple boundaries of discipline and schools of thought. This symposium continued the tradition of last year’s in that the discussion involved free exchanges among faculty, students, and staff. A video webcast can be viewed at the Senate’s website, www.upenn.edu/faculty_senate.
• Consultation on hiring of a new Director of Admissions. The tri-chairs (Past Chair, Chair, and Chair-Elect) of the Faculty Senate served on the consultative committee to the President for the search that resulted in bringing Eric Furda to Penn as Director of Admissions. SEC played an important role in setting the characteristics most desired by faculty for the new dean of admissions. We have asked Mr. Furda to meet with SEC early in the next academic year to welcome him to Penn and to start a new era of closer collaboration of the faculty with the admissions process. • Policies for post-doctoral scholars. SEC received an overview of a complete revamping of Penn’s policies for hiring and support of post-doctoral scholars from Associate Vice Provost for Research Steve Fluharty. The new policy offers numerous improvements in support while removing ambiguities in the old policy. SEC formally approved the new policy.
• History of shared governance at Penn. The Faculty Senate completed the video interviews of Penn leaders who played historically important roles in the establishment of our University as we know it today. The transcripts of these interviews and the video record will be stored in the University Archives. Subsets of the interviews will also be used as part of the current Campaign for Penn. The Faculty Senate owes sincere gratitude to Past Chair Neville Strumpf for supervising this important project to preserve the history of shared governance at Penn.
Looking to the Future
As is clear from the above summary and the reports from the Senate Committees, important changes are taking place at Penn. A theme for what follows, a personal look-forward at the business of the Faculty Senate for the next year (and beyond), involves an uncertainty inherent in any institution’s redefinition of itself to be truly a 21st century university. We are compelled to consider redefinition however, as it is inevitable, and thus there is an urgent need of the faculty to play a central role in that redefinition. Deciding which things must stay the same and which will change, by necessity, can be a frightening step—but it is nonetheless necessary to choose if we wish to prevent the encroachment of stochastic processes that can lead the university into undesirable territory.
The first part of this theme is a repeat of a perennial request. It is vital that the faculty continue to press for vastly more and better quality faculty-related data throughout the University. Many of the choices to be made depend on a thorough understanding of who the faculty are, what roles they play, how they have been recruited, their careers developed, and how Penn has retained them (or not) against ever-increasing raids from competing institutions. This data is essential to our Committees on Faculty and the Academic Mission, Faculty and the Administration, and Faculty Development, Diversity, and Equity. It also goes without saying that the faculty must insist on timely delivery of information on faculty salaries to its Committee on Economic Status of the Faculty. All of these committees will be aided in their decision-making by completion of the faculty information database currently under development by the Administration, but even completion of this database will likely leave some areas of uncertainty as to the roles of the many people at Penn who bear a faculty title. Ensuring that the Faculty Information System is continually updated, improved, and eventually includes non-standing faculty should be a high priority for the Senate well into the future.
A closely-related topic for SEC to consider will be a constantly renewed effort to widely disseminate what we discuss at SEC meetings to our school constituencies. The academic responsibility of shared governance makes it clear that our decisions and recommendations to the Administration should be based on opinions informed by a broad spectrum of our colleagues. I am heartened by the efforts of members of SEC this year to promote discussions on important topics, like the proposal to develop a policy on self-disclosure of criminal records for prospective faculty. Our resolve to seek input from across the university resulted in a rich exchange of views on several issues that had the capacity to be divisive. As I stated in my welcome message to the faculty at the beginning of the academic year, we have a unique platform from which to speak on Penn governance. The concomitant responsibility to be informed and to inform others should stay near the top of each of our personal agendas. I am personally grateful for the many suggestions, items of notes, and criticisms of policy that have come to the Senate office during my term. Any member of our campus community should feel free to contact the Senate tri-chairs on issues of importance to our University.
The second part of the theme for the future is to ensure a firm resolve in undertaking a continuing study of the identity of the University and how it is perceived both internally and externally. Under the belief that the faculty will continue to form the core of the University, SEC began work on this point with two activities this year. The first was a discussion among the faculty at a SEC meeting dedicated to the question “What does it mean to be a faculty member at a research university in the 21st century?” I am grateful to Associate Provosts Andrew Binns and Vincent Price for their contributions to this discussion both as administrators and as fine examples of faculty carrying out active research programs at Penn. The second activity was our Founder’s Day symposium, discussed previously, in which we grappled with the question of what a university should strive to teach and research in an age where information is overwhelming in its absolute amount and the rate at which it increases and where no faculty, brilliant and accomplished though they may be, can be expected to fully master all the knowledge that is worth knowing. The report from the Committee on the Faculty gives some recommendations on how best to pursue this line of inquiry, but it should form the core of the charges for all our Senate committees over the next few years. While the perennial questions of who teaches our students and what do we teach them are difficult to answer— and progress on methodologies to continually update the faculty on the answers must be developed— it will be increasingly important to understand the question of why we teach what we do. In an age of increasing scrutiny on the costs of an education and the accessibility of a Penn education across the economic spectrum, the related question of why it is appropriate, indeed optimal, to teach what we do in the setting of a research university will be equally important.
The work of the Faculty Senate is carried out only through the profoundly dedicated efforts of the many faculty members who freely give of their most precious campus resources: time and intellectual engagement. It is an understatement to say that I am humbled by the opportunity to work with such gifted, enlightened individuals. At the top of the list for honors due is Past Chair Neville Strumpf. Her extraordinary commitment to Penn and to the Senate in particular through four years of leadership, wise counsel, and steadfast dedication to equity and equality has been inspirational to us all. The Senate and I have also benefitted from the outstanding leadership of Vince Price, Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs. Vince’s experience as chair of SEC has been enormously helpful in the collaborative efforts between the Senate and the Provost’s Office. It has also been an honor to work with Chair-Elect Sherri Adams. Her deep appreciation of the important issues of shared governance ensures that the Senate is in good hands for the coming year. I also want to thank the members of the Senate committees. Their conversations have been nothing but thoughtful, engaging, and instructive. Special thanks go to the chairs of these committees: Paul Sniegowski (SCSEP), Lois Evans (SCFDDE), Alan Charles Kors (SCAFR), Cindy Christian (SCOA), Laura Perna (SCSEF), Joan Goodman (Grievance Commission) and Stephen Phipps (SCOF). Their leadership and hard work are the hallmark of good faculty governance. As usual, SEC has enjoyed the very efficient and capable skills of an excellent Secretary—thanks to Terry Richmond. Finally, I see no way in which the Senate office could operate without Sue White, executive assistant to the Faculty Senate. Her diligent work, open manner, and excellent management skills makes the work of the tri-chairs immeasurably easier.
I also want to offer sincere gratitude to President Amy Gutmann and Provost Ron Daniels for their personal engagement with the faculty on every issue of substance. Throughout regular consultations, coffee meetings, face-to-face meetings with SEC, involvement with our symposia, and their contributions to collaborative dialogue they have been true to the best model of shared governance. In no small measure their model of excellence in dealing with the Faculty Senate has set the tone for fruitful collaborations throughout the offices of the President and Provost. We are particularly grateful for the chance to work hand-in-hand with the Associate Provosts Andy Binns, Vince Price, and Steve Fluharty, with Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli, General Counsel Wendy White, and Vice Presidents Joann Mitchell and Maureen Rush. The Senate owes them all a debt of gratitude for their efforts this year. The Senate has also enjoyed working on the business of University Council with University Secretary Leslie Kruhly and the Associate Director for University Council & Ceremony Brenda Brand. Finally, I wish to thank my colleagues on the Senate Executive Committee for a stimulating and educational year. I look forward to next year in my role as Past Chair as another opportunity to engage with one of the finest faculty in the world.