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Senate 2009-2010
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May 11, 2010, Volume 56, No. 33

Senate Committee on Faculty and the Academic Mission (SCOF)

General Committee Charge:

The Committee oversees and advises the Executive Committee on matters relating to the University’s policies and procedures concerning the academic mission, including the structure of the academic staff, the tenure system, faculty appointments and promotions, faculty research, and faculty governance. In general, the Committee deals with the matters covered by the following sections of the University’s Handbook for Faculty and Academic Administrators: I.E.-F., H.2., II.A.-D.

Specific Charges:

1. Continue to advance the Committee’s study of non-standing faculty, and make recommendations if appropriate.

2. Examine the extent and the reasons for the declining number of assistant professors in the standing faculty. Make recommendations for mitigating the impact of this decrease in young faculty members on the University

3. Examine the conversion of faculty from the research track to tenure track or tenure, to determine the impact of some individuals having more time to tenure and consider whether policy recommendations are advisable.

4. Study and make recommendations on the role of emeritus faculty at Penn, including the rights and privileges extended to them by their Departments and Schools, with a view to ensuring that they are able to enrich Penn by their continued activity, and to benefit from their continuing contact with the communities of which they have been valued members.

5. Review and discuss this Committee’s general charge, as provided in the Senate Rules, and identify what you believe to be the most pressing issues facing the Faculty over the next few years. In light of your discussions, recommend to the Senate Executive Committee two or three high-priority charges for the Committee on the Faculty to undertake in academic year 2010-11. In explaining these charges, outline any appropriate actions you suppose the Senate might conceivably take after its review.

Accomplishments:

1. Continue to advance the Committee’s study of non-standing faculty.

The Committee focused its analysis of the role of the non-standing faculty (NSF) on the four undergraduate schools and requested data on the types of NSF, the number of courses and CUs taught by NSF, the role of NSF in departmental governance and how NSF faculty are evaluated. The category NSF includes diverse individuals, including (in the School of Medicine) faculty members in the Academic Clinician and the Clinical tracks, and spread throughout the University, practice professors, adjunct faculty, lecturers and senior lecturers (who are members of the academic support staff), and teaching assistants, who are graduate students.  The Faculty Handbook both defines these positions and establishes limits in each school of each type of NSF (either as an absolute number or as a percentage of the standing faculty).

We met with Dean Rebecca Bushnell and reviewed the data from the School of Arts and Sciences. As we were preparing to address the other schools, we received a request from the Provost, through the Tri-Chairs, to analyze two independent requests for changes in the Faculty Handbook regarding NSF and to make recommendations to SEC (see below). One of these requests was from Dean Eduardo Glandt of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the extensive discussions of the data from SEAS that we had with Dean Glandt and Vice Dean Kumar neatly addressed this original charge to SCOF.  The Committee did not receive data from the School of Nursing or the Wharton School, so as noted below, we recommend that this charge be carried forward.

A number of conclusions were drawn from the analysis of the data on teaching provided by SAS and SEAS.  First, participation by NSF in teaching undergraduate students (and graduate students) varies widely among departments.  In part, this reflects variations in the requirements for teaching placed on standing faculty by their departments. Second, some courses (such as foreign languages, theater arts and creative writing) are deemed to be taught best by NSF, and these faculty members have no other responsibilities. Third, the number of course units (CUs) taught by full-time standing faculty has gradually increased over time, in large part due to a concerted effort to reduce the number of part-time NSF.  Fourth, the teaching performance of NSF is evaluated on a regular basis. Fifth, in most instances NSF are not involved in departmental governance activities.

On reflection over the months of our deliberations, the Committee strongly recommends that SEC initiate a discussion of both the philosophy of and plans for the use of NSF in the educational missions of the University.  Many factors are involved, or ignored, at the present time, including expectations of the standing faculty, pressures to conduct research, financial limitations among the Schools, assessing performance of NSF (which often exceeds that of the standing faculty), employment security of and benefits for NSF, and the expectations of the entire University community.

2. Examine the extent and the reasons for the declining number of assistant professors in the standing faculty.

The Committee did not have time to address the apparent decline in the percentage of the standing faculty that is assistant professors, except in broad terms.  Clearly the recent economic recession has reduced the retirement portfolios of senior faculty members and made retirement less likely.  The impact has been fewer tenure-track slots available for new recruits.  We recommend returning to this issue next year and assessing data in each school over the past decade, with particular attention to the impact of the temporary extension of Faculty Income Allowance Program to standing faculty members over the age of 70.

3. Examine the conversion of faculty from the research track to tenure track or tenure, to determine the impact of some individuals having more time to tenure.

The Committee discussed with the Provost the issue of conversion of faculty members on the Research Track to tenure-probationary or tenured positions in the standing faculty.  The conclusions were that these instances are rare and that the Faculty Handbook language adequately addresses the process.

4. Study and make recommendations on the role of emeritus faculty at Penn, including the rights and privileges extended to them by their Departments and Schools.

The role of the emeritus faculty was discussed. The development of the Penn Association of Senior and Emeritus Faculty (PASEF) has had a strikingly positive impact, and the Committee recommended that SEC monitor the impact of PASEF periodically, perhaps with a survey of its members.  The chair of PASEF is welcome to bring any issues relevant to the mission of SCOF directly to the Committee.

5. Additional Charges: 

• Dean Michael Fitz of the School of Law requested a change in the language of the Faculty Handbook to increase the number of Senior Lecturer positions from one to two. After considerable discussion and deliberation, SCOF recommended approval of this request to SEC.

• Dean Eduardo Glandt of SEAS requested several changes in the language of the Faculty Handbook. The main issue was to increase the cap on Senior and Principal Lecturers from 5% to 15%. This reflected reducing part-time NSF and moving existing Lectures to the more senior title.  There was also a request to establish an Associate Professor of Practice position.  After considerable discussion and deliberation, SCOF recommended approval of these requests to SEC.

6. In terms of charges for next academic year, the Committee recommends the following:

• Continue the examination of the role of the NSF in teaching undergraduates by focusing on the Wharton School and the School of Nursing.

• Engage SEC and the Administration in an examination of the philosophy of the evolution of the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania.

SCOF Membership 2009-2010

Reed Pyeritz (School of Medicine), Chair

Ian Lustick (School of Arts & Sciences)

Stephen Phipps (School of Arts & Sciences)

Diana Slaughter-Defoe (Graduate School of Education)

Beth Winkelstein (School of Engineering & Applied Science)

Jeff Winkler (School of Arts & Sciences)

Harvey Rubin (School of Medicine), ex officio

Robert Hornik (Annenberg School for Communication), ex officio

Index of Annual Reports of Senate Committees for 2009-2010

Almanac - May 11, 2010, Volume 56, No. 33