|Welcome Back From the Senate Chair
September 7, 2010,
Volume 57, No. 02
The Path to Faculty Governance
As incoming Chair of the Faculty Senate, I am pleased to welcome you all to the 2010-2011 academic year. I have cleaned my computer’s keys, recycled barrels of accumulated paper, tweaked my syllabus and posted office hours; I am ready. Well, almost ready—there is that incomplete summer’s writing agenda.
Penn is an extraordinary place to be a member of the faculty. We have the chance to teach and work with strong students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. There is a deep culture of collaboration in research among faculty within departments and across disciplines and schools, reinforced by President Amy Gutmann’s Penn Integrates Knowledge commitment. Following Ben Franklin’s demand for both “useful and ornamental” study the University is committed to applied and theoretical education and applied and theoretical research. I did a quick search of the New York Times archive for the past 30 days (as I write this) and just over that time found 19 articles describing work by or quoting our faculty, among them John Trojanowski’s headlined work on biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease, John MacDonald’s work on mass transit and exercise, Wendy Steiner on concepts of ugliness and beauty, David Silverman on the mystery of King Tut’s death and Joe Turow (described as the ‘ranking wise man’) on niche marketing and new media. The citations are impressive for their number and for their range.
he Faculty Senate includes the entire standing faculty; the Senate Executive Committee (SEC), made up of representatives of academic departments (or groups of departments) and at-large representatives, does the Senate’s major business. The Senate also has a range of standing committees dealing with faculty roles, economic status, administrative relationships, educational policies, faculty development and diversity, publication policies and academic freedom. The faculty also plays a substantial role in committees of University Council, a body which has representatives also from the administration, students and staff.
Penn has a substantial tradition of faculty involvement in governance. That is realized through both formal and informal mechanisms; Provost Price and President Gutmann meet twice a month with the past-chair, the chair-elect and chair of the Senate during the academic year. They also present and respond to questions at SEC meetings each semester. SEC and its committees also invite other senior administrators to discuss issues on its agenda. Some of those visits serve mostly to provide information, keeping the faculty up to date on the state of the University in its many parts (from budgets to green space; from benefits policies to student admissions.) Also, SEC and its committees examine focus issues more thoroughly. Sometimes this will take place because SEC has a statutory role and needs to formally approve some decision (e.g. on new faculty positions, on some changes in by-laws). Other times, even though SEC may not have statutory authority, those investigations may produce recommendations for change; while the decision authority may remain elsewhere (often in the Provost’s office) thoughtful discussion in SEC or its committees may shape those decisions.
The faculty affect decisions at Penn insofar as they are willing to engage with the process of governance. Some of you have already committed to participation in Senate activities, as SEC representatives or as committee members. We are grateful for these already committed on behalf of all of us. If you are not now in that role, I make two requests: if you are asked to serve on a committee or to play another role, please say yes. Also, if there are issues that concern you, please don’t let them fester; be active in bringing them forward through your constituency representatives, or directly with me or with the past-chair or chair-elect.
I am particularly looking forward to serving with Harvey Rubin whose work as Chair last year will serve as a model for me, and who now becomes Past Chair, and with Camille Charles, now Chair-elect—whose thoughtfulness I will rely on. Sue White is the Executive Assistant to the Senate, and is the bulwark against foundering Senate Chairs. She makes it work. Please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Sue White, (215) 898-6943 with issues or questions.
Save The Date:
The Faculty Senate will meet on October 6, 2010 from 3 to 5 p.m. in Room 205 College Hall.
A reception will follow the meeting at 5 p.m., at the Arthur Ross Gallery.
All Senate members are invited to attend the meeting and reception, but are asked to
no later than October 1, 2010 to Susan White, Executive Assistant to the Faculty Senate.
E-mail: email@example.com. Phone: (215) 898-6943.