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Welcome Back From the Senate Chair

September 6, 2011, Volume 58, No. 02

Participating in Shared Governance

For me, the beginning of the end of summer occurs during the last week of July, when I welcome 70 incoming freshmen to the Center for Africana Studies Summer Institute for Pre-Freshmen. It’s a magical week where students study hard, form enduring friendships, and remind me how special and satisfying the teacher-student relationship is, not only for the students, but for us as well.  And, so, as Chair of the Faculty Senate, I write to you in mid-August, welcoming you back to campus for the 2011-2012 academic year with heartfelt enthusiasm, despite the eminent onslaught of move-in week!

We, as members of the faculty of this great University, are privileged to pursue our passions—research and teaching—and to serve together alongside our colleagues, students, and staff. President Amy Gutmann’s commitments to “integrating knowledge,” and achieving “eminence through excellence,” reflect the fact that, collectively, we are among the world’s best at discovery, innovation, and problem-solving.

Last year, as Chair-Elect of the Faculty Senate, I discovered the special rewards that flow from participating in shared governance. This, admittedly, is not usually something that brings us to the Academy; nonetheless, it is essential if we want a voice in the development and implementation of University policy. The Faculty Senate also functions as the voice of the moral conscience of our University. We accomplish this not only through our teaching and research, but also through our service on committees and by speaking in public forums. 

The Faculty Senate includes all standing faculty and clinician-educators in all 12 of Penn’s schools and fulfills its obligation to shared governance though the Senate Executive Committee (SEC), an elected body, the Senate Tri-Chairs (Chair-Elect Susan Margulies, myself, and Past-Chair Robert Hornik), several Senate committees, and through faculty representation on University Council committees. These groups are in regular conversation with the President and Provost, deans, administrators, and representatives of many constituency groups on campus, working to create policies for consideration by the Trustees, and to keep the larger campus community well informed.

Last year, in response to a disappointing Progress Report on Minority Equity, the Faculty Senate took up the issue of faculty diversity and how best to achieve it; I believe that we, as faculty, were essential catalysts for the newly-released Penn’s Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence. One of our many tasks this year will be to monitor the rollout and implementation of the plan, and to provide critical feedback. This will be my top priority during the coming year, as I believe that a more diverse faculty is crucial to our goals of integrating knowledge and achieving eminence through excellence.

I look forward to a very busy and exciting year. To those of you who have so willingly committed to serve in various capacities, my colleagues and I are grateful, and we thank you for your service. To those of you who are not currently serving, we hope that you will consider doing so in the future. To all members of the faculty, if there are issues of concern to you, please do not hesitate to bring them forward, either through your constituency representative, or directly with myself or with either the past-chair or chair-elect.

Chairing the Faculty Senate is a great privilege, and I am sincerely grateful to you, my faculty colleagues, for putting your faith in me. I also owe a special debt of gratitude to Past-Chair Larry Gladney, for encouraging me to accept this role, and for believing that I could, indeed, fulfill it. I am also extremely pleased to have the wisdom of Past-Chair Robert Hornik, and the incredible insight and enthusiasm of Chair-Elect Susan Margulies. And last, but certainly not least, I continue to be awed and amazed by Sue White, the Executive Assistant to the Senate. Believe me when I say we could not do this without her. Please contact me (ccharles@sas.upenn.edu), or Sue White (senate@pobox.upenn.edu, (215) 898-6943) with issues or questions.

Camille Charles

Related: Faculty Senate Executive Committee Agenda

Almanac - September 6, 2011, Volume 58, No. 02