Committee on Committees
Report on the Functioning of Council Committees
during Academic Year 2012-2013
This report summarizes the general functioning and procedures of University Council (UC) Committees  during the 2012-2013 academic year. Suggestions for enhancing the functioning of these committees typically covered one or more of the four areas: (1) the need for enhanced orientation and explanation of duties to new members; (2) the use of more specific charges to focus the Committees’ attention on key issues and items that are actionable; (3) challenges in scheduling and start-up; and (4) a more effective way to provide feedback from the administration to both former and new Committee members.
Mechanism of Evaluation
Each faculty member on the Committee on Committees was assigned to review a Council committee. Each review consisted of in-person, phone and/or email interviews typically with the committee chair, administrative liaison and staff support person, using the questions below. In some cases, other members of the committees were asked for responses to these questions as well. Other University constituencies were asked to provide information on committee performance via their members who serve on the committees. All Committee members then reported their findings to the Committee on Committees in March for discussion. This report provides an overview of the general findings, as well as specific comments on the functioning and procedures of each committee. However, Steering is advised to look at the individual committee reports to gain a complete view of how the committees are performing.
Questions Posed to Each Committee Chair
1. Was the Committee’s specific charge for this year clear and appropriate?
2. What changes, if any, do you think need to be made in the Committee’s general charge?
3. What issues were addressed this year, and were they resolved?
4. How many times did the full committee meet? If subcommittees were created, how many were created, how often did they meet, and what was their purpose?
5. Based on the charges for this year, and the discussion to date, was the Committee able to satisfactorily resolve the issues discussed, and what do you see as issues emerging for consideration next year?
6. Which members would you recommend to serve on the Committee next year? Is there anyone on the current committee who is the logical successor as chair, either now or in the future?
7. Is the membership of the committee well-suited to the Committee’s charge? (Expertise, representation of interests, etc.)
8. What was the role of the administration’s liaison in your Committee? (The liaison is an appropriate administrative person who can provide relevant information for a committee charge or connect the Committee with others on campus with relevant information.)
9. Did someone from the administration provide explicit feedback on last year’s recommendations? Was the feedback satisfactory? Were there any remaining aspects that have not been resolved or for which a path has not been developed?
10. What problems did the Committee encounter, e.g., access to necessary resources?
11. Did the Committee structure work involving opportunities for oversight, opportunities to work with your administrative liaison to resolve specific issues, and opportunities to generate larger recommendations?
[Each Committee has been charged to operate with three approaches: 1) perform general oversight reviews of their area of concern which may not turn up any specific problems to deal with; 2) where there are specific issues that they want to address (or they have been charged to address) to try and resolve them working through their administrative liaison; 3) where the intra-committee level effort is not able to resolve issues to move towards generating fully elaborated recommendations to be addressed outside of the Committee (as formal proposals to be forwarded to the administration or for the Council to consider.) Was this how the Committee worked? Was it an effective structure of tasks for accomplishing the Committee’s charges?]
12. What recommendations about the Committee’s process and organization would you make going forward?
13. Is there any question that should have been asked about process that was not included?
14. Students only: Do the student members feel their voices are heard? Was there a primary and an alternate student representative on each Committee?
This is the second year in which relevant, high-level administrators attended meetings early in the year of each UC Committee and provided responses regarding the findings and recommendations from the previous year’s report. It appears that committee members valued this feedback since it enhanced the continuity between the Committees’ charges, their suggestions and implementation by the University.
In broad terms, University Council Committees seek more orientation, additional focus and a further explanation of their duties. Most committees prefer specific, focused and actionable charges. Some committees need more planning and advanced scheduling to ensure student participation. Finally, Committees would appreciate finding ways to provide administrative feedback to members from the previous year as well as new members joining the committee.
These results point to several consequences for the academic year 2013-2014. First, given the change in membership of the Committees and rotating responsibilities, we will look for ways to ensure a more detailed orientation of the Committees in the year to come, assistance during the first meetings and the use of continuity in membership. This will include enhanced orientation of chairs and also increased participation of the Tri-Chairs in the first one or two meetings of the Committees so that charges and explanation of duties can be articulated, discussed and clarified. Second, we will encourage Committees to have their first meetings early in the fall semester and provide a schedule of their meetings to Committee members by mid to late September. This will allow student members to better plan their academic schedules. As before, we will also encourage student members of Committees to have an alternate in case the schedule of the meetings and the course schedule of the students are inconsistent. Finally, we will look for ways to communicate the administration’s response to Committee members who are no longer on the Committee and to introduce new Committee members to the work of the Committees during the previous year.
Each UC Committee continues to have two major roles:
1. Broad review in its area(s) of interest—monitoring to see whether there are any issues requiring deeper exploration—it is possible that sometimes no recommendations come out of this process, but the University is well served by having a representative body tracking institutions and issues that could be important.
2. Deeper consideration of a small number (typically one or two) of issues that arise from last year’s agenda and recommendations, or new information. These issues might be examined by the Committee as a whole, or by subcommittees, and will likely involve multiple meetings and conversations with people around the University engaged with the issue. From this type of examination, two outcomes are possible. Most can be resolved by working directly with the administrators responsible in the focus area to clarify issues and consider policy modifications. Occasionally, after this path has not resolved an issue satisfactorily, a formal, carefully considered recommendation will be forwarded to Council Steering and possibly to Council itself.
The reduced number of charges to the Committees was appreciated. This should and will be continued in the next academic year to bring enhanced focus to each committee. One Committee would also like the freedom to set its own charge, if needed. This is always an option of the committee, and we are pleased when there is enthusiasm for new topics as long as they don’t overlap with other Committees and that they fall under the general charge of a given Committee.
Other specifics for next year include the following:
1. Enhanced orientation and explanation of duties to new members;
2. The use of focused charges where action can be taken;
3. Help in scheduling of the semester’s meetings early in the term;
4. Providing feedback from the administration to both this year’s members and last year’s members;
5. Reminding Committee chairs to schedule time for discussion after having visitors at a meeting.
Committee on Academic & Related Affairs
General Comments: The Committee had a delayed start due to Hurricane Sandy and has been meeting regularly starting in January and plans to have a total of four meetings. The Committee monitored and considered three issues: academic integrity, undergraduate research and instruction support software. The Committee on Academic and Related Affairs indicated that a number of other committees and groups were looking at academic integrity and decided to focus most of their attention elsewhere. This included an enthusiastic look at undergraduate research and a good discussion of educational software options. Several people noted that having continuity in this Committee would be most useful for the next year.
The University Council Committee on Committees recommends that the University Council Steering Committee provide additional focus to this committee, considering a charge or charges where action can be taken.
Committee on Campus & Community Life
General Comments: This Committee met once a month and looked at the issues of a smoke-free campus, the prevention of bullying and the quality of CAPS’ services. It would like to be able to suggest and tackle some topics of their own choosing. It appears to them that it takes a long time for action to occur on topics that are important to this Committee. The Committee on Campus and Community Life seeks ways to improve their cooperation with other Committees, getting information from the student population and feedback from the previous proposals that they made. Finally, the committee suggests a further look at the prevention of bullying in the year to come.
The University Council Committee on Committees notes that the work and cooperation evidenced in the Committee on Campus and Community Life is appreciated by its committee members. It recommends that the University Council Steering Committee work more closely with next year’s Committee on Campus and Community Life at the beginning of the academic year to provide the freedom to choose topics that it desires and to facilitate increased coordination with other relevant Committees and those who respond to this year’s recommendations.
Committee on Diversity and Equity
General Comments: This Committee met four times during the year and anticipates another two meetings before the end of the academic year. Three subcommittees were formed to investigate each of the three focus issues: experiences of faculty diversity search advisors, graduate student diversity issues and undergraduate cultural competency and sensitivity. The Committee on Diversity and Equity noted that in several cases the issues will not be resolved this year and will need to be taken up again in the coming year. Student representatives noted some challenges in the scheduling of meetings.
The University Council Committee on Committees notes the concern of the co-chairs involving operational procedures, resources and the level oversight of the committee and will work with the incoming committee to clarify these areas and also to provide continuity. It also encourages the early scheduling of meetings for the semester to assist student and other members. Finally, it supports and encourages the continued use of subcommittees to accomplish the charges in the coming year.
Committee on Facilities
General Comments: The Committee met approximately once a month during this academic year. Most charges have been resolved through committee work. There is an ongoing discussion regarding new shuttle service. The Committee examined tax-reimbursements for bicyclers and continued to discuss the pump purchase program. The Committee suggests the continued monitoring of Penn Connects and discussed classroom space on campus. Committee members would like to have a better understanding of the maintenance of buildings on campus in terms of the Century Bond Program. The administration liaison, the University Architect, provided context for the facilities-related discussions, and this help was appreciated by committee members. Some additional orientation or background would be useful at the beginning of the year.
The University Council Committee on Committees notes that the Committee on Facilities appears to be well-run, and they suggested that subcommittees be formed as needed. It appears that there are some charges that should be continued to next year. There will be some additional focusing of the charges for next year given the breadth of facilities at Penn.
Committee on Personnel Benefits
General Comments: The Personnel Benefits Committee met six times during the year and addressed Penn’s wellness initiatives, effectiveness of Health Advocates and the health insurance, and the communication and utilization of the retirement options. One subcommittee was formed to investigate the new wellness programs. Some issues for next year could include portable tuition benefits, smoke-free campus and adjustments necessary to comply with the Affordable Care Act. The committee has moved from individual concerns to looking at the needs of the entire University community. The work of the two liaisons, VP, Division of Human Resources and Executive Director, Benefits, was especially appreciated. Some additional orientation would be useful.
The University Council Committee on Committees notes the cohesiveness of this Committee on Personnel Benefits, the excellent participation by the committee chair and the committee liaisons and encourages this committee to continue its effective work in the coming year.
Committee on Committees 2012-2013
Chair: Dwight Jaggard; Staff: Susan White, Joseph Gasiewski; Faculty: Kathleen Boesze-Battaglia, Camille Charles, Emily Hannum, Robert Hollebeek, Susan Margulies; PPSA: Utsav Schurmans; WPPSA: Loretta Hauber; GAPSA: Udit Mathur; UA: Kanisha Parthasarathy
 These committees are: Committee on Academic and Related Affairs, Committee on Campus and Community Life, Committee on Facilities, Committee on Personnel Benefits, and Committee on Diversity and Equity.