Board of Trustees convenes to discuss finance, academic policy, expansion

The committees passed resolutions, discussed finance and discussed global engagement strategies

· October 28, 2012, 7:56 pm

Penn’s Board of Trustees convened at the Inn at Penn for two days to discuss the various issues pertinent to the University and opportunities for expansion.

At the stated meeting of trustees on Friday, the Board passed resolutions to authorize up to $127 million for the development and construction of the Advanced Care Hospital Pavilion at the Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. Additional funds were approved for existing projects — $7.44 million for Perelman School of Medicine Campus Plan Documentation and Implementation and an additional $2.83 million for the Neural-Behavior Science Building, originally approved a year ago.

At the Academic Policy Committee meeting, Provost Vince Price and Vice Provost for Global Initiatives Ezekiel Emanuel introduced a strategic plan for global engagement at Penn. Price stressed the importance and timeliness of the University’s global efforts in the overall Penn Compact.

“Penn finds itself at a moment in time when it is already deeply engaged internationally,” he said. “We are at a critical juncture.” Emanuel added Penn will not be an “ivory tower,” but that its students and faculty will be engaged globally.

The first of three pillars of the strategic plan is preparing students for a globalized society through increased cross-school intellectual collaboration on global issues and the development of a campus center for global issues. At this center, Emanuel is hoping to realize the second pillar — strengthening Penn as a global agenda setter by establishing a “global solutions program.”

The third pillar builds on the plan by expanding Penn’s presence globally and “promoting healthy, inspiring, productive lives.” Emanuel cited Coursera and the planned Penn-Wharton Center in Beijing as examples of how the University can “use our tremendous abilities for training leaders” and effect global change.

The Local, National, & Global Engagement Committee discussed the strategic plan for global initiatives and focused on strategies to help alumni abroad connect with the University and its students. The committee also addressed issues of National Institutes of Health funding cuts.

The Student Life Committee discussed the recently updated University Sexual Violence Policy and the University’s background check program in the wake of the Pennsylvania State University scandal. Student Life Committee Chair Julie Beren Platt said the policy had been on the agenda even before Penn State made headlines earlier this year. The University Sexual Violence Policy upgraded key definitions of sexual violence to be more “explicit” and renewed emphasis on prevention and education.

Vice President for Institutional Affairs Joann Mitchell said, “I don’t believe we have many [incidents], but this is an instance where even one is considered far too many … We wanted to make sure we were keeping pace with the best practices.” The University also recently implemented a three-part background check required for all individuals in programs with minors, such as summer camps and museum programs.

The committee addressed the new Alcohol Policy Pilot Program, which went into effect on Oct. 19. The program provides resources for non-Greek organizations to host events with alcohol and allows mixed drinks on a case-by-case basis. Platt said the primary goals of the pilot are to increase student accountability and social equity. She added that the only spaces on campus for undergraduates to host events were male Greek houses, so “we felt that we needed to allow other groups and women to have events on campus with alcohol.”

At the Budget and Finance Committee meeting, University Treasurer Stephen Golding confirmed Penn was staying on budget. The University’s net assets as of September stand at $9.96 billion, compared to $9.37 billion in Sept. 2011 and the budgeted $9.85 billion. Golding attributed the increase in assets to both the endowment returns and strong operating performance. The committee also reviewed the century bonds — $300 million loaned over the summer — and how the combination of facility renovations and strategic options will generate cost savings to pay back interest. In addition, the committee reviewed the changes in accounting measures, as well as the operating budgets of the University and the Health System.

The Facilities and Campus Planning Committee provided updates on the Climate Action Plan and real estate developments around campus. Penn expressed interest in expanding to South Bank last year — “one of the best investments,” according to President Amy Gutmann.

At the stated meeting, Gutmann reported on Penn’s partnership with Knowledge is Power Program and thanked the Smilow family for the largest donation to date in Penn’s Making History campaign. This donation established the Smilow Center for Translational Research within the Perelman School of Medicine, as well as the William Smilow Professorship in the field of cardiovascular medicine and the William Smilow Award for Innovation in Clinical Excellence.

The Trustees also approved new faculty appointments.

Rebecca Borison, Becki Steinberg, Aditi Srinivas, Kate Gheen and Heather Blomfield contributed reporting.

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