Business ran as usual at the annual fall meeting of the full University Board of Trustees -- except for an interruption by one community group.
Just as Board of Trustees Chairman James Riepe was calling the meeting to order, a group of about six community members assembled at the door.
When ushers stood in front of them, the community members began to raise their voices.
"You're blocking our access," they said.
Soon after, the community members were allowed in the room and were given chairs. They remained quiet until midway through the meeting, when Provost Robert Barchi delivered his Academic Report.
He discussed, in detail, plans for a new Life Sciences Building and acknowledged the community members who attended the meeting to express their concern about the construction.
The provost said there is a great need for a space in the School of Arts and Sciences to enable research collaboration between several disciplines. He also stated that the particular space chosen for the project is the only location available within close proximity of the life science departments.
Barchi detailed the two-phase construction process that is necessary to create the new building. According to the provost, the construction will occur almost completely within the plots of existing buildings.
Barchi said that the University has delayed the construction of the building by almost a year to provide time to research the impact of the new structure on the surrounding Biopond and garden landscape. According to Barchi, the "footprint" of the Phase 1 building will cover about 3.5 percent of the garden. He also detailed plans for an area in front of Leidy Laboratories to be incorporated into the garden.
"We're confident that we have done everything possible to ensure that this Biopond oasis has been protected, preserved and even enhanced during the construction process," Barchi said.
At that point, one of the community members interjected.
"Provost Barchi has just told a bunch of lies," she said.
But Barchi continued with his report, and the spectators quieted down once again. The provost went on to speak about the University's many academic accomplishments this semester, including the opening of the Center for Africana Studies and the achievements of Nobel Prize-winner Raymond Davis.
After Barchi's report and subsequent academic resolutions, one of the community members interrupted once again.
"There is a motion from the floor to hear one voice from the community," she said.
Riepe responded, "No. This is not a public forum for this particular issue. You are here as observers, not as speakers."
At that point, the community member asked if any individual Trustees wished to hear her speak.
After a brief moment of silence, Riepe responded, "It doesn't appear so, thank you."
At that point, the meeting continued, and the community members left, one at a time.
After the meeting was adjourned, Riepe explained that under the state Open Meetings Act, community members are allowed to observe the meeting, but not disrupt it. Because the community members were not on the agenda for the meeting, Riepe said, he did not allow them to participate.
He also emphasized that the University has researched the Life Sciences Building plans in depth over the last year and said he feels confident that all of the relevant issues have been adequately addressed.
"I think they've been very, very careful and they've resorted to all of the experts that can help them on this," Riepe said.
Despite the disruption, the Trustees managed to carry out their agenda. They passed several resolutions, including one on a memorial for longtime benefactor Walter Annenberg. Annenberg's widow Leonore attended the meeting and received the resolution in memory of her husband.
University President Judith Rodin gave the President's Report, highlighting many of Penn's achievements this fall. Rodin spoke about the openings of Huntsman Hall, the Dental School's Schattner Center and the Pottruck Health and Fitness Center, among other things.
"I consider these milestones in the growth and development of Penn," Rodin said.
After Rodin's report, the Board voted to appoint Clifford Stanley as the new executive vice president.
"As you can tell by the enthusiasm of my colleagues, Cliff has already made just a wonderful impact on our community," Rodin said.
In addition, the Board of Trustees heard reports from a variety of subcommittees which shared updates on subjects ranging from Student Life to External Affairs.
After a report from the Budget and Finance committee, the Board passed a series of resolutions for new construction. The Trustees authorized $50.7 million for a teaching and research building in the School of Veterinary Medicine and $38 million for a new building in the Engineering School. They also approved the redevelopment of property on 40th Street.
The full Board of Trustees meets three times each year.Comments powered by Disqus
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