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As the largest private employer in Philadelphia, the University sends paychecks to over 22,000 people.

Nevertheless, as Penn prepares to choose its next president, the University's professional staff is not represented on the Consultative Committee spearheading the process.

"We sent a letter to the chairman of the trustees as well as the Office of the Secretary addressing our concerns over that," said Rodney Robinson, chairman of the Penn Professional Staff Assembly, which represents administrative and technical staff members. "The response that we've had was that current statutes will be followed."

According to University Secretary Leslie Kruhly, the "statute says generally that the trustees have the responsibility for selecting the president."

Though students and faculty have been included in the process by trustee resolutions adopted over the past 20 years, no resolution is in force to ensure that non-faculty employees are represented.

"We were kind of surprised," Chairman of the Weekly-paid Professional Staff Assembly Omar Mitchell said. "Then we did an investigation and discovered there had never been any staff" on the committee.

Mitchell, who represents all weekly-paid, non-union employees, said that the WPSA "sent a letter to the trustees letting them know that we were interested in participating in this search -- our request was denied."

For some, this comes as no surprise.

"I have very low expectations in that area," said Howard Deck, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 590, which represents Penn's unionized library system workers. "I've been an employee at the University back to President Harnwell, so that means I've been here for four searches -- they never consulted the staff."

While today's "town hall meetings" will offer staff members an opportunity to voice their opinions on the presidential search directly to members of the Consultative Committee, staff leadership will pursue more concrete representation in future presidential searches.

Robinson, who serves as the associate director of the Office of Student Life, said that his organization will "explore through proper avenues ways of getting input from staff, whether through surveys or through University Council," or the University Steering Committee.

"We're certainly addressing ways of having concerns more formally addressed from the staff point of view," he said, adding that he has been encouraging staffers to attend today's town meeting.

Mitchell, noting that the search committee "did facilitate us by holding those town meetings," said that he and his constituents are "looking for some more active ways [of] being involved in the future."

Though doubtful that the present search committee's roster will be changed "because of how far along the process is," Mitchell said that he hopes that future committees will reflect that "health care and education and business have changed, [and that] there are a lot more stakeholders than there used to be in the process."

Mitchell was confident that the staff would gain representation the next time around.

"Dynamics change and no one really realizes it until someone brings it to their attention."

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