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University Board of Trustees Chairman James Riepe, who heads the presidential search committee, addresses students in Bodek Lounge. [Ryan Jones/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

Faculty, students and staff made their thoughts, feelings and frustrations known yesterday at hour-long meetings hosted by members of the Consultative Committee who are currently spearheading the search for Penn's next president.

But first, committee members delivered pre-arranged talking points on appropriate characteristics of and challenges likely to be faced by the next president.

"In terms of the priorities of the University... [we want] the momentum that was established over the decade to be maintained," said Chairman of Penn's Board of Trustees James Riepe, who moderated the meeting with students.

Riepe also stressed academic credibility, management skills and the ability to make what may be "difficult" decisions about resource allocation on the horizon.

"We think this decade is going to be a little more subdued," Riepe said, noting that the next administration will have "a less generous economy in which they will have to operate."

Turnout at the student session was considered low by many, and the attendance was largely dominated by campus leaders.

"In terms of the minority leaders, I think we all felt individually that is was important," United Minorities Council Chairwoman Darcy Richie said. "So we all came out."

Overall, students expressed desire for a strong new president focused on academics and student interests.

"I've always felt that it's Dr. Rodin up on a pedestal," Engineering and Wharton senior John Ozark said. "I would like to see the president be more approachable to the students -- someone working with you, not above you."

At the session held for non-faculty University employees, moderator Egbert Perry highlighted the concern that, as Penn becomes more prestigious, other institutions may challenge its employee retention efforts, poaching faculty and staff and "using Penn as a recruiting ground."

Perry concluded the outline on the search committee's ideas for the next president with a suggestion as to where the committee might find qualified candidates.

"I think we know where to find one actually," he said. "He's on a cross... but we can settle for a close second."

Though all three moderators began the meetings -- each attended by about 50 people -- with similar presentations, the staff and student sessions focused almost immediately on the dynamics of the committee itself.

Perry, a trustee representative to the committee and a member on the board of overseers of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, held an informal vote after hearing the same issue -- the lack of staff members on the search committee -- raised by nearly every staffer who spoke.

"How many of you are frustrated that there is no staff representation?" he asked, and every hand in the room shot up.

However, no changes in the makeup of the search committee are being considered.

"In an institution of this size... the search committee simply can't be representative of everybody," Riepe said.

Search committee member and Law Professor Charles Mooney added that while changes to future search committees "will indeed be discussed," it would be "seriously disruptive to the process" to add new representatives to this year's search.

Egbert noted that the search committee is "not in a position to deal with" complaints about its membership, adding that "the trustees as a body would have to do something to make that possible."

Nevertheless, a number of people stressed their commitment to become involved in the search beyond the hour-long meetings.

"I want to know if our next president will view administrators and staff as a true interest group along with students and faculty," associate director of the Office of Student Life Rodney Robinson said.

Robinson, who chairs the Penn Professional Staff Assembly, said that the PPSA will conduct a survey of its membership's views on the presidential search to forward to the committee.

Chairman of the Weekly-paid Professional Staff Assembly Omar Mitchell added that he would like to see staff members directly involved in the process as soon as possible, perhaps in an advisory capacity attached to the committee.

"If you want staff input and you value staff input, put us on the committee," Mitchell said. "It's not too late."

Though some questions were left hanging, others were easier to answer, including one student's question about the possible pervasion of anti-Semitism on Penn's campus.

"We certainly will not select anyone that we think will be anti-Semitic," Riepe responded.

Staff reporter Laura Sullivan contributed to this report.

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