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Although a major part of each of the fall trustees meetings was spent celebrating James Riepe’s decade as chairman of the board, much discussion also surrounded the University’s financial health, academic goals and environmental sustainability.

At the Budget and Finance Committee, chairman Mark Winkelman assured everyone that Penn is responding appropriately to changes in the financial environment.

Total net assets have increased from $7.6 billion on June 30 to $8.1 billion, as of Sept. 30. In that same time span, the endowment’s value increased from $5.2 to $5.6 billion. Most peer institutions have not seen any increase at all.

In terms of financial aid, Penn President Amy Gutmann reported “increased need among middle-income families” and emphasized that the University has been responding to that need.

The committee also authorized the construction of a new Law School building on Sansom Street, the lease of a library storage facility in West Deptford, N.J., and the second phase of the Chemistry 1958 Building laboratory renovations.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania budgetary appropriations have not yet been decided, but may be finalized in the next two weeks, according to Vice President of Budget and Management Analysis Bonnie Gibson. She estimated the appropriation would be about $4 million.

The Student Life Committee addressed concerns about communicable diseases. The University is in “the second wave of swine flu,” according to Student Health Service director Evelyn Weiner.

Associate Provost for Education Andy Binns also discussed the Faculty Council’s work on retention and graduation rates for underrepresented minority students.

The major discussion point of the Academic Policy Committee was theme years, which are “an attempt to engage undergraduates and all students at Penn … beyond the classroom,” according to Provost Vincent Price. The 2010-2011 theme will be water, which ties in with Penn’s sustainability goals.

This spring, the committee will brainstorm approximately a dozen future theme ideas, which will allow for long-term planning, according to Binns.

The External Affairs Committee, led by chairman Ed Mathias, also spoke about environmental sustainability and the new communications plan, which will be unveiled this fall, according Office of the Executive Vice President spokesman Tony Sorrentino.

At the Neighborhood Initiatives Committee, Netter Center for Community Partnerships director Ira Harkavy gave a presentation on the center’s goals to “engage locally, nationally and globally.” Vice President for Business Services Marie Witt discussed Penn’s efforts to increase business relationships with West Philadelphia companies.

After the meetings, David Cohen officially assumed his position as chairman of the Board of Trustees, replacing James Riepe, who will now head the Penn Medicine Board.

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