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Despite the hype surrounding freshmen representative elections, the Undergraduate Assembly is not the only governing body immersed in drama on campus.

The Faculty Grievance Commission — an independent committee of faculty members appointed by the Faculty Senate Executive Committee — held two grievance hearings for faculty members who believed they were “subject to action contrary to University procedures, policies, and/or regulations” in Academic Year 2009-2010, according to a recent article in The Almanac.

The Grievance Commission rejected one grievance, and the Office of the Provost ultimately rejected the other after the Grievance Commission submitted a recommendation in the complainant’s favor.

No further information is available about the claims or the individuals filing them. This confidentiality is necessary because “we don’t want people who want to grieve to have to worry that there are going to be any hints as to who they are,” according to professor Vivian Seltzer, current chairwoman of the Grievance Commission and former chairwoman of the Faculty Senate.

The grievance hearing process, however, is just one function associated with the Faculty Senate.

Composed of 58 faculty members across the 12 schools of the University, the Faculty Senate has long been serving as “the voice of the faculty,” according to Vice Provost for Faculty Lynn Hollen Lees.

The body is divided into various committees, such as “Economic Status of the Faculty” and “Academic Freedom and Responsibility”, to examine issues relevant to faculty members. The leadership of the body — composed of the past chairperson, current chairperson and chairperson-elect — also meets regularly with the President’s Office and the Provost’s Office, Lees added.

Though it does not have any formal power to actually enact policy, Lees said the body engages with administrators in the “joint exploration of different policies so we can improve the administration at Penn.”

Over the years, the body has taken interest in the position of women at Penn, hiring practices and tenure and retirement benefits among other issues, Lees said.

Penn’s recently created faculty mentoring program, for example, initially “came out of a Faculty Senate committee,” Lees noted.

Most recently, Lees added, the body has been focusing on faculty diversity.

Penn President Amy Gutmann said the relationship between the Faculty Senate and the administration is “almost seamless.” The advisory process of the institution, she added, “promotes good relationships between the faculty and the administration.”

In fact, the Faculty Senate has occasionally served as a stepping stone to higher administrative positions at Penn.

Provost Vince Price, a former Communications professor, served as Faculty Senate chairman from 2006 to 2007. According to Sue White, executive assistant to the Faculty Senate Office, “a handful” of other Faculty Senate members have also gone on to occupy administrative posts.

While serving on the body, White added, these individuals “develop relationships they might not have if they hadn’t done this, and they just get recognized for it … it’s usually pretty obvious when someone is really good.”

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