On Sept. 13, nine students showed up to Henry Teune’s “Citizenship and Democratic Development” class, unaware that their professor had died five months ago.
The failure to cancel the late Political Science professor’s class was due to an error by his department.
The students received an email about an hour after the class was scheduled to begin, informing them that there had been an oversight.
Teune’s course was supposed to be canceled over the summer, according to Political Science department Chairman Edward Mansfield.
“This was an unfortunate mistake and we will do all that we can to make sure that it does not happen again,” he wrote in an email.
The news surrounding Teune’s class was circulated through national media outlets including The Associated Press, The Washington Post and The Huffington Post.
Political Science professor Rudra Sil believes the incident garnered unnecessary attention.
“It is unfortunate that so many national blogs and media outlets just regurgitated bits and pieces of information they received from Penn sources without placing them in the proper context,” he said. “Maybe this was intended to amuse their readers, but in the process they missed the real story: the death of a distinguished faculty member who taught at a distinguished Ivy League university for over half a century.”
Following Teune’s death, the instructor of the class was changed to “Staff” on the course registrar and was open for student enrollment on Penn InTouch. The course was not formally canceled, as the department was unsure whether another faculty member would continue teaching it.
Teune co-taught the class with professor Ira Harkavy, director of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships and Graduate School of Education professor Matthew Hartley.
“This was obviously a mistake and one that we did not catch until the course met for the first time,” Mansfield wrote.
Individual departments are responsible for providing information about changes to courses, instructors and rosters to the University course registrar, according to Executive Director of the Provost’s Office Leo Charney.
In the event of a professor’s death, the usual protocol includes notifying PennWorks — the University’s web-based system for processing staff and faculty salaries — to terminate payment.
This process, usually carried out by the professor’s department, would enable the family of the deceased to claim benefits.
The professor’s school must also report the death to the Faculty Information System, which is managed by Information Systems and Computing. The system is a data bank of information about faculty, including terminations and appointments.
These steps were all taken following Teune’s death, Mansfield explained. However, students were still able to sign up for his “Citizenship and Democratic Development” class.
Deaths of current and former faculty and staff members, students and members of the University are printed in The Almanac — the University’s official journal of record, opinion and news. The publication is notified by the professor’s department, family or news sources, Editor Marguerite Miller said.
“Citizenship and Democratic Development” will not be offered next semester, and its status is uncertain for the next academic year.
Mansfield and Political Science department Administrator Jennifer Bottomley have contacted the students originally enrolled in the class to offer advising and help to find alternate classes, Mansfield wrote.
Teune’s other class, “Human Rights,” has been reassigned to adjunct assistant professor Eileen Doherty-Sil.
Teune is still listed as an active faculty member on the department’s website — a deliberate decision by Mansfield. It will remain until the Oct. 5 memorial service.
“Leaving him on the website until then was intended to be a sign of respect for a distinguished colleague and his family,” Mansfield wrote.
Teune had taught at Penn since 1961, serving as Political Science department chairman from 1975 to 1979 and vice dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences from 1967 to 1969.
His internationally renowned work focused on comparative urban studies and democracy around the world. Since 1990, he served as the project director of the Democracy and Local Governance Project, an international research group. He received three Fulbright grants and was honored by numerous international awards.Comments powered by Disqus
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