I.H. The University Council, the Faculty Senate, and University Committees

There are two University-wide deliberative bodies: the University Council and the Faculty Senate. The University Council was established in 1963, was modified in 1969, and assumed its present form in 2007. The Faculty Senate was established in 1952 and assumed its present function through reorganization in 1962.

I.H.1. The University Council

(Source: University Council Bylaws, 1969; revised, Almanac, September 23, 2003; revised, Almanac, February 28, 2007)

(The text below is an abbreviated description of the University Council’s bylaws.)

I. Scope and Purpose

The University Council is a deliberative and broadly representative forum that exists to consider the activities of the University in all of its phases, with particular attention to the educational objectives of the University and those matters that affect the common interests of faculty, staff and students. It may recommend general policies and otherwise advise the President, the Provost, and other officers of the University. It is authorized to initiate policy proposals as well as to express its judgment on those submitted to it by the administrative officers of the University and its various academic divisions. It is also empowered to request information through appropriate channels from any member of the University administration.

II. Membership

The University Council shall be composed of administrative officers and elected representatives of the faculty, students, and staff as follows:

Forty-five members of the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate. The Faculty Senate shall insure that each faculty is represented and that at least three assistant professors serve on the Council.

One full-time lecturer and one full-time member of the Research Faculty to be selected to serve two-year terms by vote of the full-time lecturers and research faculty, respectively. Eleven administrative officers, including the President, the Provost, and nine members of the administration to be appointed annually by the President, at least five of whom shall be deans of faculties.

Fifteen graduate and professional students elected as members of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly. The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly shall insure that, to the extent possible, each school is represented.

Fifteen undergraduate students elected as members of the Undergraduate Assembly. The Undergraduate Assembly shall insure that, to the extent possible, each undergraduate school is represented.

Two elected representatives of the Penn Professional Staff Assembly.

One elected representative of the Librarians Assembly.

Two elected representatives of the Weekly-Paid Professional Staff Assembly.

One elected representative of the United Minorities Council.

III. Positions

The President of the University is the presiding officer of the Council. Each year, with the advice of the Steering Committee and the consent of the Council, the President shall appoint a Moderator of the Council, who shall become a non-voting member of the Council. The President, or in the absence of the President, the Provost, shall open each meeting and shall normally turn the conduct of the meeting over to the moderator.

The President shall each year appoint a Parliamentarian, in consultation with the Steering Committee. It is the parliamentarian’s duty to advise the moderator and the presiding officer in the application of Robert’s Rule of Order Revised, as modified by special rules of the Council.

The Secretary of the University or the Secretary’s designee shall be Secretary of the Council.

IV. Steering Committee


The Steering Committee shall prepare the agenda for meetings of the Council. Resolutions that committees elect to place on the Council agenda should be submitted to the Council through the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee may give its advice concerning such resolutions to the Council whenever the Steering Committee believes that its advice would be helpful.

The Steering Committee shall publish an annual report to the University community. This report, to be published early in the academic year, shall include a review of the previous year’s Council deliberations (highlighting both significant discussions and the formal votes taken on matters of substance) and a survey of major issues to be taken up by the Council during the coming year.


The Steering committee shall consist of the President of the University; the Provost; the Chair, the Chair-Elect and the Past Chair of the Faculty Senate; the Chair of the Undergraduate Assembly; the Chair of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly; the Chair of the Penn Professional Staff Assembly; and the Chair of the Weekly-Paid Professional Staff Assembly.

Drawn from the Council membership there shall be in addition four faculty members, one graduate/professional student, and one undergraduate student elected by the respective governing bodies, as well as one additional member of the Penn Professional Staff Assembly, and one additional member of the Weekly-Paid Professional Staff Assembly, each elected by their representative assemblies The Chair of the Faculty Senate shall be the Chair of the Steering Committee. The Council Moderator will be an official observer at meetings of the Steering Committee.

The Secretary of the Council shall serve as secretary of the Steering Committee. Members of the Steering Committee may attend the meetings of Council committees.

V. Committees

Any member of the University may be asked to serve on committees of the University Council, which include standing committees, subcommittees of standing committees, special committees created by the Council from time to time, and the independent committees; only members of the University shall be eligible for membership on these committees. All committee members are eligible for reappointment, if mutually agreeable, for a maximum of four years total consecutive service. To provide continuity, chairs-elect may be designated. Committee chairs, in consultation with their committee, may invite guests to attend committee meetings.

To the extent possible, each committee shall normally include at least one faculty member, one undergraduate student and one graduate student who are members of the Council.

  1. Standing Committees
    The standing committees of the Council are those whose activities are directly instrumental in advancing the work of the Council. The President, Provost, Chair and Chair-Elect of the Faculty Senate, Chair of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and Chair of the Undergraduate Assembly (or their designees) shall be entitled to attend meetings of all standing committees of the Council and to participate in the discussions.
    Each standing committee (except as otherwise specified below shall consist of not fewer than five and not more than eight faculty members, two representatives of the Penn Professional Staff Assembly, two representative of the Weekly-Paid Professional Staff Assembly, two graduate/professional students, and two undergraduate students.
    1. Committee on Academic and Related Affairs. The Committee
      1. shall have cognizance over matters of recruitment, admissions, and financial aid that concern the University as a whole and that are not the specific responsibility of individual faculties, including the authority to carry out studies on existing recruitment and admissions procedures and their relationships with existing policies on admissions and financial aid and to recommend changes in policy to the Council;
      2. shall consider the purposes of a University bookstore and advise the Council and the management of the University bookstore on policies, development, and operations;
      3. shall review and monitor issues related to the international programs and other international activities of the University, including advice and policy recommendation in such areas as services for international students and scholars, foreign fellowships and studies abroad, faculty, staff and student exchange programs and cooperative undertakings with foreign universities;
      4. shall advise the Vice Provost and Director of libraries on the policies, development, and operation of the University libraries;
      5. shall have cognizance over recreation and intramural intercollegiate athletics and their integration with the educational program of the University, including the planning and provision of adequate facilities for various sports and recreational activities; and (vi) shall have cognizance of all matters of policy relating to research and the general environment for research at the University, including the assignment and distribution of indirect costs and the assignment of those research funds distributed by the University, and shall advise the administration on those proposals for sponsored research referred to it because of potential conflict with University policy.
    2. The Committee on Campus and Community Life. The Committee
      1. shall have cognizance over the University’s communications and public relations activities in their various formats and media including electronic, audio (the telephone system), video and printed copy, and it shall monitor the University's internal communications, the operations of the University Communications Office, communications to alumni, and the interpretation of the University to its many constituencies;
      2. shall advise the Council on the relationship of the University to the surrounding community and the relevant University policies, work to ensure that the University develops and maintains a constructive relationship with the community, and monitor pending real estate activities of concern to the community;
      3. shall have cognizance of the conditions and rules of undergraduate and graduate student life on campus, including gathering and analyzing information concerning student life and student affairs and making recommendations to Council; and responding as appropriate to requests from and reporting information and recommendations concerning student life and student affairs to the Vice Provost for University Life and other appropriate administrative officers; and.
      4. shall advise the President, the Vice President of Public Safety, and the administrators or directors of specific buildings, offices, or projects on all matters concerning safety and security in the conduct of their operations, including consideration and assessment of means to improve safety and security on the campus.
    3. Committee on Committees. The Committee on Committees, on behalf of the Steering Committee, shall monitor all Council standing and ad hoc committees to assess their continuing usefulness. It shall familiarize itself with the work and performance of committees and present recommendations to the Steering Committee for such changes in the structure, charges and number of members as it thinks appropriate.
      The Committee on Committees shall receive nominations from the various constituencies for membership on the standing committees and the independent committees with the exception of the Committee on Open Expression. It shall transmit those nominations together with recommendations for committee chairs to the Steering Committee.
      The Committee shall consist of six faculty members (including the Chair-Elect of the Faculty Senate). They shall nominate faculty members for the various committees on behalf of the Faculty Senate. In addition there shall be a representative from each of the following: the Penn Professional Staff Assembly, the Weekly-Paid Professional Staff Assembly, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, and the (undergraduate) Nominations and Elections Committee. The Chair-Elect of the Faculty Senate shall be a voting ex officio member of the committee.
    4. Committee on Facilities. The Committee shall be responsible for keeping under review the planning and operation by the University of its physical plant and all services associated therewith, including transportation and parking.
      Committee on Personnel Benefits. The Committee shall have cognizance over the benefits programs for all University personnel. The Committee shall consist of eight faculty members (of whom one shall be a member of the Senate Committee on the Economic Status of the Faculty), three representatives of the Penn Professional Staff Assembly, and three representatives of the Weekly-Paid Professional Staff Assembly. The Vice President for Human Resources, Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs, and Director of Benefits shall serve as nonvoting ex officio members.
    5. Committee on Diversity and Equity. The Committee aids Penn in fostering and taking full advantage of its diversity as well as in strengthening ties across all boundaries to enrich and enliven the campus community. The Committee shall advise the offices of the President, Provost, the Executive Vice President, and the Vice Provost for University Life on ways to develop and maintain a supportive atmosphere on campus for the inclusion and appreciation of pluralism among all members of the University community. The Committee shall review and provide advice regarding the University’s equal opportunity and affirmative action programs and policies. The areas in which the Committee shall report to the Council include diversity within the educational and work settings, integration of staff and faculty into the larger campus community, and ways to foster a campus environment that is inclusive and supportive of difference. The Committee also shall advise the administration on specific diversity issues that may arise on campus.
  2. Subcommittees
    Any standing committee shall have the power to delegate specific tasks or functions to subcommittees whose members shall include one or more members of the parent committee. In addition, as issues arise, subcommittees of standing committees may be constituted, appointed, and given specific charges by the Steering Committee or, in consultation with the Steering Committee, by the Chair of the Faculty Senate, the Committee on Committees, or the chair of a standing committee. The membership of a subcommittee is not limited to members of the relevant standing committee, but to the extent possible members of subcommittees shall include at least one member of that standing committee. Where appropriate a subcommittee may be a joint subcommittee of more than one standing committee.
  3. Special Committees
    The Council may create special committees to undertake specific tasks or functions. The membership of special committees shall be specified in the charges detailed by the Council in creating such committees.
  4. Independent Committees
    The Council takes cognizance of several University committees, which it does not directly charge but which may be called upon to report to the Council on specific issues within their purview.
    1. Committee on Open Expression. This Committee has as its major task: monitoring the communication processes to prevent conflicts that might emerge from failure of communication, recommending policies and procedures for improvement of all levels of communication, investigating alleged infringements of the right of open expression of any member or members of the University community, advising administrative officers where appropriate, and participating in evaluation and resolution of conflicts that may arise from incidents or disturbances on campus.
      The Committee shall consist of seventeen members: eight faculty members, two representatives of the Penn Professional Staff Assembly, one representative of the Weekly-Paid Professional Staff Assembly, three undergraduate students, and three graduate/professional students. The faculty and representatives of the Penn Professional Staff Assembly are appointed to two-year terms, staggered so that in each year either two or three faculty members are appointed, and one representative of the Penn Professional Staff Assembly is appointed. The student members are appointed to one-year terms.
      The chair of the Committee shall be selected by the Committee on Committees from among the members. The jurisdiction of and procedures of the Committee shall follow the Guidelines on Open Expression.
    2. Committee on Honorary Degrees. The Committee solicits nominations from faculty and staff members and students for honorary degrees to be awarded by the University at Commencement and at special convocations and submits a slate of nominees for action by the trustees. It may make recommendations to the President regarding Commencement speakers and the conduct of special convocations. The Committee shall consist of eight faculty members, two graduate/professional students, two undergraduate students, one representative of the Penn Professional Staff Assembly, and one representative of the Weekly-Paid Professional Staff Assembly.

I.H.2. The Faculty Senate

(Source: Manual of the University Senate, 1969; revised, Office of the Faculty Senate, 1981; revised, 2006)

The Statutes of the Trustees (Article 9) state that "there shall be a Faculty Senate composed of members of the Standing Faculty and the Standing Faculty-Clinician-Educator holding the rank of Professor, Associate Professor, or Assistant Professor. The Senate shall provide opportunity for its members to discuss and express their views upon any matter that they deem to be of general interest to the faculty, and to make recommendations and pass resolutions with respect thereto. It shall have power to make recommendations directly to the President, the Provost, and the Trustees, and to request reports from the University administration.

The officers of the Senate are the Chair, the Past Chair, the Chair-Elect, the Secretary, and the Secretary-Elect. The Chair of the Senate is the principal executive officer, calls meetings of the Senate and of the Executive Committee, prepares agendas, and presides at meetings. The Senate Chair also serves simultaneously as the chair of the University Council’s Steering Committee.

The Senate Executive Committee consists of the officers of the Senate, thirty-six faculty members elected by separate faculty constituencies, twelve at-large faculty members, three Assistant Professors elected by the faculty as a whole, and one nonvoting representative from the Penn Association of Senor and Emeritus Faculty (PASEF). The Executive Committee meets once each month during the academic year and may act for the Senate on substantive policy issues.

The Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility, the Committee on the Economic Status of the Faculty, and the Nominating Committee are standing committees of the Senate whose members are elected by the entire Senate. The Senate Consultation Subcommittee consists of the Chair, Chair-Elect, and Past Chair and regularly meets with the President and Provost during the academic year to discuss matters of concern to the faculty. Other standing committees, appointed by the Executive Committee, are the Committee on the Faculty and Administration, the Committee on Faculty and the Academic Mission, the Committee on Students and Educational Policy, the Committee on Publication Policy for the Almanac, the Committee on Faculty Development, Diversity and Equity and the Committee on Committees. Further information and copies of the Manual of the Faculty Senate may be obtained through the Office of the Faculty Senate.