Proponents of a suit against the University said an advertisement in two local newspapers Friday was "a cheap public relations trick" designed to undermine their suit which criticizes the University's relationship with the city. Full-page ads in Friday's Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News offer the University's congratulation to the winners of last Tuesday's mayoral and City Council elections. The ads also assert the University's commitment to the city, and lists over 60 campus organizations and programs -- including the West Philadelphia Improvement Corps, the Law School's "Pro Bono Program" and the Kite and Key Society -- that assist city residents. The list also includes the University's Mayor's Scholarship Program. A Philadelphia law center and three campus groups have sued the University over the program, charging that the administration does not provide enough of these scholarships. The complaint also faults the University with not publicizing the program. "[The ad] is a blatant and transparent attempt by the Hackney administration to avoid the consequences of their conduct for the past 14 years," said Associate Law Professor Ralph Smith, a member of one of the campus organizations listed as a plaintiff in the suit. "[The administration] will engage in public relations gimmicks to persuade people inside and outside the University that the University is a good citizen in Philadelphia," added Smith, a member of the African-American Association of Faculty, Staff and Administrators. But despite the fact the money did not come from the University, Thomas Gilhool, the attorney from the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, said yesterday that it was not coincidental that ads ran shortly after PILCOP filed the Mayor's Scholarship suit. "It is not a coincidence, it is not even a fishy coincidence -- it is boldfaced, astonishingly boldfaced," Gilhool said. "They must not be terribly confident of their reading of the ordinance." The suit over the scholarships centers around a series of ordinances condensed in 1977, in which the University agreed "to establish and forever maintain at least 125 four-year full tuition scholarships or their equivalent" in exchange for parcels of land. The University and PILCOP disagree whether the number of scholarships should be 125 total for all classes each year or 125 new scholarships each year -- for a total of 500. University officials said yesterday that the ad was not in response to the suit, but rather as a "morale-boosting gesture" for the city. "I think the intent of the ad was to reflect that Penn does a number of positive things for the city of Philadelphia and has a commitment to the city and residents," Budget Director Stephen Golding said last night. Hackney said last night the ad was designed to encourage Philadelphians to come together and help the city out of its current financial problems. "Our future is wound up in the future of the city of Philadelphia," the president said. "The University clearly has a lot at stake and a long-term self interest. If the city doesn't thrive we won't thrive." Hackney added that the ads are consistent with other "votes of confidence" by the administration, including prepaying the University's wage taxes last year and buying city bonds. "The ad shows some of the formal mechanisms that Penn people contribute," Hackney said. "Penn is willing to help." The Inquirer and Daily News advertising departments could not be reached for comment over the weekend, but the cost has been estimated at over $10,000 for the two ads. Vice President of Development Rick Nahm said last night that many alumni who had returned for the Homecoming weekend were pleased with advertisement and impressed with the amount of work the University does for the community. "The alumni were positive and excited about the involvement," Nahm said. "The outcome of the election is the appropriate time, the right time to pledge support to the government and Philadelphia certainly needs the momentum."Comments powered by Disqus
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