This article appeared in the joke issue. The University has filed a libel suit against Time magazine over an article about Penn in its March 17 issue. The lawsuit names Time and reporter Erik Larson -- a 1976 College graduate and author of the story -- as defendant, and seeks $25 million in damages, according to General Counsel Shelley Green. In the article, entitled "Why Colleges Cost Too Much," Larson used Penn's budget to examine why the costs of higher education have far outpaced the inflation rate over the past 20 years. He criticized many of the University's budget priorities in light of its high tuition rates, and suggested that Penn and other schools could easily maintain good financial standing even if they slashed tuition. But that isn't the case, the University's lawsuit argues. "[Larson and Time] willfully and maliciously manipulated confidential budget numbers to make it appear that the University keeps tuition inflated artificially," University President Judith Rodin said. "We really do have some very necessary expenses, and we're doing all we can to restrain our costs." The lawsuit claims Larson's piece has irreparably damaged Penn's reputation nationwide, lowering the number of accepted students who will enroll at the University in the fall. The University's brief estimates that enrollment will drop to only 815 students for the entering class of 2001. Since that estimate includes the approximately 805 students accepted early decision in December, officials expect only 10 students to enroll after getting an acceptance letter next month. "We've already fielded a lot of calls from angry parents, saying there's no way they'll send their children here knowing that at least half of their tuition will disappear into thin air," Admissions Dean Lee Stetson said. "Since we usually like to have around 2,500 students in each class, it really worries us that we might see that number drop by almost 75 percent." Time attorney Don Pullen "absolutely, categorically" denied the charges in the lawsuit. Pullen said everything in the story was "dead-on accurate," and suggested that the University was waging "a smear campaign" against the media. "You [at The Daily Pennsylvanian] should be worried, too," he said. "It's clear that Penn has no respect for the press as an institution. They're just trying to scare people away from writing about their finances with this suit." Pullen said Larson discovered far more damaging information in his reporting than he published in the article, adding that what did appear in Time had gone through a careful vetting process involving editors, lawyers, fact-checkers and philologists. Among the information not included in the article was that the University -- and not Provost Stanley Chodorow -- has been covering the costs of his frequent cross-country and overseas trips to interview for top posts at competing institutions. Last year, the University paid for Chodorow to stay in Paris when he applied for a job at the Sorbonne, to Cape Town for an interview at University of South Africa and to a small resort island in the South Pacific while he was under consideration for a job as Club Med's education director. The total cost of these trips and others exceeded $500,000. Another hidden cost in the University budget paid for the College of Arts and Sciences to hire a consulting firm that studied the benefits of offering a liberal arts education at Penn. The College spent more than $1.5 million on the report, which recommended closing the entire School of Arts and Sciences immediately before "the University hemmorhages more money," according to Larson's notes. Larson's reporting also revealed that the University's endowment -- publicly estimated at about $2.1 billion -- actually tops $7.3 trillion. The University, it appears, owns a controlling interest in almost every Fortune 500 corporation in the United States, as well as in the governments of several European nations. Political Science Professor Karl Von Vorys said Penn's influence was the only thing preventing World War III from erupting tomorrow. "If not for the calming powers of Judith Rodin, certainly by now Spain would have attacked Finland over their balance of trade," Von Vorys explained. "And that would have involved the other Scandinavian countries, as well as Spain's allies in Southern Europe? The result would be an unimaginably disastrous conflagration that could well destroy civilization as we know it." Rodin denied any knowledge of foreign affairs, but her travel schedule does include the entry "Summit in Madrid" for next week. Larson could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit.Comments powered by Disqus
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