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There are moments during this Philadelphia summer when I fancy myself the kid the camp bus left behind.

The suspicious part of me is glad I finally missed the bus. Things always changed when I went away to camp, and the ultimate indignity was that things never seemed to change for the better.

The well-loved upholstery of my favorite sofa turned floral one summer, the same year the walls of my room were "restored" to a color called eggshell white. And then there was the year my childhood book collection disappeared.

I know that my absence facilitated the change without causing it. But insert "the loss of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel" for "change," and we are no longer on the same page. It would not have happened had I been there.

Still, I've seen enough Septembers to accept that change -- even summer change -- is sometimes a good thing. I've even come to grips with my mother's determination to paint rooms while their occupants are away. Construction, like pennant races, should intensify during the summer months and conclude by September.

If Italian marble and American steel remain plentiful, Penn's own Perelman Quadrangle, Sundance Cinemas and are all on pace to give summer construction this kind of good name.

Meanwhile, Engineering's Levine Hall and The Left Bank apartment complex are just getting underway, the Quadrangle, Huntsman Hall and the new Dental building projects continue, and approximately two out of every three sidewalks in University city are under construction. This is as it should be, though whoever is in charge might want to stop building new sidewalks in front of ongoing construction projects.

Summer is also a great time for people to come and go. Almost too obvious to mention is the fact that one in four Penn students leaves at the beginning of summer, and is replaced at the end. Elderly faculty become

erstwhile faculty -- emeritus in Latin -- and every department but Political Science brings in fresh blood to fill the ranks.

Administrators also use the summer months as a transition period. This year has already seen Ken Wildes, Penn's spokesman, and University Secretary Rose McManus announce their resignations.

The dog days of summer are a fine time to find and acculturate replacements, although the University's announcement that it will conduct a national search for Wildes' successor likely means it will be the dog days of next summer before a new spokesperson is in place.

Of course, some summer change is enough to make a kid stay home from camp.

The relatively mild variety is change that happens while you're away, but would happen anyway. Such is this summer's announcement that the Institute for Human Gene Therapy will no longer conduct, ahem, human gene therapy.

I don't doubt that the happy coincidence of the month of May with the need to make a humiliating announcement deeply gratified University administrators. But however serendipitous, the timing remains just that: a coincidence. The announcement was the latest move in an ongoing plea bargaining process pitting Penn against federal regulators, and obeyed that timetable alone.

Far more objectionable is the kind of change that happens because you're away. This summer, for example, "members of the community" have been given until September 15 to register their thoughts on the University's new electronic privacy policy. Since "members of the community" are not invited back to campus until the end of August, this hardly seems sporting. It is, however, highly traditional at dear old Penn.

Of course, those who are away from campus for the summer won't be hearing about any of this until they return in the fall. I'll smile knowingly as they gawk and gab about how things have changed. And then I'll feel better about missing the bus.

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