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Don't repeat history

To the Editor: I read with interest the story on the University's funding problems regarding the housing and dining renewal project ("Troubled finances delay U. dorm project, The Daily Pennsylvanian, 10/27/00). As a resident advisor in Goldberg College House, I am disturbed that the much-needed reinvigoration of our college house system may not go forward as originally planned. There is an oft-used phrase that history repeats itself. When the University last engaged in a major residential expansion in the 1960s, budgetary constraints were a chief concern. An original plan for five mid-rise buildings in the Superblock area was altered and evolved into the three high-rises which are widely known as the eyesores of the Penn's campus. This fundamental change in plans was executed largely to cut down on construction expenses, with no discernable benefit to the student population. I hope that, in the haste to make new beds available and further develop our new house system, we do not compromise our principles to design and construct advanced, appealing and long-lasting residence halls. Perhaps it might behoove the University to delay construction rather than to commence a major undertaking with nothing but mediocre goals and limited resources. And while I certainly encourage the University to actively raise funds to ensure the viability of this project, it might also be time for the Trustees and administration to charge a panel with the task of examining the University's relationship with its Health System to ensure that vital academic and social programs are not eliminated to subsidize a prestigious but economically unprofitable medical center.

Adam Michaels College '02

Think outside the box

To the Editor: Erin Reilly's column ("Creative school solutions," DP, 11/1/00) claims that Al Gore approaches the nation's educational problems "creatively." But what's so creative about reheating policies that have proven ineffective in the past? Most of Gore's so-called solutions have been tried before with little to show for them. He offers more money, but U.S. test scores have declined over the past 30 years even as per-student spending has increased over 30 percent. He plans to offer merit pay for good teachers, even as pilot programs across the country indicate that such pay has little to no effect on student performance. A truly "creative" solution might require teachers to actually know something about the subject matter they purport to teach. Studies have consistently shown that teacher quality and training significantly affect student performance. But you'll never hear Gore suggest that what we need is not better-paid teachers, but simply better teachers. A call for more rigorous teacher testing and certification would put him at odds with the teachers' unions, which more often than not stand as roadblocks on the path to educational reform. Meanwhile, Gore rails against George W. Bush's plans to allow states to develop voucher plans that would allow parents concerned about the quality of the teaching at their children's school to send their children to another school, private or public, in which they have more confidence. Gore claims that these plans would have disastrous effects on school systems, but pilot programs around the nation fail to support this assertion. Maybe we should be willing to give voucher plans a chance to succeed, rather than relying on policies that have already failed.

Seth Goldstein Law '03

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