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For the last year, administrators have given significant lip service to efforts to bring political candidates to campus during this election season. While Al Gore and George W. Bush both skirted Penn during their swings through Philadelphia, the University did have the opportunity to stage a nationally televised political forum before a crowd of Penn students tonight. And it blew it. MSNBC political analyst Frank Luntz, a former Penn professor and one of the nation's best-known pollsters, wanted to hold a televised focus group of 30 undecided voters tonight in the Annenberg Center's Zellerbach Theatre. Penn students would have filled the audience as the discussants talked about the election. But for the privileges of hosting a worthwhile political event and drawing national media attention to the University, the center saw fit to present MSNBC with a bill for $22,000. Such an event would normally cost the network a small fraction of that sum, and it understandably balked. The focus group will now be held in the Inn at Penn for about $8,000, though there will be no room for students to watch. We understand that Annenberg would incur some costs by hosting the focus group, though $22,000 does seem a little excessive for a three-hour event. What disturbs us is that no one in the administration saw fit to fork over some discretionary funds to allow Penn students to witness this program. Luntz gave the University every opportunity to step in and make things happen, a surprise given how he was ignominiously relieved of his faculty position in 1994. Penn should have been at least half as gracious in return.

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