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Crime was at the top of the agenda at yesterday's meeting of the University Council.

Adding to the last status report she submitted to the Council, University President Judith Rodin addressed the recent rash of criminal activity.

"Many of you are aware that we have begun to see an increase in robberies... particularly in the University City area," Rodin said, adding that the administration is "very aware" of the incidents and will be taking positive, aggressive steps to combat crime around the University.

Penn's Chief of Police Thomas Rambo detailed security improvements currently underway, including educational campaigns through student government and residential organizations and increased plainclothes and uniformed police presence that has "saturated the area plagued by the robberies."

Allied Security and University City District safety ambassadors will also be on patrol from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., Rambo said.

Rambo stressed that "safety and security [are] a shared responsibility," and urged students, faculty and staff members to make use of 898-RIDE and 898-WALK transit and escort services.

Noting that Penn's crime rate is "lower than general Philadelphia numbers," Rodin added that, "as a mother of a college student, please pick up the phone and ask someone to walk with you or drive you if you're out late at night. Don't hesitate to ask when it gets late."

Secretary of the University Leslie Kruhly then took the floor on behalf of the Consultative Committee for the Selection of a President, announcing a day of "town hall meetings" on Sept. 30.

The committee is "hoping to meet with as many members of the faculty, administration and staff and the student body as possible," Kruhly said.

There will be three meetings on Tuesday -- one for faculty, one for students and one for administrators and staff.

The meetings for students and administration and staff will be held from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in Houston Hall's Bodek Lounge and in room 200 of College Hall, respectively. The meeting for faculty will take place earlier in the day, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in Bodek Lounge.

The Council heard reports from committees examining Penn's relationship with West Philadelphia and the community dynamic within the University itself.

Microbiology Professor Yvonne Patterson presented her committee's findings on the user-friendliness of Penn's Web site as part of its overall charge to "assess local communication" and "develop protocols for communication and outreach."

The site "falls well short" when it comes to reaching West Philadelphians, Patterson said, noting that though the site is welcoming for prospective and current students and alumni, "there isn't an icon for local residents to click on."

The committee is further committed to seeking feedback from University City residents who, lacking access to computers or otherwise disengaged from community organizations, might not be able to voice their opinions.

The Council also addressed proposed amendments to the University's non-discrimination policy, resolving to examine the possibility of stressing the difference between the University's policy and that employed by the Department of Defense concerning sexual preference.

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