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True diversity

To the Editor:

I was heartened to read that Penn has raised its no-loan threshold to $60,000 ("Penn raises no-loan threshold to $60,000," DP, 3/23/07). While Penn must continue to do more in terms of undergraduate financial aid, this is a significant step. However, the DP also reported that a total of 496 students will be affected by the no-loan threshold (213 from the $60k or less increase in addition to 283 who benefited from the pre-existing $50k or less policy).

If these numbers are indeed correct, I am extremely troubled - and shocked - that only about 5 percent of Penn undergraduates are from "lower" or "working" class families. What kind of economic diversity is this?

As a recent Penn grad (and current Penn staff member) from a working class family, I feel strongly that Penn must immediately do more to recruit students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. This must be accomplished through admissions recruitment and outreach as well as through financial aid.

The first principle of President Gutmann's Penn Compact is Increasing Access. Five hundred students out of 10,000 makes it clear that we have a long way to go.

Jamie-Lee Josselyn College 2005

Go to class

To the Editor:

Poor Daniel Schoenbrun just wants to learn - that's all. Unfortunately, we "petty professors" are trying to prevent him from doing so by requiring that he attend class.

Why is he at Penn? Since he just wants to learn, it couldn't be because he only wants a marketable credential that will open doors for him in the future, because any marketability would be based on the assumption that he took advantage of his opportunity to study at Penn.

Mr. Schoenbrun sounds like a perfect candidate for an online degree. No pesky attendance! No need to interact with other humans (or even professors)! No need to put up with "boring," "distracting" class meetings! Learning is entirely passive - just like watching TV!

Education happens in many places and in many ways. Participating in a college classroom is only one among many ways to learn. But if you want the kind of education that my colleagues and I can offer, you have to show up and pay attention. Something happens inside a classroom when students, professors and TAs are all physically present - alternately speaking, listening, and reflecting - that can't be reproduced in front of a screen or in the library.

Not interested? Don't waste our time. Log on and knock yourself out. Make room for one of the thousands of highly qualified applicants who would sacrifice anything to be here. Someone who's willing to show up and contribute.

David Barnes Professor of History and Sociology of Science

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