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To the Editor:

David Lei ("Another Stitch in the Seam," 2/2/09) does not mention zoning laws in his paean to Penn's hotel project at 40th and Pine. Wharton, where he studies, does not teach zoning, but an aspiring journalist should learn on his own to document his allegations and seek a variety of sources. He only names one: Mr. Sorrentino, spokesman for the vice-president's office.

I cannot tell where Mr. Lei gets that the hotel's opponents have made "efforts to paint the University as hostile and unwelcome," or accused it of conspiracy; he is the one working to paint the opponents as mindless NIMBYs.

Mr. Lei asserts, "Penn has the right to use its own property as it sees fit." Not by ignoring the law, for which that land is 5A residential. To think that a high-rise hotel is the only solution for a property that the University has abandoned during five years ignores not only the residents but even the Wall Street Journal, for which "the downturn in the U.S. hotel industry is becoming so acute that it has thrust the sector in crisis" (1/20/09). There is reason to doubt that even Penn can guarantee "the project proves to be a success."

Magali Lawson Dr. Lawson is a community member

To The Editor:

If Penn is so concerned about the shortage of extended-stay hotel rooms to serve the University and the hospitals, why didn't it renovate Penn Towers Hotel - right across the street from the hospitals rather than seven blocks away - into an extended stay facility?

Your story fails to mention the gargantuan scale of the proposed building. One hundred fourteen units in 10 stories in the heart of a three- and four-story residential neighborhood (with only four on-site parking spaces).

If the hotel fails, it is most likely to be converted into efficiency apartments, putting up to 100 additional cars on nearby streets and choking both traffic and especially parking, both of which are already major challenges for residents and their guests.

The University has announced a three-story facility for transplant patients and families near the corner of 40th and Spruce next to Allegro Pizza. If not Penn Towers, why not swap the two facilities and put the 10-story hotel across from the dorms and dental school, and the transplant facility at 40th and Pine streets?

Mary Goldman Ms. Goldman is a community member

To the Editor:

In response to Christina Domenico's opinion piece last week ("For OCR, calm down and breathe deeply" 1/27/2009), I completely concur that panicking students should remember that OCR is not the only game in town. The Fels Public Policy Internship Program, which helps students in the College of Arts and Sciences find internships in Washington, has tripled the number of participants over three years, and students for 2009 are still coming in for help with applications. Why the jump? I have a few theories.

First, last year's presidential election saw an increase in the youth vote of 3.4 million over 2004. Not only did students vote, but as we saw here at Penn, students volunteered, attended political rallies, wore buttons and talked about politics regularly. Now that politicking has turned to policymaking, young students have turned their attention from the campaign trail to the center of all the action: Washington, D.C.

The second reason more students are looking to D.C. for internships this summer is the economy. I frequently hear from students that OCR so completely dominates the attention of so many students on campus that if you're not doing OCR (and heading for Wall Street), you're missing the boat. With internship programs on Wall Street getting downsized or put on hold, students who would have been happy to stick to OCR are now thinking about joining their policy-minded colleagues in Washington for the summer. And this is not such a bad idea; there are plenty of opportunities in and around government for students who want to work in places where people are coming up with ways to get the economy back on track. The other economic reason for a spike in applications to government is that they are definitely hiring, and they don't tend to resort to massive layoffs.

Diedre Martinez

Dr. Martinez the director of the Fels Public Policy Institute and Penn in Washington. She is the author of Washington Internships: How to get them and use them to launch your public policy career

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