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Area students spooked at Penn

(11/01/00 10:00am)

No one ever knew the basement of Harnwell College House could be so scary. Around 50 students from area schools found out on Friday afternoon just how spooky the high rises can be when they took part in the annual Civic House Halloween event. The students, involved in various programs sponsored by Civic House, arrived with their Penn buddies -- some are tutors, some are PENNPals -- at Civic House. After decorating a trick-or-treat bag, the costumed children, including some pirates, princesses and Powerpuff girls, followed a special route around Penn's campus collecting candy and visiting haunted houses. One stop was Harnwell, where a highly successful haunted house was staged. The basement of the dorm was transformed into a maze of scary scenes and creepy creatures complete with special effects. Harnwell residents, including many resident advisors and graduate associates, had worked on the event since September. Their hard work and ingenuity paid off when the students began to walk into the building. Soon, a steady flow of screams and laughter was heard throughout the darkened room. A table with two boxes -- one labeled "Brains" and the other labeled "Eyes" -- greeted the participants. A masked Penn student led the crowd through the maze, which also featured a female student posed as a butcher -- bloody knife and all. But the haunted house might have been too successful: Many of the young tutees refused to enter. Some had to be coaxed into participating by the promise that they could hold their tutor's hand and know about the scary sights in advance. Those brave enough to go through the haunted domain were shocked to touch peeled grapes posing as eyeballs and walk through wet sponges. Courtney Baker, a fifth-grade student from Drew Elementary, offered her thoughts on the haunted house: "It was really scary because it was very dark." However, at the end, many children felt that it was worth it because they were able to fill their handmade bags with candy. When asked if she had received enough candy, Courtney replied, "I got my fair share." Afterward, the students traveled to other college houses and fraternities. This year, the program allied itself with the Panhellenic Council and the InterFraternity Council, in addition to the Newman Center and the college house system. Many costumed children were seen walking up and down the steps of various fraternity and sorority houses under the watchful eye of their Penn partners. Two sorority sisters, Jana Carrey and Mary Connaghan, gave out candy from the steps of their Chi Omega home. "It is so heartwarming to see all the frats and sororities getting into it. We never get to see little kids around campus, and they are so cute," Carrey said. "It is so great to see little kids and people from Penn working together." College senior Brendon Taga, one of the coordinators of the event, called it "a huge collaborative effort." Taga was also an active participant, taking his own PENNPal for two years, Mike, along the route. Watching Mike run up the steps of yet another house, Taga said,"It's nice to see a lot of organizations working together for a common goal."

Riding a wave of generosity, cyclists spread life-saving info

(09/13/00 9:00am)

Ed Hoovler understands the importance of saving a life. And why shouldn't he? Since 1983, the retired carpenter from Gainesville, Fla., has donated 86 pints of blood; he's registered with the National Marrow Donor Program and his organs and tissues will be donated when he dies. But don't bother telling Hoovler that his selflessness is out of the ordinary -- he doesn't buy it. And don't remind him that biking from Maine to Florida must be inconvenient -- he'll tell you it's well worth it. Hoovler and 11 other cyclists, whose mission it is to raise awareness about lifesaving donations, visited the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia yesterday to celebrate the University's first bone marrow transplant program. They were joined by more than a dozen children -- some have already received marrow transplants, others are still waiting -- and their families, as well as several dozen doctors, physical therapists, transplant recipients and other hospital staff members at the public event, "Party for Life." "When we began this ride [in Bar Harbor, Maine], we came as strangers with a lot of anxiety," Hoovler explained. "That first night we had a meeting and we made a commitment that we would ride as a team. We can't leave anyone behind. This is not a race. We are a team." Taking part in the "Five Points of Life Ride," the cyclists are journeying for seven weeks touting what they call the "five points of life": whole blood donation; apheresis, which allows a variety of uses from one blood donation; cord blood, which is taken from umbilical cords at birth; marrow and blood stem cell donation; and organ and tissue donation. Each of the 12 cyclists has his or her own story pertaining to one of the five points. Following the ride, several dozen people participated in the bone marrow drive, which took place at the Founder's Building in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The group rode west from City Hall yesterday with a group of local people with a vested interest in donations. They included: Gwen Foster, the mayoral-appointed Philadelphia health and fitness "czar," Steven Altschuler, the president and chief executive officer of CHOP and Karen and Wesley Roberts, whose son, Gary, received a heart transplant in 1993. Another team cyclist, Rodney Ford, explained that his goal was to raise awareness in the African-American community. "Usually African Americans need a donor that is also African American, but because many don't donate, their chances are slim," explained Ford, who lives in Oklahoma City. One woman at the bone marrow drive was Dawn Lavelle, from nearby Scranton. She too is an advocate of marrow donation: Her husband received a transplant in May after fighting leukemia. She'll be the first to admit that her husband's story is a lucky one, as he only had to wait three months for a donor who, incidentally, was not a family member. "That is why I am here," Lavelle said. "If I can help someone else, it is the least I can do." The emotionally charged ceremony also featured the stories of donor recipients. One mother talked about her 18-month-old daughter, Rachel, who just received a new liver this summer. Also attending the function were Philadelphia Eagles Duce Staley and Brian Mitchell, who -- along with other cyclists and Eagles mascot Swoop -- visited with some of the patients, signed autographs and shared stories about overcoming adversity.

Activist says reparations are needed

(05/03/00 9:00am)

Few speakers that come to Penn's campus ask Americans to remember their shameful secrets and share them with the world. But Randall Robinson, a lawyer, activist and author, did just that last Wednesday afternoon when he said that descendants of slaves do indeed deserve reparations from the United States government. Robinson spoke before a diverse mix of about 50 Penn students and faculty members in the Christian Association building. In his latest and most controversial book, The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks, Robinson addressed the subject of reparations. In it, he contends that the reparations are valid -- and even necessary -- considering the continued social and economic disparity between African Americans and whites in America. "African Americans are behind economically. Africa is behind the rest of the world. So one might ask the question, why is it that people of African descent are behind?" Robinson asked. "Something happened to cause this substantial economic gap to open between races in America and in the world," he said, referring to the deep and lasting effects of slavery. The president of TransAfrica -- a lobbying organization for African and Carribean policies -- Robinson argued that the reparations function as an equaling agent in response to present-day racism and nearly 250 years of slavery. He also used his talk to try to refute some of his opponents' arguments. One such claim centers around the fact that even some Africans were involved in the slave trade. He struck down that argument by drawing on an example from the Holocaust. "Even in the Jewish concentration camps, there was some collaboration, there always is." In addition, he addressed those whites who say that they should not have to pay because their ancestors were not involved in the slave trade at all. "No one is talking here about personal culpability," he said. "When a government is complicit in a crime against humanity, that government has a responsibility and an obligation to make the victim whole." Explaining that America has yet to erect any memorials to commemorate the Middle Passage -- the voyage that men and women were forced to take from Africa to America during the Atlantic slave trade -- he showed his frustration in talking about America's lack of acknowledgement of slavery. "I don't think the problem with this has to do with reparations itself. I don't think it has to do with money. I think it is this business of denial. We are living the lie," he said. Many of the audience members felt that Robinson has succeeded in bolstering the fight for more consciousness on behalf of African Americans in the past and the continued effects of racial discrimination. For instance, Tukufu Zuberi, the director of the African Studies Center at Penn, called the talk "a very appropriate end to this year's activities in [Penn's] African Studies." And History Professor Lee Cassanelli said Wednesday's talk was the first time that he had heard Robinson speak, and he was impressed by both the man and the lecture. "I have followed him and his work for 25 years. He is a wonderful speaker and I thought it was a great talk." College freshman Roscoe McMillan agreed, saying, "I found it very invigorating, I really enjoyed it. He was dynamic."

Motivated students crowd Steiny-D

(04/12/00 9:00am)

In addressing a packed room of Wharton graduate students yesterday afternoon, motivational speaker and best-selling author Stephen Covey used a seemingly unconventional teaching technique to convey a rather conventional lesson: It is always best in business to join together and work toward a common goal. Covey, the internationally known author of The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, asked the roomful of students to close their eyes and then point north. When nearly everyone began pointing in opposite directions, Covey told the audience that, "The essence of leadership is to get people pointing in the same direction." Covey came to Penn as part of the Zweig Executive Dinner Series Committee. His appearance in one of the largest rooms of Steinberg-Dietrich Hall proved so popular that every seat was taken, leaving groups of students standing in the aisles and sitting on the floor. Covey was recently named one of Time magazine's 25 most influential people. Over the past 30 years, Covey has worked as a consultant with international companies, focusing largely on leadership and time management skills. But he is perhaps best known for his motivational book, which was a mainstay on The New York Times bestseller list for several years. Covey discussed several of his now-famous "seven habits" of success in his talk yesterday. Drawing on both personal and professional experiences, Covey, dressed in a stylish black suit, lectured for the first half of his hour-long talk on what he considers to be four qualities of good leadership: modeling, pathfinding, aligning and empowering. Making his talk Penn-specific, Covey also applied his common goal theory with Wharton's program of team-learning. "I think that is so important, so valuable, that you are having team-learning experiences," Covey said. "The world is very interdependent. You cannot think independently in an interdependent world." To draw an example, Covey equated being overly independent with trying to play tennis with a golf ball. "You can do it, but it doesn't work well," he joked. When asked what advice he could give to graduating seniors, Covey offered some tips that could well be relevant to all students at Penn. "Write a personal mission statement and live by it," the author said. "Read and take full advantage of the learning opportunities here. Try to get the job that taps into your passions." Writing a personal statement is one of the "seven habits" of success that Covey outlined in his book. Calling his experience on campus "tremendously pleasurable and positive," Covey wished the students luck in finding the jobs that they wanted. Many of the students who attended Covey's talk were at least familiar with the "seven habits," but had not necessarily read his book. "My husband has read several of his books, and he says that they are very good," said Vanessa Pfeiffer, a second-year Wharton student pursuing her master of business administration degree. "My friends said that I shouldn't miss this opportunity." First-year MBA student Dave Sturek added, "I thought it was very interesting. It was very typical of what I heard and discussed before, but he is very inspirational and gives a lot of people hope that they can live their lives in a similar way that he does."

Forum addresses alcohol abuse

(04/06/00 9:00am)

About 50 students gathered on Tuesday night to share stories about how alcohol abuse has affected their lives and brainstorm for ways that Penn can address the problem as part of the National Issues Forum program. The forum -- sponsored by the Sigma Chi fraternity, the Drug and Alcohol Resource Team and the Office of Health Education -- marked the first time that Penn participated in any national public forum program. The National Issues Forum program runs discussions on complex issues, like substance abuse or death, among students on 13 campuses, including Penn, across the country. "This is not going to be your typical unstructured conversation, nor is it going to be a debate," said Harris Sokoloff, Penn's director of the Center for School Study Councils at the Graduate School of Education, who introduced the program. "The aim is not to reach a decision, but to move closer to reaching a decision." Sokoloff then showed a video produced by the National Issues Forum explaining three different approaches to dealing with alcohol abuse. The first method was to demand individual responsibility by enforcing and tightening existing alcohol laws, the second was to treat alcohol abuse as an illness and the third was to promote social change through education. The students were divided into three groups, each led by five trained student facilitators. The groups discussed their feelings toward the three possible ways to address alcohol abuse. The discussion within each group was recorded and the results will be presented to Penn's Working Group on Alcohol Abuse. Although most of the participants were Sigma Chi brothers, the facilitators came from such diverse campus groups as Navy ROTC, the Queer Student Alliance and the Athletic Department. Participants' reactions to the forum were generally positive. "It definitely wasn't a waste of time," College freshman Dina Parise said. "I know more now than when I came in. I think more can be done, but I think it was definitely informative and educational." Many other participants also expressed a desire for more action to be taken to combat abusive drinking behavior, saying that a voluntary discussion forum was not sufficient. But Drug and Alcohol Resource Team President Molly MacDonald said it is difficult to get students involved in programs like the forum. "This is a self-motivated kind of thing," the Nursing junior said. "You can't mandate this." MacDonald said, however, that DART is currently working toward including a more comprehensive alcohol education session in the New Student Orientation program.

Alum: Non-profit work is rewarding

(03/23/00 10:00am)

The CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America spoke at Penn last night. Judith Vredenburgh isn't exactly a model of career stability. The current president and chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has worked, among other jobs, as a buyer for a major department clothing store and as a top executive at the March of Dimes Birth Defect Foundation. As part of the Fox Lessons in Leadership series, Vredenburgh, who today runs the nation's largest and oldest mentoring company, discussed her personal and professional experiences in Logan Hall yesterday afternoon. Vredenburgh's non-profit organization pairs adolescents with adult mentors and provides teenage companions for young children. But the focus of the 1970 College and Wharton alumna's talk was more on what makes a good leader than on the network itself. Vredenburgh discussed various ways in which the approximately 40 audience members, most of whom were female students, can assert themselves as good leaders. Specifically, she said her Penn education paved the way for good management skills. She lauded the liberal arts education system as one that fosters indispensable writing and communication skills. "It was pure liberal arts that I attribute [to my success]," said Vredenburgh, who majored in Economics. "That experience, I think, was absolutely instrumental in making me a more open person. But for Vredenburgh, who has worked in both the private and public sector for the better part of three decades, the top draw to her position -- indeed, the very reason why she decided to abandon work in for-profit companies -- was the opportunity to work with children. Since it serves 139,000 children in all 50 states and in 5,000 different communities, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has provided her with precisely that opportunity. "I realize that many wonderfully talented people are attracted to the non-profit sector," Vredenburgh said. "All of the sudden my mind opened up, and I was learning and contributing at the same time. And I thought, 'Why didn't I do this before? Where was I?'" So it is not surprising that Vredenburgh came to Penn hoping to share some of her idealism and passion for serving with students. "I really think that if I could help kids stay true to what they care about, then that would be worth while," she said, when asked what she hoped students got out of her talk. Joining BBBSA last summer, Vredenburgh was hired with the goal of meeting the demands of the increasingly competitive nature of the non-profit market. With a plan to increase both revenue and the number of volunteers by June 2004, Vredenburgh succeeded in impressing the audience with her driven and ambitious personality. "To have her describe her experiences first-hand and her struggles that she faced being a woman, it was valuable to me as an up-and-coming leader," College sophomore Alex Pruner said. Although she may now be an inspiration for women at Penn, during her talk Vredenburgh noted that, though she was able to find her identity as a student at Penn, she had very few female role models on campus. College sophomore Alison O'Donnell said, "I think that she is definitely someone who has been able to be very successful in both the non-profit sector and the business sector."

Class explores Diallo killing in depth

(03/09/00 10:00am)

When a jury found officers accused of murdering Amadou Diallo, a West African immigrant and Bronx resident, not guilty last month, people across the country raised their voices about the controversial case. And yesterday, Fels Center of Government Director and noted criminologist Lawrence Sherman continued that discussion by speaking about the case in his Sociology class titled "Deviance and Social Control." Sherman, who is also a Sociology professor, used a third of his regular three-hour lecture in College Hall 200 to discuss and analyze the recent trial and the circumstances surrounding it. "I think it is one of the most important events in the history of policing in this country. It is as important, if not more so, than Rodney King, and it is going to have an earth-shaking effect on the field," Sherman said. Diallo was shot and killed in 1998 by the four New York City police officers, who claimed that they thought Diallo was reaching for a gun. The officers were indicted on charges of second-degree murder. During the trial, the officers argued that that they fired in self-defense. Sherman, who served as a consultant for the prosecution in the Diallo case, gave detailed analysis of the inner workings of both sides of the issue. A large part of the discussion focused on the shooting and the fact that 41 shots were released from the officers' semi-automatic weapons, 19 of which actually struck Diallo. One student asked if the officers could have just aimed for a limb. But Sherman said, "Every police officer in this country is trained to hit body mass instead of shooting a limb." However, Sherman pointed out various flaws in both sides of the argument. "Not only the police but also the prosecution is taking a huge beating from the press for not cross-examining, for not focusing on identification and for focusing too much on the 41 shots," he said. "The jury ultimately said that it was the first shot that mattered. The jury was not impressed [by the amount of shots]," he said. One complication, Sherman explained, was that in order for the officers to be convicted of second-degree murder, the prosecution had to prove intent to be negligent. "Calling it criminally negligent homicide probably would have been more credible," he added,"but I think they overshot and missed the jury and just couldn't bring the jury back." The students taking the class said the time spent on the Diallo case was appropriate and informative. "This is a perfect example of what needs to be worked on in the system today. I think it is very important because everything that we have been learning can be found in this situation," College freshman Stephanie Beyer said. Adam Warshafsky, a College senior, agreed. "He is talking about police strategies and plans and how they are supposed to approach suspected offenders. And there's a real-life case where we can examine where they [the police] didn't follow the proper strategy," Warshafsky said. Sherman himself voiced a strong opinion about the long-lasting effects of the Diallo case. "It had effect on people's view of the law all over the country. Everyone gets labeled with the failures that were perceived in this case and that is why we have to fix them," he said following the lecture.

Poet explores inner emotions

(03/03/00 10:00am)

Marie Howe's brother died of AIDS 10 years ago, a tragedy that grieved her to the point of inspiration and provided abundant material for her latest poetry anthology. Howe, a writing professor at Sarah Lawrence College, read passages from her book What the Living Do to a crowd of about 40 students, faculty members and area residents at the Kelly Writers House on Tuesday night. Howe's latest anthology is dedicated to her late brother, John. Most of the poems she read intimately depicted personal stories from her own life, including her troubled relationship with her father. Much of Howe's poetry, as indicated by titles like "Sixth Grade" and "The Grave," had a special meaning to her. Still, Howe was able to elicit chuckles and nods from audience members at various points during her reading. In "Practicing," Howe writes about a poem of young girls who kiss each other as practice for when they get older. And in "The Fort," she discusses the pride that her brother and his friend felt upon constructing a playhouse. Howe, who is also a fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts, often stopped to add personal anecdotes related to a particular piece of poetry. After reading a poem that chronicled an intimate gift-giving between her brother and his lover, she looked up to the audience and said, "You know this is one of those moments. This really happened." English Professor Gregory Djanikian, the director of the Creative Writing program, introduced Howe to the audience. "To read her poems is to come away slightly undone and aware of the deep feelings in our lives as well as hers," Djanikian said. On Tuesday, Howe visited Djanikian's Advanced Poetry Writing class and talked with the students about the actual writing process. "My students and I have been pouring over her latest book," Djanikian said. "We have had marvelous discussion about her style, tone and subject matter." Several students attended the reading, including College freshman Omotara James, who said she appreciated the opportunity to work first-hand with an accomplished poet. "[We were] able to ask her questions on her present book and critique our own poetry," James said. "She talked about her methods of writing and the things to include and not to include when writing." Melissa Cahnmann, a third-year doctoral candidate in the Graduate School of Education, described Howe as a "poetry mentor goddess." Cahnmann actually took a seminar with Howe in Mexico and described her as being "one of the best poetry teachers I have had." She called Howe's poetry "passionate, true and loving." College senior Laurie Kalb said that the work of Howe is "obviously autobiographical and that her greatest talent seems to be the ability to compel the reader to want to understand her experience."

Bradley supporters gather

(02/24/00 10:00am)

Bill Bradley may be trailing Vice President Al Gore in the polls, but that doesn't stop a small but committed group of Penn students from thinking the former New Jersey senator will win the Democratic nomination for the presidential election. Tuesday evening, Penn Students for Bill Bradley convened in Stiteler Hall to discuss plans to promote their favored presidential candidate, a Princeton graduate and Rhodes scholar who first took public office in New Jersey in 1978 and remained for a total of three terms. On Penn's campus, a pro-Bradley student group formed in October under the leadership of co-chairs Matthew Oresman and Alison O'Donnell, both College sophomores. Although less than 15 students attended the meeting, the group itself boasts over 300 members -- a combination of undergraduate and graduate students -- which makes it the largest student campaign organization on campus, according to Oresman. The group's largest concern was the promotion of voter registration. The group is joining in a bi-partisan effort to bolster the number of Penn students who are registered to vote. Called "Voter's Awareness Week," group members are scheduled to be on Locust Walk all week starting next Monday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There are plans for MTV's "Rock the Vote" program to attend, although "final plans are still in the works," Oresman said. The Pennsylvania primaries are on March 14, exactly one week after Super Tuesday -- the day when the race might be effectively wrapped up by virtue of the 13 different state primaries that are taking place on that day. Members also plan to make their presence felt during President Bill Clinton's visit today, as the group hopes to have a large number of supporters outside Irvine Auditorium this afternoon. "It is so important to know that there is support here on campus [for Bradley]. Hopefully there will be other Philadelphia schools here as well," O'Donnell said. Students discussed possible plans to travel to both New York and Florida to help in Bradley's campaign. The students who came to the meeting arrived with high hopes and admiration for the candidate. "I think that Bill Bradley is the best candidate for the race. I think he is a great man of integrity," said Doug Rennie, a first-year law student. Oresman agreed, saying, "The ideas that he [Bill Bradley] has for this country are better than any other politician in the country." "There are so many issues that need to be addressed and he is the only politician seriously addressing them," he added. On the very same night when the Bradley group was meeting, Al Gore and Bill Bradley debated in Harlem about topics ranging from gun control to health care and racial profiling. The Penn for Gore group, led by College junior Michael Bassik and College senior Shirley Zilberstein, held its first meeting last week.

Chinese-American relations discussed

(02/16/00 10:00am)

About 15 Penn students got a chance to hear about American and Chinese relationships from a different perspective than the one typically found in textbooks. A small audience, composed mostly of Political Science and International Relations majors, gathered Monday with select professors to hear Qingguo Jia, a professor from Peking University, discuss the interaction between the two countries. In his 35-minute speech, entitled "Chinese Perceptions of the Engagement Policy Debate in the United States," Jia focused on Chinese policies of human rights. In particular, he argued that it is ironic that many Americans fault the Chinese government for trying to revamp human rights policies, which have often been criticized in America. "United States people don't appreciate the Chinese attempts. They only admit that, economically, China has become more liberalized, which is a simplistic view of China," Jia said. Introduced by Political Science Professor Avery Goldstein, Jia received praise for his continuing work in the field of international studies. After earning his doctoral degree from Cornell University in 1988, Qingguo retuned to his native China to continue teaching. In addition to being associate dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University and a teaching professor at the school, Jia also now acts as a fellow at the Institute of World Development. Many of the students who attended the talk said they came to the lecture to learn about the Chinese perspective on the matter. Wei Tang, a graduate student in the Political Science Department, said he felt it was "good to hear a Chinese voice on American policy." "He has the advantage of speaking English. Many policy makers there cannot speak English," said Tang, who was lauded during Monday's program for aiding in Jia's research. College junior Nadaa Taiyab, an International Relations major, said she too felt the talk was beneficial. She noted that the topic of Chinese-American relations arises frequently in her classes. "It became quite interesting, especially to hear a Chinese perspective. We [Americans] are usually put up against American propaganda that makes the Chinese seem as though they are losing face," she said. Goldstein said it was important for Jia to talk to students at Penn because he is "someone who understands the United States but lives in China and understands China's perspective." Following his talk, Jia said he believed that his arrival on campus was a "good opportunity and important for Chinese to tell their story to the Americans to gain more understanding." "I think there seems to be a lot of lack of understanding on the part of the Americans on what is going on in China," he added.