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Put diversity in the dormitories

(11/30/00 10:00am)

When Richard Light left Penn in 1962 only about 1 percent of his graduating class was non-white. "Diversity," he recalled, "to put it crassly, was simply not an issue." Today, Light is a professor at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education and its John F. Kennedy School of Government. And, to put it crassly, diversity is his issue. Light is one of the foremost scholars on the evaluation of programs in higher education. His work on educational diversity is nationally recognized, and in it, we find some valuable cautionary notes for the University of Pennsylvania. Educational diversity is customarily considered in the classroom setting. Seated at the same table, the conventional wisdom holds, students from different backgrounds will learn lessons from each other they could never take from a textbook. Such diverse classes, a columnist on this page once wrote, are valuable because they create "an environment where any one viewpoint is less likely to be overpowered by a majority viewpoint." Yes, classroom diversity enhances learning. This has been one of the most important lessons learned since higher education became widely integrated over the last three decades, and its truth is not in dispute. But Light has found that diversity's greatest contribution to undergraduate learning occurs outside the classroom. As he wrote in a 1999 paper, "the main educational impact of racial and ethnic diversity comes from interactions in residential living." And at Penn, we find those diverse residential environments lacking. The composition of W.E.B. DuBois College House is almost entirely African American. The Quad is virtually lily white. In ethnically diverse Hill College House, white students and those of Asian descent often segregate into more homogenous social blocs. Non-white membership in IFC fraternities stands at a paltry 5 percent. On one level, we must recognize that only so much can be done. You can't force members of one ethnic group to socialize with those of another. You can't force more African Americans and Latinos to rush Penn's fraternities and sororities. You can't assign "token" minority students to every freshman hallway, imposing upon them to be ambassadors for the customs and traditions of their people -- as if that notion weren't absurdly racist in and of itself. Nor can we deny the benefits that DuBois House has brought to campus since its founding in 1972. Then as now, it provides a valuable sense of community for African Americans and integrates academics with residential life in a positive fashion. For all of the charges of reverse racism and self-segregation it has weathered, DuBois has brought far more good than harm. However, we should not neglect what we lose when different ethnic groups don't mingle. "When students interact with fellow students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds in day-to-day living," Light wrote, "it makes... a strong impression. This finding drums home the importance of creating residential living arrangements that bring students from different backgrounds together, rather than creating separation by background. "If students from different backgrounds live apart from one another, a precious kind of learning may be lost." Indeed, at Penn, a precious kind of learning is being lost, one in which students ask the questions that "[do] not always lead to obvious or easy answers." It is all well and good for the University to support initiatives like DuBois. But it is a far different matter for us to reject out of hand the notion that there is something to be gained from a more integrated housing program. I would be little surprised two decades from now, assuming current demographic trends continue, for today's vague and unfocused student support for a Latino dormitory to have manifested itself in a shiny new college house. By contrast, look to our fair friends to the north in Cambridge, Mass. At Harvard, where students choose their roommates but the administration randomizes their house assignments, Light has found virtually no support among students for race-based dormitories. It is difficult to quantify the counterfactual, to determine what we have lost by not providing incentives for more integrated dormitories. But Light does note that when he graduated from Penn, there was a student he barely knew and would have liked the opportunity to meet. His name was John Edgar Wideman, and before he became an award-winning author, he was only the second African American to earn a Rhodes scholarship.

A mandate for the new president

(11/09/00 10:00am)

To whom it may concern: You have just been elected president of the United States. You've prevailed in the most expensive, most vigorously contested, most closely watched election in U.S. history. You may not have won the hearts and minds of the American electorate, but you've won a majority of the Electoral College, and for that the White House is yours. The hard work -- the stump speeches, the red-eye cross-country flights, the rubber-chicken dinners and all those babies to kiss -- is over, right? Hardly. Compared to what you will soon face, the campaign was easy. Now, you actually have to lead. And you have to lead a country, a people, that is more divided during a period of peace and prosperity than at any other time in the history of the Republic. These cleavages, unlike those in the past, are not clear cut. They're not as easy as race or gender or class. They are within regions, within states, within communities and within households. And they have produced some of the most sensational election results in decades. Of course, at the national level, the 192,000-vote difference between the two major candidates is the smallest since Kennedy topped Nixon in 1960. But the razor-thin margins in a diverse array of states -- 7,282 votes in New Hampshire, 6,124 in Wisconsin and 5,253 in Iowa, not to mention whatever the final tally is in Florida -- will have been the deciding factor in this election. In Missouri, Democrat Ben Holden won the Governor's Mansion by a scant 21,258 votes out of nearly 2.3 million cast. In Washington, Maria Cantwell is poised to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Slade Gorton by 3,711 votes out of more than 1.7 million. And in my home congressional district, the New Jersey 12th, incumbent Rush Holt currently leads former three-term congressman Dick Zimmer by a vote count of 142,900 to 142,844. That's right, 56 votes out of more than 285,000 cast. Fifty-six. The numbers, however, do not do justice to how incredible this election season has been. The campaigns began with talk of actors and casino moguls pursuing third-party bids. An anti-corporate crusader took 3 percent of the vote in a time when big business is building unprecedented wealth for a growing number of Americans. The vice president couldn't win a plurality of votes in his own home state. And a dead man and the wife of the sitting president were both both judged worthy of seats in the greatest deliberative body in the world. Despite its satisfaction with the country's direction, the electorate is divided over where to go from here -- over how to manage this prosperity, over how to ensure the solvency of our entitlement programs, over what can be done to bring a sense of morality and decency back to public life. Pundits and politicians will insist that you have emerged from this fractious election without a mandate, without the authority or legitimacy to lead. To the contrary, you do have a mandate -- to overcome these divisions in American society. You have a mandate to transcend the divisiveness and partisanship that only the ill-informed claim emanates from Washington alone. You have a mandate to see that our financial bounty is used responsibly at home and that our power is used abroad in an equally responsible manner. You have a mandate to calm the frenzy of emotions that this election has fomented, leading one short-sighted reporter to ask Secretary Daley if we are poised on the "edge of a constitutional crisis." You have a mandate to encourage respect for the rule of law, for the democratic system that put you in office, for each other and for something greater than ourselves. The people have spoken, and it is not entirely clear what they have been saying. They want more government and they want less. They want tax relief and they want the debt retired. They want their freedom protected and they want the government to protect them from others' exercise of license. As President Clinton learned in 1993 and the House Republican leadership discovered two years later, an electoral victory does not give you carte blanche to remake social and financial institutions to mirror your ideals. You have a fine line to walk indeed. "Great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities," Jefferson observed in the waning days of his presidency, and these words bear consideration now. The call on Election Day was not for an easy politics of ideology, Mr. President-elect, but for a difficult one of conciliation. Partisanship may be easy; leadership isn't.

A wonk and the clown

(10/05/00 9:00am)

It was a moment that should have had Karl Rove and George W. Bush's other handlers cringing from the sidelines. Following a successful thrust by Vice President Al Gore in which he exposed a loophole in the governor's prescription drug plan, W. parried with one of the more mature lines from Tuesday night's debate: "Look, this is a man, he's got great numbers. He talks about numbers. I'm beginning to think not only did he invent the Internet, but he invented the calculator." If Bush went into the contest having to prove himself knowledgeable about the affairs of state, he came out proving only that he knew how to awkwardly deliver scripted one-liners. If he went in needing to show that he could handle the highest elected office in the land, he came out proving only that he could handle guest-hosting duties on The Tonight Show. Which should have campaign manager Rove and his staff ready to look for new jobs five weeks from now. The biggest slight on Bush to date is that he's not quite that bright -- that he can't explain the details of his own policy proposals, that he mangles the English language in his campaign speeches, that he has the intellectual heft of a stack of comic books. He's fun, for sure, the guy to watch the game or crack a joke with, but not the guy you want doing your taxes -- or the federal budget. The first debate was Bush's opportunity to dispel these notions. And despite a few slips of the tongue -- getting the name of an education program wrong, frequently violating laws of subject-verb agreement and at one point seemingly insisting that Hispanic kids are unable to learn -- he avoided any major malapropisms. But more importantly, he failed to establish that he had much of a grasp over policy matters, even his own plans. While Gore would attack Bush's proposals with facts and figures, the Republican wouldn't -- or more likely, couldn't -- argue on the merits of his own platform. Instead, he would slam Gore's credibility or accuse him of using "fuzzy math," a phrase that became a rallying cry at Bush's campaign stop yesterday in West Chester, Pa. When your supporters begin chanting about how your opponent likes to back up his arguments with -- gasp! -- actual data, your campaign has taken a turn for the worse. Bush promised before the first debate that he wouldn't use any "gimmicks" -- meaning, one would assume, no undue verbal jabs, no name calling and no avoiding issue-based discourse. But borrowing from the self-immolating Rick Lazio School of Debating, he did everything but tie his opponent's shoe laces together. Of course, Gore was far from perfect. His goals were to prove that he wasn't just a policy wonk, recapture the magic of the convention kiss and show himself as a real human being. On those notes, he has a way to go. He didn't stoop to Dubya's level, at the very least, by telling the national audience to read his lips -- the verbal potshot I was waiting for all night. But his mathematical wizardry may have put off some of the less numerically inclined viewers and his incessant invocation of "working class men and women" was grating. And his conclusion -- a feeble rehash of the section of his convention speech where he tried to establish his humanity -- was unconvincing. As a policy expert, Gore is still as wonkish as they come, but as a candidate, he is still mired in mediocrity. So what we're left with after the first debate are the same two candidates we had a week, a month and a year ago. But Rove and the rest of the Bush machine should take notice of the post-debate poll data giving Gore a slight bounce. The American people have shown an intelligent preference for the trusty human calculator over the mean-spirited class clown, and the clock is ticking on W.'s comedy routine.

In new environment, it isn't easy being Greek

(09/21/00 9:00am)

This ain't your father's Greek system. Gone are the days of fraternities that inspired Animal House, or even those resembling Yale's Deke house, where a smirking George W. Bush could while away his college years in complete ignorance of the social tumult around him. Instead, at Penn, we find the incredible shrinking Greek system, today smaller in size and influence than any time in recent memory. We came back from summer recess to see that two fraternities, Sigma Alpha Mu and Delta Tau Delta, and one sorority, Pi Beta Phi, had taken down their letters. And another fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, finds itself struggling for survival due to membership difficulties. Add these four to the growing list of Greek houses that have closed or been forced to reorganize over the last three years. Some are just victims of bad luck. Phi Gamma Delta closed last spring after an alumnus fell to his death after a night of heavy drinking. But for all of FIJI's close calls and rumored excesses in the past, what happened to Michael Tobin could have happened to virtually any other Greek organization on campus. Others have been victims of their own stupidity. Phi Sigma Kappa was kicked out in April 1998 -- it would later recolonize -- for a host of risk management violations. Alpha Epsilon Pi had its entire executive board replaced for a pattern of misconduct, including hazing and probation violations. And SAM, which may recolonize next semester, will go down in Penn fraternity lore for the insipid stunt it pulled in January 1999, when it stole hundreds of bowling pins and shoes from a New Jersey alley. But it was kegs that did these amateur keglers in, as SAM lost its charter earlier this year for serving alcohol at a rush event in flagrant violation of University rules and its own probation agreement. These Greek houses, which experienced turmoil as a result of the unwarranted hubris of some of their members, deserve neither our sympathy nor more of our attention. Like parole violators and repeat criminal offenders, they got what they deserved. The interesting cases are those like DTD, Pi Phi and Beta -- chapters that decline and fail because of systemic factors unrelated to their members' actions. The first two closed up shop because of low membership, and the third seems headed for a similar fate. Why, then, do such chapters fail? Part of the problem can be traced to the Greek system's rapid expansion earlier in the 1990s. Between 1991 and 1997, a dozen new Greek houses -- 11 fraternities and one sorority, Pi Phi -- were recognized by the University. From 1995 to 1997 alone, at least five new -- or at least recolonized -- fraternities joined the InterFraternity Council. What we may be witnessing then is a consolidation in the Greek system, a Darwinian extinction of the least fit. In its short tenure, for one, Pi Phi was never able to reach the same levels of membership or stature as the seven other Panhellenic Council sororities. And with Greek membership at Penn stagnant -- or, according to some sources, actually declining -- the success of a reborn Phi Kappa Sigma or Psi Upsilon meant that an existing fraternity, like DTD, would have to fail. IFC President Andrew Mandelbaum pointed to another phenomenon -- the move of freshman rush from the fall to the spring semester in 1996 -- as a reason for the decline of a number of houses. However, many houses have flourished since the University forced that change. Mandelbaum does agree, however, that competition between houses has had an overall negative effect. "A lot of houses have the wrong attitude... [and] bad-mouth other chapters," the Alpha Chi Rho brother said. In short, many frats have told potential recruits they should join their house or no house at all. The frats that have not kept up their membership have been the ones not winning this war for the hearts and minds of cheesesteak-woofing freshmen. So long as college students continue to refuse to take responsibility for their actions, we'll have more fraternities like SAM kicked off campus. And so long as fraternity membership dwindles, more DTDs will be forced into slow, painful deaths. And this rotating door of colonization, collapse and recolonization will eventually undermine the Greek system and the individual characters of its houses. For as long as each house returns to a blank slate, none will be known for either their excesses or their excellence.

The campus time forgot

(08/31/00 9:00am)

To all new and returning students: Welcome to Penn, where life moves at a decidedly different pace. Members of the freshman class will soon think they know what that means. Between going to class, finding that one life-absorbing extracurricular activity and puking in most every bathroom in the Quad, they'll say that there aren't enough hours in the day. But they'll be wrong. The secret is that at Penn, events progress much more slowly, not more quickly, than those in the outside world. Consider the current round of campus construction. Most upperclassmen have never seen the inside of Houston Hall, whose renovation serves as the centerpiece of the $87.5 million Perelman Quadrangle project. And now open for business -- well, most of it, anyway -- the nation's oldest student union looks absolutely spectacular. That's a sentiment that I'm sure would be shared by thousands of members of the recently departed Class of 2000, too, had the center opened on time. In December 1999. Indeed, on a campus whose recent history has been defined by the bleating of jackhammers and the steady rumble of bulldozers, the words "on time" have been heard about as frequently as "under budget." The University's much-vaunted $300 million -- er, $378.5 million -- dorm and dining overhaul plan was reduced in scale and spread out over a longer period of time almost as soon as it was announced. This was supposed to be the year when construction began on new student housing in Hamilton Village and Class of 1920 Commons underwent renovation and expansion. I will be long gone from campus before shovel meets dirt on either project. On 40th Street, the Sundance Cinemas and projects, once described on this page as "glass-and-steel monuments to the future," now stand before you as glass-and-steel monuments to, well, a more distant future. You see, the future was supposed to come last spring, with both enterprises opening before Commencement. Now while it appears that the grocery store will open sometime this fall, I don't expect to see Robert Redford cut the ribbon on his flagship movie theater until a big-budget remake of The Natural hits the big screen. And as for the process of gentrification that Sundance was supposed to unleash on the 40th Street corridor, the proprietors of Nancy's Nails and S&M; Grocery shouldn't lose any sleep at night. Elsewhere on campus, the now-defunct Eat at Joe's diner opened in July 1998, more than six months behind schedule; the Walnut West branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia is still in its "temporary" location more than six months after its occupancy of 3927 Walnut Street was to have ended; and when Irvine Auditorium opened a year ago, it did so a hefty nine months overtime. The moral isn't that the University is incompetent or even perpetually behind schedule when it comes to completing the Next Big Thing. Sometimes shipments of Italian marble get delayed on their transatlantic voyages. Sometimes unforeseen weather and labor problems stall projects. And sometimes -- proving that we'll believe just about anything administrators say -- minor design changes can idle a construction site for semesters on end. Rather, administrators can and should do a better job of setting realistic expectations for capital projects. (They've already learned this lesson when it comes to filling major administrative vacancies. After a string of searches that should have taken six months but lasted 15, getting an official to concede to the most vague timetable for filling an open slot has become like pulling teeth.) And more importantly, students should have a healthy skepticism of any promises emanating from College Hall or the Franklin Building. Don't set your watches by the timetables they set, because with so much to do -- classes, clubs, puking in the Quad -- you don't want to be late

America: First for now, not forever

(04/25/00 9:00am)

From the White House to the New York Times op-ed page, Fareed Zakaria says, politicians have been describing globalization as an irreversible process of Americanization destined to bring the world closer together. But Zakaria, managing editor of Foreign Affairs -- the premier journal of the U.S. foreign policy establishment -- insists that that conventional wisdom is flat-out wrong. Before a crowd of about 100 students last night in Logan Hall, Zakaria lectured on the politics and culture of globalization. In defiance of popular sentiment, the youthful scholar-journalist tried to impress on the audience his belief that American domination will not last forever. "It is worth remembering that while you hear the idea that the world is totally different from anything in the past, that is not necessarily the case," Zakaria said. "I do believe that Americanization will fail." Over the last decade, globalization has become the popular -- but often misunderstood -- buzzword for the spread of American economic and cultural norms through the Internet and lightning-fast capital markets. Zakaria hoped to set the record straight by emphasizing that politics still matter in a world preoccupied with the Internet Revolution. "If you have a big political crisis," he said, citing for example a Chinese invasion of Taiwan that would destabilize the world economy, "all the economics in the world can't save it." Eschewing the microphone at the front of the lecture hall -- "Sometimes you just have to go with the Old Economy," he quipped -- Zakaria walked a fine line in his analysis. While saying that no one would be able to challenge U.S. military and economic strength for decades, he stressed that we are not witnessing any permanent change in the international system. "Beyond a very superficial level, it's not clear that this is as profound as anyone makes it out to be," he said, pointing to "the virus of MTV" and the Coca-Cola brand name as the best -- but nevertheless weak -- examples of globalization. "At the end of this phase, Thailand will still look like Thailand. It won't look like Kansas." Those in attendance were appreciative of Zakaria's contrarian perspective on the state of global affairs. "These are the types of issues [that are] discussed ad nauseam," College sophomore Hanny Hindi said. "I thought it was interesting to hear a fresh perspective." In 1993, Zakaria, then 28, became the youngest managing editor in the history of Foreign Affairs. He is a contributing editor to Newsweek and has taught at Harvard and Columbia universities. Calling him "the most important foreign-policy adviser of his generation," Esquire magazine named him one of the 21 most important people of the 21st century. Zakaria, a native of Bombay, India, and a graduate of Yale and Harvard universities, took questions for about an hour after his speech. Though several students prodded him to name a country he thought could challenge the U.S. in the future, he said he was unable to think of one, and added that China, Russia and the European Union were all unfit for the task. But Zakaria insisted that the U.S. would not remain on top in perpetuity. "If Rome and Sparta died," he asked, invoking French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, "can any republic last forever?"

JOKE ISSUE: Harvard U. lures away two more faculty members

(04/10/00 9:00am)

Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Mary Frances Berry were both hired away by Harvard's large packages. [NOTE: This article appeared in the annual joke issue.] Annenberg School for Communication Dean Kathleen Hall Jamieson and History Professor Mary Frances Berry confirmed separately on Friday that they have accepted offers to teach at Harvard University, effective July 1. The surprise announcements come only a week after History Professor Drew Faust announced she would also be leaving Penn to become the first dean of Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Jamieson, a nationally recognized expert in the field of political communications, has been dean of Annenberg since 1989. During her time in office, she has helped secure a $120 million donation from University Trustee Walter Annenberg -- the school's namesake and principal benefactor -- overseen massive renovations to the school's facilities and created the adjunct Annenberg Public Policy Center. Jamieson's second and final term as dean, however, expires next summer. At Harvard, Jamieson will direct the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, which has been without a permanent head since the center's founding director, Marvin Kalb, left office last July. "I love the University of Pennsylvania, and accomplished here more than I ever thought possible," Jamieson said. "But my time as dean, you know, is growing short, and I could not pass up this opportunity to work with some of the brightest scholars in my field." Jamieson will also step down as head of the APPC, though she will remain a fellow at the center and continue her research into media coverage of political campaigns. Berry's departure is more of a mystery. She had been on leave from the History Department for the last year and was expected to teach her popular course on the history of American law in the fall. Berry has been involved in some controversy because of her position as executive director of the Pacifica Foundation, which received flak for its censorship of liberal on-air anchors at its flagship KPFA radio station in Berkeley, Calif. Berry said last night that the Pacifica situation had nothing to do with her decision to leave and promptly hung up the phone. Two members of the History Department faculty, however, indicated that Berry might have left because of the University's poor performance at recruiting and retaining minority students and faculty. Berry, who advises African-American students, had complained privately about Penn's failure to match Harvard's diversity despite its much-vaunted minority permanence plan. Jamieson and Berry join Faust in a long line of female professors lured away by better positions at Harvard over the last several years. Last year, English Professor Elisa New decided to leave Penn for a tenured spot on Harvard's faculty. And in 1998, the Crimson recruited Penn Law Professor Lani Guinier, a controversial figure in the civil rights community. Harvard University President Neil Rudenstine offered a simple explanation for his school's success at attracting members of the fairer sex. "I'm awfully well-endowed," Rudenstine said, referring to his school's $14 billion endowment, we think. "All the chicks can't resist the packages we offer them." Upon hearing the decision, Penn Students Against Harvard said they plan to protest the professors' leaving, by donning Harvard T-shirts and chaining themselves to the bike racks outside Logan Hall.

Moshulu, a voyage on the seas of fine dining

(02/16/00 10:00am)

Though moored off Pier 34 on the Delaware River, the Moshulu takes its guests on a culinary voyage around the world every night of the week. Moshulu -- the restaurant of the same name as the 96-year-old ship into which it is built -- features a menu as international as the vessel's travels, which extended from Northwest Europe to South America to the South Pacific. You can't miss the Moshulu from the outside; soon to become a landmark on the waterfront, it is the world's largest four-masted sailing ship. But once inside, you are taken aback by the sheer opulence of the ship's turn-of-the-century Victorian d_cor, which features rich mahogany and brilliant chandeliers. Moshulu features several luxurious dining areas with views of the river and the Philadelphia skyline, as well as bars on two decks and the opportunity to tour restored parts of the 394' vessel. Under Executive Chef Gerald Dougherty, Moshulu offers an eclectic seasonal menu that offers a number of tempting seafood dishes -- appropriate for a ship that rounded the southernmost tip of South America 54 times -- but offers entrZes to satisfy anyone's tastes. The appetizer list features such tempting selections as chilled shrimp and bass tartar ($13) and a smoked salmon napoleon ($10). But my date and I on a recent Friday evening started off our meals more conservatively, with a heart Manhattan clam chowder ($6) and a crisp, refreshing Bibb lettuce salad with poached pear and Stilton bleu cheese ($7). Neither disappointed. The entrZes at Moshulu are works of art unto themselves. The menu is heavy on seafood -- including Seafood Del Mundo ($28), described as "seasonal fish, mussels, scallops and shrimp, saffron clam risotto, spinach and lobster jus" -- but also includes a fine selection of meat and poultry. My date had the night's Lobster Special ($32). Based on the number of times we saw our tuxedo-clad waiters carrying the dish around the dining room, it was clear that the lobster was the night's most popular dish. At that price, the lobster should have been good -- and it was. I ordered the Katafai-Wrapped Shrimp ($26) with horseradish mashed potatoes, Napa cabbage and dijon garlic aioli. Each shrimp -- though at that size, the word "shrimp" becomes an oxymoron -- was carefully placed atop a small mound of potatoes. The dish looked too good to eat but, once I overcame my inhibitions, I found the meal utterly exquisite and satisfying. The wine list is one area where Moshulu really shines. The restaurant offers a wide selection across a spectrum of price ranges, from around $30 a bottle to more than $200. Moshulu also offers a menu of desserts ($7 each) to delight the taste buds. But don't count on having much room after the main course for the delectable cr_me brulee or rich lemon trifle. An evening at Moshulu is not just about good food and good wine, it's an experience. The millions of dollars of renovations put into the ship between its 1994 purchase and July 1996 opening were well worth it, and the prompt and knowledgeable waitstaff made sure we enjoyed our time on board. I'm just looking forward to my return voyage aboard this ship of alimentary delights.

JOKE ISSUE/College finalizes Gen Req changes

(04/07/99 9:00am)

Officials scrapped much of the existing system for tougher requirements. College of Arts and Sciences Dean Richard Beeman announced yesterday a large-scale overhaul of his school's General Requirement, which will now require College students to take more seminar-sized and Wharton classes and also includes a physical education component. Gone, according to Beeman, will be the old system of core courses divided into seven sectors that allowed less adventurous students to skate through with simple history, math and science classes. In its place, the new system will require College students, starting with the Class of 2002, to take a series of science-related seminars during their Penn careers. "The idea of 'rocks for jocks' is a thing of the past," Beeman said, adding that the confusing and "utterly worthless" Science Studies sector was as the top of his personal chopping block. "We have to be in the business of creating a more intellectual environment here at Penn. It's what we're here to do." In order to expose students to a wide range of material, the plan requires students to take four semester-long seminars during their first two years at Penn. Current freshmen will have to satisfy the new requirement during their sophomore and junior years. Subjects for the seminars, to be taught solely by teaching assistants, will include Molecular Genetics, from the Biology Department; Epistemology, from the Philosophy Department; Elementary Thermodynamics, from the Physics Department; and Basic Hermeneutics, from the soon-to-be-created Center for the Study of Hermeneutics. "While this curriculum does limit students' enrollment options, we believe that it provides a better educational experience and will encourage students to think," said Kent Peterman, the College's assistant dean for academic affairs. "This is a leaner and meaner General Requirement." University Provost Robert Barchi -- who spent his summers in college working for construction firms, not consulting firms -- also lobbied successfully for a new Physical Education requirement for the College. "There's a war going on," Barchi said. "Our students have to be fit in their minds and their bodies." Course options for this new requirement will include golf, polo, badminton and -- thanks to InterFraternity Council Executive Vice President Andrew Exum, a College junior, Daily Pennsylvanian columnist and all-around nice guy -- mountain climbing. In the final key to the new system of requirements, the College will require its students to take one course in the Wharton School each year they are enrolled at Penn. Students will be able to choose from Wharton's core courses in the Accounting, Finance, Management and Marketing departments. "Actually, that was Chief Justice John Marshmallow's idea," said Beeman, referring to the large, lovable St. Bernard whose picture graces the walls of his office. "He thought, and I agree, that this will make College students more marketable to potential employers. Between you and me, a degree in Comp Lit will only get you a job at Starbucks." "This can't be a school where students can pull As without even attending class," Beeman added. "This isn't Princeton." Outgoing Wharton Dean Thomas Gerrity refused to comment, other than to call this reporter a "snake." Students said they were upset by the lack of consultation preceding yesterday's announcement. They are planning a rally later this week to protest the changes.

Rodin, Vagelos will teach preceptorials

(12/15/98 10:00am)

For a few hours next semester, a handful of lowly Penn undergraduates will have an audience with the University's highest-ranking officials. The Student Committee on Undergraduate Education has added to its slate of spring 1999 preceptorials -- small, not-for-credit mini-courses taught by some of the University's top faculty -- with new courses taught by University President Judith Rodin and University Trustees Chairperson Roy Vagelos, a 1950 College graduate. Registration for the other preceptorials SCUE is offering next semester has already closed, with students registering 2,851 times for a mere 196 seats distributed over the 15 courses. Registration for the Rodin and Vagelos preceptorials will continue through December 22 because of their late addition to the course roster. "We are incredibly grateful to both President Rodin and Dr. Vagelos for agreeing to lead a preceptorial," said SCUE Chairperson Rachael Goldfarb, a College senior. "This has been a tremendously successful program in the past. These two, however, are truly sweet icing on the cake." Rodin's preceptorial will focus on public discourse in civil society, a hot topic in recent months given the ubiquitous discussion of presidential peccadilloes in the Oval Office. The course will build upon the work of her Penn National Commission on Society, Culture and Community, a panel of top academics that pre-dates Monica Lewinsky's emergence onto the nation's nightly newscasts. "SCUE's preceptorial program offers a wonderful, unique venue for students to engage with faculty intense study of a subject," said Rodin, who led 15 students in a preceptorial on leadership in the fall of 1997. "The topic of civil engagement is very timely, considering the current focus of our nation's capital, and the topic is ripe for intellectual debate." Vagelos' preceptorial, entitled "I Want a New Drug," also handles a topic close to the 69-year-old Trustee's heart. Before retiring in 1994, Vagelos was chief executive officer of Merck Inc., the large New Jersey-based pharmaceuticals company. The course will focus on how drugs and vaccines are created to combat an increasing array of human diseases. No science or chemistry background is required, and Vagelos encouraged a wide array of students to apply, noting that many students "are afraid of taking science courses and as a result? don't understand things that are understandable." Entrance to either of the two preceptorials is competitive, unlike other ones. Students must submit a 100-word statement explaining what they hope to gain from the course -- along with their name, year and major -- to to be considered. Vagelos, who said he will step down as chairperson next summer as he nears the mandatory retirement age of 70, said that "not enough" interaction occurs between undergraduates and the University's top administrators. "I think it's always important to have top people meet with undergraduates," he said, referring to his experience as a biochemistry professor at Washington University in St. Louis. "I had more fun teaching undergraduates." Goldfarb, whose year-long term at SCUE's helm ends next month, added that the organization will soon be turning over control of the preceptorial program to an independent, non-SCUE-affiliated body of students. A committee of 10 to 15 "energetic and enthusiastic" students is being established to formulate and implement preceptorial ideas for next fall, with the goal of eventually turning the entire program over to new hands.

Countdown to Y2K I

(12/15/98 10:00am)

0001111000111100011110001111000111100011110001111000111100011110001111000111100011110001111000111100011110001111Penn officials try to avert computer catastrophe in the next century Students coming back to Penn from winter break next year may find the University to be a very different place from the one they left just a few weeks earlier. With 382 days until the January 1, 2000 -- and the dreaded date when many experts expect a decades-old computer glitch to cause a global computer meltdown -- administrators are trying to ensure that elevators will be running, payroll checks will keep coming and medical equipment will continue operating. The crux of the problem -- commonly referred to as "the Year 2000 bug" or "Y2K" -- is that many older computers recognize only two-digit codes for years, as they were programmed to back in the 1960s. So while "99" indicates the year 1999, when the clock strikes midnight next New Year's Eve, the transition to "00" would be read as the year 1900, not 2000. As a result of the technical snafu, supermarket computer systems could throw out fresh groceries, believing them to be 99-year-old relics; telephone companies could bill customers hundreds of thousands of dollars for century-long calls begun in one year and completed in the next; and date-sensitive computer equipment in transportation systems, utilities services and even microwaves could crash. Reliant as it is upon computer systems for everything from student records to payroll, the University is far from immune from these potentialities. But administrators are promising that the bug will affect Penn minimally and that officials will be able to both avoid problems and deal with those that do develop. "We'll continue to be vigilant about this," Executive Vice President John Fry said. "We will not rest at all until we're through with most of what we have to do. This doesn't end January 1, 2000." "Mission Critical" According to Associate Vice President for Information Systems and Computing Robin Beck, Penn's top Y2K official, the University first began addressing the Y2K concerns of its "mission critical" systems and structures -- those components whose proper function is essential to the operations of the University -- back in 1992. Beck said that the target date for complete Y2K readiness is December 31, 1998 -- in order to allow for a full year of testing before the big day hits. The total price tag for the project is expected to be between $3.5 million and $5 million, excluding the University of Pennsylvania Health System. Many of the University's Y2K-readiness projects were completed several years ago. The student records system was fixed in 1994 -- two years in advance of the Class of 2000's matriculation -- while payroll, purchasing and gift processing systems vital to the University's business end have also been updated. To handle the specific concerns of each school and office, "Y2K coordinators" have been appointed for each of the University's decentralized departments. "You'll find mission-critical components at every level of the University," Beck said. Remedying the upcoming Y2K bug has been relatively painless for the University, officials said. Rather than trying to repair the system, many computers have been replaced -- especially those that were slated for retirement anyway. Additionally, few programs Penn uses are based on COBOL -- the ancient programming language responsible for many Y2K errors -- while new versions of the Unix operating system that run most University computer systems were made Y2K-complaint this year. With remediation of faulty programs nearly complete, most of calendar year 1999 will be spent testing the new systems and how they interact with one another. "You keep on putting all of the pieces together until the entire system is Y2K-compliant," Beck said. Ready or Not While University officials are confident that every precaution will be taken by the time 2000 rolls around, they admit that no one can really be sure of what consequences will come to pass. "We're expecting to be fully compliant by the end of this month, but we're not 100 percent sure," said Juan Suarez, the Y2K coordinator for Facilities Services. Part of the problem is that as ready as University officials expect their own internal systems to be, they are reliant on the readiness of external groups -- such as banks, utilities providers, telephone service providers and the city, state and federal governments. To that end, the University and local companies and educational institutions have been in close contact when planning their Y2K efforts. "That type of outreach is key to the project as a whole," said PECO Energy spokesperson Michael Wood, whose company is spending upwards of $75 million to assess 250,000 systems and fix more than a thousand problem areas by next summer. "The big challenge is contingency planning, and that's looking at every conceivable 'what if' and coming up with a plan." Like the University, most of the larger businesses Penn deals with have long-standing plans for dealing with the Y2K problem and say they are well on the way to being compliant. Many smaller businesses, on the other hand, will likely face tough challenges with their systems as January 1, 2000, approaches. While so-called "Y2K survivalists" across the country have made headlines by stockpiling food and water in remote areas, the Health System -- which will spend upwards of $3 million correcting Y2K problems -- is taking a more low-key approach to planning for the worst. According to Russell Opland, an analyst in the UPHS' Y2K planning office, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania will have two to four weeks' worth of fuel to power emergency generators should PECO fail. But University officials are cautiously optimistic that the worst can be averted. "This is a large, complex project for everyone involved," Beck said. "There's still a lot of unknowns, [but] I feel Penn will be ready for whatever surprises come along." Daily Pennsylvanian staff writers Naomi Blivaiss, Alexandra Minkovich and Eric Tucker contributed to this article

Details emerge in U. provost selection process

(12/15/98 10:00am)

Candidates and sources close to the committee talk about the confidential process. Incoming Provost Robert Barchi has earned high marks from members of the provost search committee and University administrators, but the exhaustive 11-month process through which the noted Medical School faculty member was chosen has drawn decidedly mixed reviews from those involved. Though outgoing Wharton School Dean Thomas Gerrity, the chairperson of the 16-member search committee, has refused to speak publicly on the process of selecting a new provost outside of a statement published in last week's Almanac, a number of sources close to the committee and candidates themselves have commented on the often-collegial, sometimes-puzzling and frequently disheartening process of finding a permanent replacement for Stanley Chodorow. The committee was first brought together in January. Over the ensuing months, in conjunction with an executive search firm, the committee developed an exhaustive list of internal and external candidates. Committee members discussed the qualifications of interested candidates and brought in a number of them for interviews last spring. They then submitted a "short list" of four external candidates to University President Judith Rodin, according to sources close to the committee. Over the summer, one of the four candidates withdrew and the others were rejected. Rodin asked the committee to reconvene in September and focus on internal candidates, the same sources said. From that point on, the committee would interview prospects and pass on the names of those they deemed good choices directly to the President's Office. Several top administrators then interviewed those candidates, according to Executive Vice President John Fry and University of Pennsylvania Health System Chief Executive Officer and Medical School Dean William Kelley, who both interviewed candidates. Heidrick's 'Struggles' The most consistent criticism was directed at Heidrick & Struggles, the Chicago-based executive search firm that was hired to aid the University at the cost of several tens of thousands of dollars, in identifying and evaluating candidates for the position. The firm -- which helped to identify Fry during the University's last EVP search in 1995 -- was represented by Bill Bowen, who said in October that "anybody that applies or has been nominated [for the position], we've interacted with." Confidential search committee documents obtained by The Daily Pennsylvanian indicate that Heidrick & Struggles was responsible for nominating nearly three dozen external candidates out of the 165 total, including five of the nine given a grade-"A" ranking in a committee document dated May 6. But sources close to the committee complained that Bowen, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, had minimal interaction with the committee and that the quality of the candidates he brought before the committee diminished as the search lagged on. Even Rodin -- who sources close to the committee said interacted primarily only with Gerrity, and not the committee-at-large -- recognized discontent with Bowen's work. "There were many on the committee who felt that his help was not as useful as they would have liked," she said. "There were those who wanted to see his involvement reduced over the course of the semester." One candidate -- University of Chicago Sociology Department Chairperson Edward Laumann -- also criticized his handling by the headhunting firm. A dean at Chicago for a decade and provost for nearly two years, Laumann noted that he had been contacted by a Heidrick operative and encouraged to interview for the job, but was not well prepared for what he would find in West Philadelphia. "I had not really much been informed about what had been the issues [of academics at Penn]," he said. The Nominees Are? In his statement in the Almanac, the University's journal-of-record, Gerrity noted that the committee solicited nominations from all 12 of the University's deans and from leading academics from around the country. Indeed, many of the deans -- including Gerrity, School of Arts and Sciences Dean Samuel Preston, Graduate School of Fine Arts Dean Gary Hack and Kelley -- nominated candidates for the position. In addition, top administrators from other schools, such as Stanford University Provost Condoleezza Rice, University of Chicago Provost Geoffrey Stone and University of California at Los Angeles Vice Chancellor Claudia Mitchell-Kernan -- herself listed as a top candidate by an internal committee memorandum -- advised the committee on potential successors to Chodorow, the documents indicated. Even Fry was involved, nominating Columbia University Vice Provost for Research Michael Crow, an A-list candidate known for his strong strategic planning skills, according to confidential committee documents. Fry refused to comment on his nomination of Crow. Though an October 1 memo indicated that many top internal candidates -- Barchi included -- were nominated from the president's office, Rodin said that she did not direct the committee to consider specific nominees. "What I floated was concepts, rather than saying 'here's an individual'," she explained. Inside the Interview Behind the closed doors of the committee room, reaction to how the faculty- and student-composed search committee interacted among themselves and with the candidates during interviews was largely positive from both sources familiar with the committee's operations and the candidates themselves. Though multiple sources close to the committee described the process of evaluating such large numbers of candidates as "frustrating," they also indicated that members of the search committee got along very well with each other. "The tone was very collegial," one source said. "I think Gerrity did a tremendous job with what he was given." Epidemiology and Biostatistics Department Chairperson Brian Strom, one of the final candidates considered shortly before Barchi was named, said that he was extremely impressed with his treatment by the committee in his first provost-level interview. "The committee was terrific," he said, adding that he found the questions they asked about leadership and consensus-building to be very intriguing. "I very much enjoyed it.? I was much more receptive to this than I ever would have expected me to be." And Strom agreed that Barchi, a fellow department head of his in the Medical School, was a good choice. "Bob has been looking for this kind of job for a long time," he said. "[He] is a terrific person, a terrific choice in this position." Looking Back Many people who have had experience with similar searches in the past said that it is difficult to really judge how well a process ran by comparing it to other searches. Some notable deviations from precedent do exist. A source familiar with the 1980s Penn provost searches that yielded Thomas Ehrlich in 1981 and Michael Aiken in 1987 indicated that then-University President Sheldon Hackney was heavily involved talking with the committee when it came to choosing a final candidate. Conversely, Rodin notified the committee members of Barchi's selection by letter only shortly before the announcement, several sources complained. But Economics Professor Andrew Postlewaite, who chaired the search committee that yielded Chodorow in 1994, said that "the process is not fixed and changes depending on the circumstances, so it's not easy to answer questions with [a] simple 'yes' or 'no'." And Laumann, who said he was surprised by the size of the 16-member interviewing committee and the early emphasis on external candidates, said that things just might work differently around here. "I think that every university, particularly one as old as Penn, has its own traditions," he said. Daily Pennsylvanian editors Yochi Dreazen and Michael Mugmon and staff writer Ben Geldon contributed to this article.

Details emerge in U. provost selection process

(12/15/98 10:00am)

Documents point to a large number of high-profile external and internal candidates receiving consideration. Though as far as University administrators are concerned, University Provost-designate Robert Barchi is the only person for the job, he was far from the only noted academic considered by the 16-member search committee charged with recommending a new provost. Confidential committee documents obtained by The Daily Pennsylvanian paint a picture of a pool of candidates running the gamut from professors to department chairpersons to deans, both from within Penn and from major research institutions across the nation. Barchi, who was designated the University's next chief academic officer December 3, is an award-winning professor and researcher who has a reputation as a strong leader and as a consensus-builder within the Neurology and Neuroscience departments, which he chairs. In last week's issue of the Almanac, the University's journal of record, outgoing Wharton Dean and search committee chairperson Thomas Gerrity -- who was not available to comment for this article -- wrote that the committee considered 165 candidates in more than 10 months of activity, bringing 14 in for interviews. Internal committee memos dated May 6 and October 1 of this year list a total of 138 and 35 candidates, respectively, with some overlap. The memoranda describe the candidates' current positions, how their name got to the committee and what their response was to initial contact by a committee member. Many candidates were also ranked on an "A," "B" or "C" level. According to the memos, a total of 15 candidates from both within and outside the University received a rank in the "A" range. The nine top candidates in the May 6 "master list" were all from outside Penn, while all six grade-A candidates on the later list -- including Barchi -- were from inside the University. Only two provosts in the last 240-plus years -- including former Provost Stanley Chodorow, a recruit from the University of California at San Diego -- were promoted from outside Penn. Promotion from Within Barchi follows the tradition of former Provosts Jonathan Rhoads and Eliot Stellar in crossing the Spruce Street divide between the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and College Hall. But he was only one of three Med School department chairpersons considered for the job as late as October 1. Epidemiology and Biostatistics Department Chairperson Brian Strom said he was surprised, but intrigued, by an out-of-the-blue call from a member of the search committee. "I was called in late October by someone on the committee and told that they were done looking at external people and were now looking at internal [candidates]," he explained. "It was very intriguing. It sounded like a neat position." But Strom -- who said he never definitively told the committee whether he would take the job if offered -- said that he felt that he was not ready to give up his teaching and research just yet. Strom's resolve to continue teaching wasn't tested, however, since Barchi accepted the job before Strom could decide whether he would take the job if offered. "The process was a useful identity crisis for me in deciding what I want to do when I grow up," he quipped. The Law School was also fertile ground for provostial candidates, yielding two on the A-list. Dean Colin Diver said upon his resignation in October that several administrators had approached him about seeking the job, but that he wanted to return to teaching. The second candidate was a highly respected expert in administrative law. Including Diver, nine of the University's 12 deans were candidates at some point during the search, according to the committee documents, but only one other dean -- who ultimately declined his nomination -- was still listed among the candidates in the October 1 memo. Outgoing Interim Provost Michael Wachter -- who began serving in Chodorow's absence at the beginning of the year and will step down on February 1 -- said last week that he never had any hopes of acquiring the provostship on a permanent basis. But he, too, admitted yesterday to meeting with the committee during its search process. One source close to the committee said that "Wachter had an extremely impressive interview," but that Barchi simply was the better candidate. A variety of other internal candidates were included among the dozens of candidates listed in the memos, including several professors, department chairpersons and lower-level administrators. National Advertising In an effort to recruit the widest array of candidates for the open provost's position, according to the Almanac statement, the University solicited nominations from administrators at a number of peer institutions and placed advertisements in publications such as The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Chronicle of Higher Education. As a result, most of the candidates listed during the search came from outside the University, particularly during the beginning months of the search. Sources close to the committee said that a "short list" of four external candidates was submitted for University President Judith Rodin's consideration in June, but that all four candidates were eventually rejected. A number of potential candidates also withdrew their own names from the search process. Historian Philip Khoury, the dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said he took himself out of contention because he wanted to stay at MIT. Another A-list candidate, according to the documents, was Claudia Mitchell-Kernan, a vice chancellor at the University of California at Los Angeles. Mitchell-Kernan, though, denied ever being a candidate. "I think one is not a candidate when one does not know that one is a candidate," she said. In the non-academic arena, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General John Gerard Ruggie -- a former Columbia University dean -- was closely considered for the position, as evident in his A-list ranking in the May 6 memorandum. Political Science Department Chairperson Ian Lustick, a longtime friend of Ruggie's, said that, "it doesn't surprise me that [Ruggie] was considered." But a source close to the committee said Ruggie's interview indicated that "he just really didn't have a sound understanding of some of the academic issues we thought the University was going to face in the future." Other external candidates included Columbia University Vice Provost for Research Michael Crow, then-New York University Dean Philip Furmanski and former University of Chicago Dean Edward Laumann. Laumann said he did not "actively" seek the job and considered it "unusual" for the committee to heavily consider him since he is an external candidate. A Columbia University dean described Crow as "a prince," adding that she would have him "running the country if she could," according to the memos. At the same time, the memos quote a retired top NYU official calling Furmanski "a wonderful human being and a very capable leader." Another candidate mentioned in a memo was Sylvia Manning -- the vice chancellor for academic affairs in the University of Illinois system who was also a finalist in the University of Washington's 1997 provost search. When asked in early September, Manning, who was unranked on the May 6 memo, admitted that she "was in that search, but was not anymore." High-ranking academic officials at Rutgers, Brandeis and Duke universities also made the committee's A-list in the May 6 memo. Daily Pennsylvanian editors Yochi Dreazen and Michael Mugmon contributed to this article.

Report: Grants lag increases in U. S. college costs

(12/07/98 10:00am)

The report's authors call for more federal grant money nationwide. Federally funded student financial aid grants are playing a dangerously diminished role in financing college degrees, according to a recently released report from two national education-policy institutes. The report, entitled "Do Grants Matter? Student Grant Aid and College Affordability," charges that the real value of financial aid grants has declined substantially over the past 20 years due to the rapidly growing price tag attached to a college education. The authors of the study -- conducted by The Education Resources Institute, based in Boston, and Washington, D.C.'s Institute for Higher Education Policy -- said that colleges will have to work to keep costs down and that the government will have to spend more on student aid if college is to remain affordable for students from lower-income families. Last year, Penn students received $2.5 million in Pell grants and $2.1 million from the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program -- the two main types of higher education grants given out by the federal government -- according to Student Financial Services Director William Schilling. Unlike loans, students are not required to pay back money given to them in grant form. "Funding for the federal government for grant aid has not kept up [with college costs]," IHEP Managing Director Colleen O'Brien said. "Its buying power has decreased." The TERI/IHEP report cites a number of statistics in support of its central thesis. For instance, while the average Pell grant in 1976-77 covered 19 percent of the cost of one year at a private four-year school and 39 percent of the price at a public institution, those percentages plummeted to 9 percent and 22 percent respectively. The report places most of the blame on the sharp increase in the cost of a college education. Taking inflation into account, the average price of attendance increased by 49 percent from 1977 to 1997, while family income only nudged up 10 percent. O'Brien said that it is incumbent upon schools to begin to reverse that trend, but Schilling advised against cutting costs indiscriminately. "Certainly colleges should be doing what they can to cut unnecessary costs," he said. "Restraining the growth of prices is certainly a good thing as long as it doesn't sacrifice educational quality." Schilling also noted one unfortunate Catch-22 contributing to the tuition increases of the last two decades: As costs drive tuition up, schools have to spend more on financial aid, and the more schools spend on financial aid, the higher they have to raise tuition. To that end, the authors of the student aid report called upon the government to recommit itself to providing needy students with grant aid, which would reduce the heavier aid burden borne by schools over the last 20 years and the indebtedness incurred by the growing percentage of students taking out educational loans. "Yes, you can go to college, but there are things policymakers can be doing to make it more affordable for you," O'Brien said. "A commitment to funding grant aid for students is important." While not countering the overall conclusions of the report, Department of Education officials emphasized that since 1997 -- the last year included in the study -- funding for student aid has increased significantly. "The administration has been very active in raising the maximum award for the Pell grant," said Daniel Madzelan, an official in the DOE's Office of Post-Secondary Education. And Schilling, while noting that the diminishing purchasing power of federal student aid has been a "clear" trend, said that the funding is still important. "If the Pell grant went away, we'd be looking at that $2.5 million hole and we'd have to fill it in some way," he said. "Students might have to give up the chance of going to school, particularly disadvantaged students."

Watcher to return to Lawpost

(12/04/98 10:00am)

Interim Provost Michael Wachter will return to teaching Law and Economics in the Law School. The job was only supposed to be temporary, but for outgoing Interim Provost Michael Wachter, leaving is not any less bittersweet. Concurrently with yesterday's announcement that Neurology and Neuroscience Department Chairperson Robert Barchi would succeed long-since-departed former Provost Stanley Chodorow on a permanent basis, Wachter said that he will step down from his current post at the end of the year to return to teaching and research as a member of the Law School faculty. Wachter, a noted scholar in the legal sub-field of law and economics, will also return to full-time work at an institute in the Law School he currently co-directs in accordance with a pledge he made 3 1/2 years ago when he became a deputy provost in Chodorow's office. "When I first took this job with Stan, I told him that I would only do this job for three years," he said. "My intention was always to go back to the Institute for Law and Economics." Wachter was forced to stay in his College Hall office a little longer than expected when Chodorow -- then about to lose his fourth bid for a university presidency in just more than a year's time -- announced his resignation on October 31, 1997, effective the end of last year. Wachter had already spent 2 1/2 years as deputy provost, but agreed to to replace Chodorow on an interim basis until a permanent replacement was found. Though his position in the University hierarchy was ephemeral, Wachter continued a number of Chodorow's initiatives during his more than 11 months in office to date and spearheaded some new projects. Under Wachter's watch, the University's college house system went into effect, distributed learning programs in Wharton executive education and pre-college programs were established and work progressed on the Perelman Quadrangle construction project. "Dr. Wachter had a tremendous impact on bringing the final college house system to fruition," University President Judith Rodin said. "Much of its successful launching is attributable to his leadership and careful stewardship." Outgoing Law School Dean Colin Diver, who announced in October that he will step down next summer to return to the Law faculty, said he was pleased with Wachter's decision to return to the classroom. "I'm delighted, naturally," he said. "He's been extremely important to the school." While Rodin noted the "institutional" value of having two former Penn provosts on the faculty -- Education Professor Marvin Lazerson served as provost from 1992 to 1993 -- Wachter did not rule out a return to administration. "At some point I may want to go back to university administration," he said, adding that he hoped it would be at Penn. "But after this 3 1/2 year stint I want to go back to academics." But whatever hat he's wearing, Wachter -- whose wife Susan chairs the Wharton school's Real Estate Department -- promised not to slow down in his work. "I only know of one speed," he said. "Full speed."

U. names provost

(12/04/98 10:00am)

Robert Barchi will officially assume office on February 1, replacing former Provost Stanley Chodorow. It's official. More than 13 months after former Provost Stanley Chodorow resigned as Penn's top academic official, University President Judith Rodin finally named a permanent replacement yesterday by selecting Neurology and Neuroscience Department Chairperson Robert Barchi to fill the long-vacant post. Barchi, 52, will officially take office on February 1, 1999. Interim Provost Michael Wachter, who has been serving in the position since January 1 of this year, will step down at the end of the month to return to teaching and research as a faculty member in Penn's Law School. Word of Barchi's imminent appointment leaked out Wednesday, with several knowledgeable sources close to the student- and faculty-composed provost search committee confirming to The Daily Pennsylvanian that the noted physician and academic would be named to the high-ranking post. Though the committee was established in January, Barchi said yesterday that he only became a candidate in late October, nine months after the committee first convened. Yesterday, Rodin was effusive in her praise of Barchi, who will serve as the third provost of her approximately 5 1/2 years in office. "Dr. Barchi is an esteemed scientist and scholar and will serve well as the academic leader of the faculty," she said. "He's a great listener [and] really a very deep and strong person." After graduating from Georgetown University with simultaneous bachelor's and master's degrees in 1968, Barchi earned a doctorate in biochemistry from Penn in 1972 and graduated from the Medical School a year later. He joined the Neurology Department faculty in 1974 with secondary appointments in Biochemistry and Biophysics and has since developed a reputation among the school's faculty for being a strong-willed, dynamic leader with well-honed organizational skills. At a meeting with members of the DP's editorial board yesterday, Barchi stressed his excitement at being named to the post. "I see a series of incredible opportunities to make this place at the cutting edge of where education is going," he said. Barchi said that he is not entering the provost's spacious first-floor College Hall offices with any specific agenda items in mind, preferring instead to consult with members of the University community to determine what is important to them. "I'm just coming into a job and one of the first things I'm going to do is consult with [students], consult with the faculty, consult with the deans and arrange for myself what I think my agenda is going to be and how I'm going to prioritize it," he said. "I think it would be pretty immature to lay down an agenda right now without having done that." At the same time, though, Barchi indicated that cross-school, dual-degree and interdisciplinary programs -- such as the University's new program in cognitive neuroscience, for which he chairs Rodin's special task force -- would figure significantly into his academic plans. Barchi -- who has spent his entire Penn career in the Medical School faculty -- said that one of his priorities during the transition would be to familiarize himself with each of the University's 12 schools. "I certainly have a big learning curve, like anyone would in this job, with the specific problems of each school," he said. "But I'm not starting from ground zero." Though Barchi has only limited experience with undergraduate education, such as his work on the College of Arts and Sciences' interdisciplinary Biological Basis of Behavior major, Rodin insisted that his current graduate-education focus would not be a liability. She compared him to former provosts Jonathan Rhoads, who served from 1955 to 1959, and Eliot Stellar, who was in office from 1973 until 1978, both of whom succeeded in jumping from Med School posts to oversight of all of the University's schools. "They're two of Penn's most beloved faculty members and provosts," Rodin said. "I see Bob Barchi following in that tradition." In fact, Barchi cited Stellar and the two provosts that succeeded him -- Vartan Gregorian and Thomas Ehrlich -- as the models after which he hopes to base his own tenure as provost. "Eliot [Stellar] had a remarkable ability to listen, the wisdom to generate ideas that drew on the conclusions of others and to have them come along with that idea as if it were their very own," he said. "In many ways he was like a father figure to me and if I could be even a quarter of what he was, that would in many ways for me be an achievement." And many of his colleagues said they believe Barchi will flourish in his new post. "He's highly respected by those around him for his intelligence and his energy," Neuroscience Professor John Lindstrom said. "He's quite well-liked by the people in the department."

A new book looks back at Penn's 'shadow' years

(12/03/98 10:00am)

Key figures in the "water buffalo" affair revisit the issue, reopening old wounds. Though their offices are but a few yards apart from one another on the third floor of the 3401 Walnut Street complex, History Professors Alan Kors and Sheldon Hackney are engaged in a none-too-collegial war of words. In his recent book about the suppression of civil liberties on college campuses, Kors accuses Hackney, who served as Penn's president from 1981 to 1993, of upholding "double standards." Hackney indignantly labels Kors' work "polemical." At the heart of this exchange is the nearly six-year-old "water buffalo affair," a 1993 incident in which a Penn freshman was charged with violating the University's racial harassment policy for the allegedly racist comments he yelled at a group of African-American females. Though the charges against 1996 College graduate Eden Jacobowitz -- now a 24-year-old law student at New York's Fordham University -- were eventually dropped, the incident brought an onslaught of often-unfavorable media attention, placing Penn at the center of the heated national debate over political correctness. For four months, Hackney and Kors were on opposing sides of the often-fierce debate. As president of the University at the time, Hackney defended the prosecution of the water buffalo case; Kors served as Jacobowitz's advisor. The incident is again in the news because it serves as the focal anecdote in The Shadow University, a new book by Kors and Harvey Silverglate, a civil liberties attorney in Cambridge, Mass. The 415-page book -- published by The Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc. -- alleges that colleges and universities have in recent years turned from promoting academic and personal freedom towards suppressing open expression and denying basic liberties to students and faculty. "It's important that people understand what's going on at universities," Kors said, emphasizing that students and parents should be made aware of schools' guidelines on free speech and judicial hearings. "Universities used to engage in that kind of public scrutiny rather than hide themselves from it." 'Shut up, you water buffalo' In the first chapter of The Shadow University, Kors paints a detailed portrait of the water buffalo case from beginning to end. He refers to press accounts, letters written between himself, Jacobowitz and University officials and his notes of meetings and verbal exchanges to support the chronology as he reports it. However, it is doubtful that the true course of events will ever be known. Many of the Penn officials involved in the affair -- including then-Judicial Inquiry Officer Robin Read, Director of Student Life Fran Walker and assistant to the president Steven Steinberg -- refused to comment directly on the book or the case. Additionally, many other administrators mentioned by Kors -- such as former Provost Michael Aiken, former University Police Chief John Kuprevich and former Vice Provost for University Life Kim Morrison -- have since left their posts at Penn. The five women who pressed charges -- 1993 College graduate Colleen Bonnicklewis and 1994 College graduates Suzanne Jenkins, Ayanna Taylor, Nikki Taylor and Denita Thomas -- have also left the University and could not be reached for comment. What is undisputed, however, is that on the night of January 13, 1993, many residents of High Rise East -- including Jacobowitz -- shouted from the dorms' windows at 15 sisters of the African-American Delta Sigma Theta sorority, asking them to quiet down. The sisters were holding a Founder's Day celebration replete with singing and chanting. When more polite efforts failed, Jacobowitz -- who was working on an English paper at the time -- uttered his now-famous words: "Shut up, you water buffalo! If you want a party, there's a zoo a mile from here." Five of the women pressed racial harassment charges against Jacobowitz, alleging that his words had been meant as a slur against African Americans. Read, who has since left the JIO office and now works in Penn's Department of Academic Support Programs, offered Jacobowitz a plea bargain under which he would make a formal apology, receive a mark on his transcript and be sentence to residential probation. Believing that they were not being treated fairly by the University's closed judicial system, Jacobowitz and his advisor, Kors, took their case to a higher court: public opinion. The saga of the water buffalo affair made the front page of dozens of newspapers across the country, and opinions from television commentators and newspapers' editorial pages ran strongly against the University's position. "It was a searing time for me," said Hackney, then in the waning days of his presidency as he prepared to take over the National Endowment for the Humanities. "It was an embarrassing thing to have connected to the University name." Amid the growing media swarm on Penn's campus, the five women dropped all charges on May 24, 1993, only 10 days after a judiciary panel ruled that the case against Jacobowitz should proceed. They vowed to bring their own side of the case to the media, but never did so. Mixed Reviews In a review for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Carlin Romano blasted the book's treatment of Penn and the water buffalo affair. "The opening chapter brims with inside detail, one-sided tone and surly self-interest," Romano wrote. "They also offer long 'Get Even with Penn' passages, in which figures from ex-president Hackney to midlevel administrators draw Cs and Ds for seeing things differently from Kors." Not surprisingly, Jacobowitz was effusive in his praise of Kors' effort. "It's probably more accurate than I can even put together," the second-year law student said. "He remembered every terrible thing that happened." But, understandably, not everyone is so pleased with Kors' retelling of recent University history. "This is a polemic," said Hackney, who returned to Penn's History Department in 1997 after four years at the NEH. "I think it's not really intended to be the truth. It's the way Professor Kors wants you to see it." But Kors, while upholding the contents of his work as "true and documented," replied to Hackney with some fighting words of his own. "A lot of the book happened under the regimes of people like himself," he said. Kors reserves some of the most virulent criticism for Hackney, whom he accused of protecting allegedly offensive speech -- such as an Institute of Contemporary Art exhibit by sculptor Andres Serrano featuring a crucifix immersed in a jar of urine -- while prosecuting an innocent freshman for an innocuous comment aimed at loud nighttime revelers. Hackney, however, defended his tenure, pointing out that the president of the University is prohibited from getting involved in an ongoing student disciplinary matters. "During the spring of 1993, I was not in a position to intervene in judicial procedure," Hackney said. "Students are free to bring charges. The judicial inquiry officer pursued those as I think she felt required to do." Other Penn officials portrayed in an unfavorable light by Kors and Silverglate are merely choosing to ignore the work. "I haven't read it and I don't intend to read it," Read said. And Walker, who would not comment directly on the brief stint during which she advised Jacobowitz, was not surprised by her characterization as an unhelpful advisor who colluded with the prosecuting officials. "Obviously, there will always be a difference of opinion when one side is unhappy," she said. Out of the shadows Kors and Silverglate -- self-described best friends since their freshman year together at Princeton University in 1960 -- have been working together for 30 years to represent students charged with violations of campus speech rules. In such cases, Silverglate said he provides pro bono legal advice while Kors deals with college officials. Recently, the two civil libertarians said they had noticed a growing trend towards suppression of free speech. "About 15 years ago, we realized that the kinds of charges students faced were beginning to charge content, not the manner of speech," Silverglate said. "We found these codes at more and more schools. Innocence was not an excuse anymore." "Very often I'll speak at universities and I will talk about these issues," Kors said. "Administrators and faculty and staff will stand up and say 'this isn't happening here; you must be describing somewhere else.' And then, scores of students, one after the other, will stand up, across the spectrum, and say 'this is what's happening here'." Using documented source materials and court records from across the United States and Canada, Kors and Silverglate discuss the legal framework for the debate over free expression and due process, and many of the the involved issues, such as the confidentiality of student disciplinary proceedings. Other than Romano's negative review, reaction to The Shadow University in the national media has been largely positive, including favorable treatments in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Despite the relatively high number of Penn-related anecdotes recounted in the book, Kors emphasized that Penn is no worse than other schools around the country insofar as student rights are protected, and in fact has improved while others have worsened. Several other incidents recounted in the book occurred at Penn during Hackney's presidency, including the theft of an entire print run of The Daily Pennsylvanian by members of the Black Student League, the burning of an American flag by Communications Professor Carolyn Marvin and the racially motivated kidnapping of a white student by members of the Psi Upsilon fraternity in 1990. "The public perceived that Penn was unique, that Penn was somehow the most politically correct campus and that wasn't true," he said. "Penn was symptomatic of what was happening systematically in American universities; it's problem was that it was out there under public scrutiny." "And at Penn, things are more improved than at 99 percent of the campuses in this country," he added.

SAC Exec will not rescind funds for protest

(11/24/98 10:00am)

The Student Activities Council's executive board voted yesterday not to rescind funding for the Progressive Activist Network in the aftermath of a controversial protest Friday, as it had previously considered doing. The debate over the political nature of the group's activities, however, is far from resolved. After about 45 minutes of discussion during the course of a 2 1/2-hour meeting, the board decided not to ask PAN to give back $200 in funding allocated for a protest against police brutality held Friday on College Green, according to SAC Chairperson Katie Cooper, a College senior. SAC allocated money for the event, which drew a sparse crowd of about 20 people, with the condition that participants not discuss the controversial case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a journalist sitting on death row for the 1982 murder of a police officer. Against SAC's orders, however, Pam Africa, a representative of the Friends of Mumia organization, spoke at the event and mentioned the Abu-Jamal case. Representatives of other student groups under the SAC umbrella complained that the rally -- which many felt violated SAC's rules against financing "political" organizations -- had received the $200 in funding, and several suggested that SAC ask for the money to be returned. At last night's meeting, however, the nine-member board voted that the event was not political and that the funding should not be rescinded. "SAC's attempt to edit the demonstration because of beliefs that its nature violated SAC funding guidelines was a misinterpretation of those guidelines by the SAC Executive Board," Cooper said in a statement. "The SAC Executive Board strongly supports its member groups' right to free speech and in no way intends to violate this right when making funding decisions." Cooper, who used to be a member of PAN herself, said that no one on the board voted to rescind the funding, but there were a few abstentions. SAC allocated $3,346 to PAN for the year, most of which goes toward the production of the organization's magazine. SAC's rules prohibit it from giving funding to any group espousing a political message. Neither the College Democrats nor the College Republicans receives SAC funding. In addition, the body's general membership voted in 1995 to cut funding for The Red and Blue magazine due to concerns over its political content, though the funding was restored a few months later. Members of PAN insisted that their protest Friday did not fall under the definition of a "political" act. "We were not trying to endorse any candidate or any parties nor were we trying to influence legislation," PAN member and Engineering junior Melissa Pfeffer said. "We were merely raising awareness about police brutality." The debate may not be over yet, though. At next Wednesday's meeting of SAC's general membership -- composed of one representative from each of SAC's approximately 150 groups -- SAC may make a motion to ask for the $200 back. Additionally, several SAC members have expressed concerns over PAN's actions, Cooper said. "It is a sticky situation," Cooper said of funding decisions for events that may be interpreted as political. "There may be a backlash."