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Music: The Legacy of Jazz

(11/08/01 10:00am)

Today's jazz scene is a scattered mess. No longer the focal point of American pop culture (or even the soundtrack for Kerouac-inspired rebellion), jazz has branched off in so many different directions that there is no longer any "jazz scene." The task of actually being a fan is difficult--one must often search the butt-end of the FM radio dial or small dive bars to hear this American music. Jazz has gone underground and become a subculture whose numbers are dwindling with each passing year.

Music: Jazz and Grassroots

(11/01/01 10:00am)

If you're anything like me, you hate Billy Joel with a renewed passion each morning. The buzz around campus is already so deafening that I am beginning to enter that weird psychological state somewhere between blind rage and paralyzing depression. To drown out the Billy Joel in my head, there was only one option: go to as many shows as possible before the psychosis takes over.

Rendering a life - on paper

(12/07/00 10:00am)

As all college students know, there are some classes that challenge your ability to stay awake, and the rare others that you are truly sad to see end. And given the enthusiasm of its students, English 155 has proven to be one of those rare classes. Eight students from "Writing in the Documentary Tradition" presented selections from their completed work to over 70 students, faculty and community members at the Kelly Writer's House on Tuesday. The class, taught by Washington Post reporter and author Paul Hendrickson, required students to pick a person and painstakingly document his or her life over the course of the semester. "We were in uncharted waters here," Hendrickson said, speaking about the unique nature of the course. "But I must say like a proud parent, all the students performed admirably." The presentation of the papers, which were required to be between 35 and 40 pages long, was the culmination of a semester's worth of work. The documentaries covered a wide variety of subjects. One piece described the workdays of several nurses in the maternity ward of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, giving the audience a small taste of life at HUP. A piece about a doctor in the University's Student Health Services gave a personal glimpse into the day of a University staff member. Overall, the presentation allowed the standing room-only crowd to get a look at the diverse personalities that make up Philadelphia. It also encouraged exploration into a city whose human side is often missed by students. Throughout the presentation, the intensity of the class became apparent. Students were required to find a subject within three weeks and devote hour after hour to documenting the actions and routines of the subject. Hendrickson said that one of the most difficult aspects of the class was the actual writing of the final project. "The students were faced with the awesome responsibility of trying to render a life," Hendrickson said. "They had to learn the art of making poetic uses of bare fact." Nearly all of the students offered praise for Hendrickson, with some casually referring to him as "PH." "This was easily the best class I have ever taken," said College senior Sara Shahriari, who documented a single mother of five struggling to get a job and provide a good Christmas for her children. This is the first semester that the class has been offered at Penn. In order to enroll, students had to submit a writing sample and meet with the professor. The class will be offered again next semester.

Poverty that hits home - and abroad

(11/09/00 10:00am)

Do poverty in Kensington and poor working conditions in Honduras have any relationship? The relationship between the two became apparent as four speakers from as far away as Thailand and as near as Kensington talked about their experiences as the "Poverty Without Borders Speaking Tour" stopped by Penn last night. The talk, sponsored by Penn Students Against Sweatshops, Connaissance and Civic House, featured a diverse panel of four speakers, three of whom spoke through translators. The theme of the night was how the fight to end poverty has taken on a global direction. "We want to end poverty," Kensington Welfare Rights co-Chair Liz Ortiz said, best summing up the theme of the tour. Ortiz was joined by three other speakers, each of whom recounted their experiences with poverty and the underside of the current trend of globalization. One speaker, Christina Chavez of Honduras, talked of the dangerous and often fatal working conditions of the maquilas -- or small factories -- in her native country. Ortiz, the lone American on the panel, a former homeless woman and single mother of three, spoke of the difficulties facing her when she lost her job at the Sheraton of King of Prussia. Concluding the talk were two speakers from Thailand who spoke about their efforts to organize factory workers to demand better pay, benefits and working conditions. The panel highlighted how interconnected the movement against poverty has become, thanks in no small part to the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, a Philadelphia non-profit organization working toward organizing the poor for positive change. The KWRU has linked up with the organizations represented by the speakers on the tour and has also made connections with organizations in countries as far away as Brazil and the Netherlands. The tour took on a local feel as Brian Kelly, a member of Penn Students Against Sweatshops, discussed the efforts of PSAS to ensure that the manufacturing of University apparel is not made at the expense of workers' rights. "PSAS is working to ensure that Penn is upholding its moral responsibility," the Wharton junior said. "We want to ensure that our tuition money is not going to perpetuate exploitative labor practices." Angie Liou, a College senior who has extensive experience working for the KWRU, also discussed the importance of this talk to University students and the need for students to be in touch with local concerns. "You rarely hear about an area like Kensington at Penn," Liou said. "Areas like Kensington are often forgotten even though it is one of the neighborhoods that needs the help most." The tour is the first step in building momentum for the Poor People's World Summit to End Poverty, which will take place in New York City on November 15-18. The summit, sponsored in large part by the KWRU, is aimed at raising awareness about the causes and problems of poverty throughout the world.

Cha-chaing to Cuban sounds

(10/27/00 9:00am)

Lights were off. The fire alarm was blaring. And not even that could quiet the music coming from Logan Hall on Wednesday night. Nearly 60 students, community members and professors were on hand for the kick-off of the Delaware Valley Latin American Studies Symposium, hosted by the University's Latin American Cultures Program. The event, which is in its second year, featured a discussion and performances of traditional Cuban music by two groups. Beginning the evening was a discussion and slide show by Robin Moore, a professor of music history at Temple University. The discussion centered around the history of Afro-Cuban music and its role in Cuba during the period from 1920-1940. Following the discussion was a musical performance by Maria del Pico Taylor, a Temple University professor of music. Her six-piece group played several traditional Cuban songs and featured two vocalists from the Curtis School of Music. The performance went smoothly until the fire alarm went off after the last song. And with the alarm blaring, the Elio Villafrance Quintet took the stage and began to play what they described as "the blacker side of Cuban music." The quintet played their steady fusion of jazz and Cuban music to an audience that was tapping its toes and dancing in its seats. After two songs, the University Police arrived on the scene to disengage the fire alarm. In the process, however, they turned off all of the lights in the Terrace Room. Nonetheless, the band continued to play. Eventually, the fire alarm was shut off, the lights came back on and the quintet treated the audience to a mixture of Cha-Cha-Cha's, Rhumbas and other traditional Cuban genres of music. The audience was clearly energized by the group's performance. "It was great. I really, really enjoyed the group," Penn Spanish Professor Oreida Chu-Pund said. "They gave us a great look at the history of Afro-Cuban music, and they sounded excellent." The event was the first in a series of three. The next two events will feature a lecture on "The Sounds of Spanglish" and a theater presentation by Latin Arte's Ombe Troupe. The event, sponsored by La Casa Latina and La Unidad Latina/Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity is also meant to draw attention to the University's budding Latin American Cultures Program. "We are still setting up. We are building faculty and we just moved to a new location," History Professor Nancy Farriss said. "We are hoping this event will get the word out and generate interest in the Latin American Cultures Program." The program, headed by History Professor Anne Farnsworth-Alvear, allows students to focus on the literature, politics, popular culture and history of Latin American countries.

Alumnus fights for tolerance, against political correctness

(09/25/00 9:00am)

It's no secret that religious fundamentalist groups and gay rights activists don't usually support each others' causes. But thanks to Thor Halvorssen, a balance has been struck between the two on many a college campus. Halvorssen, a 1996 College graduate, addressed a group of 25 people -- only a few of whom were students -- at the Newman Center last Thursday night on the topic of "Political Correctness versus Religious Liberty on Campus." Halvorssen is the executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Inc. -- a non-profit educational organization dedicated to civil rights and co-founded by History Professor Alan Kors. The event, sponsored by the University's Orthodox Christian Fellowship, is the first in the organization's Distinguished Guest Lecture Series, which will bring seven speakers to campus over the 2000-2001 school year. Halvorssen focused on controversies on various college campuses that have pitted gay-rights advocacy groups against selected student organizations -- in particular, evangelical Christian groups. Halvorssen recalled a case in which a religious group at Tufts University was barred from campus because it would not allow a homosexual to hold a leadership position. The group was eventually reinstated after FIRE negotiated with Tufts' administration. Halvorssen noted that FIRE is working on nine different university campuses to help defend religious groups that have been punished for not allowing gays to hold leadership positions or have otherwise allegedly discriminated against gays. "There's a danger in mandatory political correctness," Halvorssen said. "It stifles free speech and student life in general." Halvorssen also highlighted the dangers of university policies, especially those that try to enforce political correctness but ultimately serve to "oppress and censor its own students." In particular, Halvorssen cited speech codes at various universities that prevent students from telling certain types of jokes, laughing at certain types of jokes and even eating food in a sexually suggestive manner. When asked how Penn measures up to other institutions in its protection of students' rights to free speech, and the right for students to freely associate with each other, Halvorssen admitted that he was very impressed. "Penn has made extraordinary progress in promoting free speech," Halvorssen said. Halvorssen also took a few shots at controversial former Penn President Sheldon Hackney, who resigned in 1993 and has since returned to the University as a History professor. Halvorssen said Penn has made tremendous progress since the 1993 "water buffalo" incident, a notorious example of mandated political correctness 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. Still, Halvorssen said he felt that Penn has room for improvement. "The ideal situation would be less racial segregation on campus and, instead, [if] students were encouraged to freely association with each other," Halvorssen said. "Also, there should be no speech codes on campus and, foremost, the University should protect the eccentric. The ideal would be a university of free minds," he concluded. Following the talk, several audience members said they were impressed with the lecture. "I wholeheartedly agree with him," said OCF President Alexis Decerbo, a Wharton sophomore. "He basically said everything that I ever wanted to say on the subject."

Police look for suspects in Yale murder

(12/11/98 10:00am)

The Yale Daily News NEW HAVEN, Conn. (U-WIRE) -- The New Haven Police Department has narrowed the range of possible suspects in its investigation of Yale senior Suzanne Jovin's homicide to males living within three blocks of the site where the Davenport senior was killed, NHPD communications supervisor Lt. David Burleigh said Wednesday. While the investigation continues to encounter roadblocks, detectives have uncovered leads that might enable them to solve the case, Burleigh said. He declined to provide details about new leads. "I think they're on the right track," he added. But police and Yale officials said reports that police had identified a Yale faculty member as a prime suspect in the homicide case are premature. Officials said police questioned a Yale faculty member twice but added that they did not consider the individual a suspect. Burleigh said reports that a Yale faculty member killed Jovin are "premature and reckless." While many university faculty members live in the vicinity of Edgehill Avenue, investigators said they are not exclusively considering Yale teachers as suspects. Burleigh said police recalled the faculty member for additional questioning because detectives forgot to ask him several questions the first time. "It is not unusual that he was called twice," Burleigh added. "Reports that he is a suspect are based on the fact that he was called in twice, and that does not mean anything at all." Police have not given the university the faculty member's name, according to Yale spokesperson Thomas Conroy. New Haven Police Chief Melvin Wearing told Yale officials that reports identifying a faculty member as the prime suspect are not true, Provost Alison Richard said. Captain Brian Sullivan, the head of the New Haven Police Department's detective bureau, said in a press conference two days ago that the investigation has identified no suspects, no witnesses, no strong leads, no weapon and no motive in the homicide. Police are searching for a male suspect based on reports from an Edgehill Avenue resident who said he heard a loud altercation between a man and a woman on the street between 9:30 and 9:45 p.m., Sullivan said. Officers who responded at 9:58 p.m. Friday to reports of a woman bleeding at the intersection of Edgehill Avenue and East Rock Road discovered Jovin suffering from multiple stab wounds to the back, he added. Police rushed Jovin to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where a medical examiner pronounced her dead at 10:26 p.m., said Joseph Drozdal, a spokesperson for the Chief Medical Examiner's Office. A medical examination of the body found no evidence of sexual assault, but detectives said they had not ruled out robbery as a possible motive. Since Jovin left her wallet at her Park Street apartment, police could not determine whether her assailant intended to steal it, Sullivan said.

AROUND HIGHER EDUCATION: No suspects in Yale murder

(12/10/98 10:00am)

Yale Daily News NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- (U-WIRE) Police investigators said Tuesday they had no suspects, no strong leads, no weapon and no witnesses in the homicide of Yale senior Suzanne Jovin, but added that police are rapidly acquiring more information about the night of her death. News reports that Jovin knew her assailant are premature, said Captain Brian Sullivan, head of the New Haven Police Department's detective bureau. Sullivan said he has not ruled out the possibility of a random act of violence. Police are searching for a male suspect based on reports from an Edgehill Avenue resident who heard a loud argument between a man and a woman between 9:15 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. Friday night, he said. The neighborhood resident could not provide details about the substance of the argument, Sullivan said. But another Edgehill Avenue resident said he noticed no suspicious activity when walking his dogs on the street around 9:30 p.m. Sullivan said police have removed Jovin's boyfriend and the mentally disabled adult she mentored from their suspect list. Police found the body of the senior at the intersection of Edgehill Avenue and East Rock Road Friday night at 9:58 p.m. when they responded to reports of a woman bleeding. Officers found Jovin suffering from multiple stab wounds to the back and rushed her to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where a medical examiner pronounced her dead at 10:26 p.m., officials said. "She was stabbed in the back -- and only in the back -- with a knife," Sullivan said. He added that reports of wounds to the neck and chest are incorrect. Medical examiners found no evidence of sexual assault, but investigators said they had not ruled out robbery as a possible motive. Sullivan said investigators found Jovin's wallet at her 258 Park Street residence and could not be sure whether her assailant intended to steal it. Jovin was last seen between 9:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. on College Street walking north toward Elm Street. She was wearing a maroon fleece coat, blue jeans and casual boots, Sullivan said. "We are trying to piece together what might have happened during the last half hour of her life," Sullivan said. Investigators currently believe Jovin was killed at the site where her body was found. They said a blood trail would have been left if her body had been dumped from a vehicle. Sullivan said how Jovin traveled to Edgehill Avenue from College Street in 30 minutes remained an unanswered question. "It's just too early to speculate about it now," he said. Officials said police are investigating the incident aggressively. The New Haven Police Department increased the number of detectives assigned to the investigation from six to eight two days ago, Sullivan said. But police sources said the investigation had run into roadblocks. Sullivan said searches of the area failed to produce a murder weapon. "I don't think they're anywhere. This isn't good. They're throwing everything into it, and it's not going well," said a police officer who asked not to be identified. However, officials said the New Haven Police Department had devoted all available resources to the investigation and added that officers were working around the clock. "The Yale community can be sure they are hurling everything into it," one officer said. Sullivan said Jovin's killing should not raise security concerns for Yale students. "This was only one isolated incident," he said.