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Dealing with the day of infamy

(12/06/91 10:00am)

December 7 is a date that is supposed to live in infamy. But while the 50th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor will pass unnoticed for many students, some Japanese Americans will spend the day warily on guard against anti-Asian sentiments. Campus scholars in Japanese and American history said yesterday that American bitterness over the sneak attack has declined, but it has also been replaced by new resentment about Japan's economic edge over the U.S. And some Japanese American students said that although anti-Asian sentiments in America are not related to the 50-year-old attack, they fear the day will be used as an excuse to initiate violence against Asians. Representatives of Students for Asian Affairs asked University Police to strengthen patrols tonight and tomorrow night to guard against harassment or violence. SAA leaders said heavy media coverage of the anniversary has increased awareness of it to the point that it could be a dangerous issue. "We just felt that this weekend there should be increased awareness among campus police that it is the 50th anniversary," said SAA Chairperson-Elect Norbert Hsu. "It's more of a precautionary measure than being afraid." University Police Sergeant Lawrence Salotti said two extra officers would patrol the University this weekend. Despite the concerns of some Asian Americans, for many Americans, Pearl Harbor is an event of only academic interest. To historians, the attack, which precipitated America's entry into World War II, marks a shift from American isolationism to the country's primacy in world affairs. The Japanese aircraft that bombed the U.S. Naval forces at Pearl Harbor shocked the American public, promoting the stereotype of the "devious Oriental," and making fear of a sneak attack part of American strategic planning for decades. But History Professor Bruce Kuklick said that although World War II was a shaping experience for many of America's leaders, including President Bush, the attack on Pearl Harbor is not a "live" emotional issue like the Holocaust. Instead, it only serves as a background for what current negative sentiments exist toward Japan. Japanese Studies Professor William LaFleur said American resentment developed as Japan became a world trading power and developed an economic base. He said many Americans are searching for a scapegoat to take the blame for this country's economic difficulties, and Japan's success makes it a convenient target. Japanese Cultural Society Vice President Reed Stevenson said Japan is a popular subject in the American media because of the economic threat many Americans think Japan represents. "Japan is an issue right now," said Stevenson, a College sophomore. "If a country that bombed the United States 50 years ago was still economically in the Third World, it wouldn't be much of an issue." While American press coverage of the anniversary has been intense, Stevenson and others said it has been balanced. According to LaFleur, who returned from a trip to Japan two days ago, the Japanese press has given moderate coverage to the anniversary and has expressed some concern that Americans will use it as an excuse to level blame against Japan. Kuklick said the evils of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima cancel each other out on the diplomatic scoreboard, making each country's attempt to blame the other useless. Japanese teaching about World War II emphasizes Japan as a victim of American economic sanctions and of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. According to Political Science Professor Alvin Rubinstein, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor will pass, affecting people differently based on their experience, but the tensions between the U.S. and Japan will remain unless the U.S. government devises a coherent policy for relating to Japan. LaFleur said that just as the U.S. underestimated Japan's military potential in 1941, businessmen and politicians are likely to underestimate Japan's economic strength today. "The lesson from Pearl Harbor as I see it is a lesson of American overconfidence, of the American tendency to ignore signs," he said. "I feel that in the areas of science and technology, and even in areas of the humanities and social sciences, the Japanese will be world leaders within ten years, and there's a tendency for us not to be aware of that."

U. ranks tops in access to officials

(12/06/91 10:00am)

University students have better access to their administrators than students at any other Ivy League institution, according to a recent survey conducted by a student watchdog group. The Harvard Watch 1991 Ivy League Survey ranked student access to university presidents and top decision makers based on criteria such as students' role in the selection of a president and regular contact between the president and student groups. The University was the only school in the Ivy League at which students have access to texts of research contracts between the University and the private sector. But while the presidents of Dartmouth, Princeton, Brown and Yale hold regular office hours for students, President Sheldon Hackney does not, the survey found. Assistant to the President Nicholas Constan said while he and Hackney would both like to have more contact with students, he is satisfied with the effort the president's office makes to be open. "I think we run very hard trying to be accessible," Constan said. "And I don't know how much more we can do and still do business." Student leaders said they enjoy relatively open access to senior administrators, especially in times of crisis, but they do not have regular informal contact with the administration, and administrators often fail to act according to student input. Undergraduate Assembly Vice Chairperson Ethan Youderian said although administrators are responsive to students, he thinks they should initiate more contact. "If you want to talk to an administrator, you call them," said the Wharton sophomore. "It is rare that they come to you and say, 'There's a pressing issue we want your opinion on.' " But Youderian added that Hackney called the UA and asked to speak to them about the conflict over Mayor's Scholarships, and Vice Provost for University Life Kim Morrisson contacted the organization about proposed changes to the Judicial Inquiry Officer's charter. Graduate and Professional Student Assembly Chairperson Michael Goldstein also said University students have better access to administrators because their student organizations are well organized, and formal structures like GAPSA and the University Council promote contact. But he added that universities as a whole are not open to their students. "If this is the best, that's not a good statement about the state of affairs," said Goldstein. Harvard Watch, which prepared the survey, was founded in 1985 by consumer advocate Ralph Nader. By focusing on Harvard, which ranked lowest in the survey, the group hopes to set an example for other educational institutions. According to Harvard Watch member Jaron Bourke, the organization has used the survey to demonstrate to students the areas in which they should be able to influence their administrations. "We have used it as a tool for talking with student audiences to see what they are able to do with a few pointed questions and a real determination to make meaningful reform at their schools," Bourke said.

Conservation biology program to start

(12/04/91 10:00am)

In response to growing student interest in environment issues, the University is instituting a masters degree program in conservation biology. Undergraduates will be encouraged to submatriculate in the program, which will combine studies in natural science and government policy. According to Biology Professor John Smith, who has been involved with developing the program, the field of conservation biology has grown rapidly recently, with as many as 20 programs originating at different universities in the last five years. He said the increase in programs is academia's response to the declining world environment. "Biology is beginning to catch up with reality," Smith said. "It's really getting that desperate. There isn't a whole lot of time." Biology Professor Brenda Casper said the 10-credit masters program, which will begin next fall, is designed to attract students with a variety of academic backgrounds. All students will be required to participate in an internship at an institution such as the Smithsonian Conservation Research Center or the National Park Service and to write a thesis. Smith said the internships will augment the resources that the University, as an urban school, can offer. "Sitting in a city like this and having a limited faculty, we have to find ways of getting our people out into the natural world when they are working on their theses," said Smith. According to Casper, the idea for a submatriculation program in conservation biology developed as the Biology Department searched for ways to increase department's connection with the Morris Arboretum. She said researchers at the Arboretum, who are adjunct members of the Biology faculty, were interested in applied ecology. Casper added that environmentalism is an area of growing interest among undergraduates. No new professors are expected to be hired, and several existing courses will form the foundation for the new program. Some of the approximately 12 students who signed a list indicating they might be interested in the submatriculation program said last night they were attracted by the possibility of building on their interest in environmentalism and getting a masters degree only one year after finishing their undergraduate studies. "I simply took a couple environmental studies classes," said College junior Julio Arias. "They were very interesting. It's a burning issue right now." College sophomore Beth Mersten said that although she has not chosen an undergraduate major, she is interested in the masters program. "It's nice that you can get a masters in less than a year extra," Mersten said. "It seems like a good field. I've always been interested in the environment." Biology Professor Smith said he anticipates that graduates of the program will be able to get jobs in private or governmental agencies monitoring the environment, agencies that will receive increased funding in the near future.

A prof's phone call to Bush leads to a Secret Service probe

(12/03/91 10:00am)

Martin Orzeck woke from uneasy dreams to find he was under investigation by the Secret Service. The disgruntled English professor telephoned the White House last Monday night to complain about the economy, lost his temper with the switchboard operator and called President Bush a "Nazi racist." But when he opened his door at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday and saw two uniformed policemen and two plain-clothes officers, he did not connect their arrival with his phone call. He only began to understand when one of the plainclothesmen flashed a badge, identified himself as a Secret Service officer and said, "Tell me, Martin, did you make a phone call threatening George Bush last night?" "We had a report earlier this evening that you called the White House threatening President Bush," the officer continued. "And we take these reports very seriously." Orzeck, who describes himself as "not a political person" and "a patriotic American," said he was astonished and angry by the officers' appearance on his doorstep. "Are you going to arrest me?" he asked. "Can you arrest me?" "Well, we can arrest you," answered one of the uniformed officers. "Either arrest me or get out," Orzeck retorted. "Get out, now." According to Orzeck, the policemen departed without questioning him further, and he was left wondering about the government's response to what he said was an innocuous and Constitutional protest. Orzeck, whose appointment as a visiting professor will end in June, said he got depressed after an evening of filling out job applications. So he decided to call the White House's public line to register a complaint about contradiction between Bush's claim to be the "education president" and his lack of financial support for education. He drank a few beers, watched the news, and placed his call. When the switchboard operator told him to call back during business hours and hung up without letting him leave a message, Orzeck said he got upset. He called two more times. When the operator asked exactly who he was trying to reach, he vented his frustration against the President. "I simply want to talk to my elected representative in Washington," he said. "You know who I mean -- that Nazi racist, George Bush." The operator took his name and number, and four hours later, the Secret Service knocked on his door. Orzeck said the government's rapid response was out of proportion to the actual danger his call presented, and it reflects a bunker mentality on the part of the administration. But according to Secret Service spokesperson Mark Ruppert, it is standard procedure to follow up on calls that might be considered threatening. He added that White House operators use their discretion in deciding when to alert the Secret Service about callers. According to an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Orzeck is still under investigation. The 40-year-old professor said he is an unlikely candidate for harming the President. He has sent protest telegrams to the White House twice before and he is a registered Democrat, but the suggestion that he would inflict physical damage on someone, especially the President, made him laugh. "They can investigate until the cows come home, but they are not going to find anything but a rather dull academic who writes articles on Emily Dickinson and Edgar Poe," he said. Orzeck's protest has received publicity in the local and national media, and so far, he does not seem upset by the attention. He said he would like to find out exactly what he is being investigated for, but he has no other plans for following up on the incident. But the phone call may have repercussions on Orzeck's search for a job. English Department Undergraduate Chairperson Alice Kelley said she was worried about the ramifications of his actions. "I don't think it's going to do him any good," Kelley said. "I think it's kind of a shame because he's somebody who deserves a break. If it gets in his way, I'd be very sad."

Forum addresses needs of Asian students

(11/22/91 10:00am)

The subjects included the addition of Asian-American studies coursework into the College curriculum, multiculturalism, and the experience of Asians at the University. The forum was sponsored by Students for Asian Affairs, a campus group established two years ago that has been pushing these and other issues since its inception. Professors from the English, Oriental Studies and American Civilization Departments, among others, and representatives of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of University Life all came to participate in an informal dialogue with students. But last night's meeting was just part of what has been a "landmark" year for Asian-American issues at the University, according to SAA Chairperson Phan Lam. A course on Asians in America was introduced on a temporary basis this semester, and two more classes -- one on literature and one on politics -- will be offered next semester. Also, a committee commissioned last spring by former SAS Dean Hugo Sonnenschein to study the inclusion of Asian American studies into the curriculum began meeting this semester. And according to Winnie Lam, editor of SAA's newsletter, awareness of Asian issues has grown on campus. "This year, faculty are becoming more aware of who we are," said Lam, a College sophomore. Assistant Dean for Advising Joseph Sun said SAA is a well-organized group that has the unity a student group needs to fight for curriculum changes. "It takes a lot of work and energy," said Sun. "[SAA] has the momentum. Its only agenda is student concerns." But in spite of the advances it has made, SAA members said they still have many objectives left to meet. The classes being introduced next semester, Asian-American Literature and Asian-American Perspectives on Government Policy, will not be added as a permanent part of the arts and sciences curriculum, but instead will be offered through the College of General Studies. According to American Civilization Chairperson Murray Murphey, who heads the committee, the College does not have professors who can teach Asian-American studies. "The standard way [to add courses] is to get members of the standing faculty to teach them," Murphey said. "But since there aren't many Asian Americans on the faculty, we're trying this way." The Asians in America course is also taught by a visiting faculty member, Bryn Mawr Professor Jean Wu, and although she has agreed to teach the course again next year, Murphey said he cannot guarantee that it would remain in the Am Civ curriculum. The SAA's ultimate goal, according to Chairperson Lam, is to institute a program in Asian-American Studies, similar to the ones offered at Harvard and Brown universities, and eventually to offer a major in that area. She added that teaching Asian-American studies is just one way the University can diversify its academic offerings. "We're all working toward this multicultural curriculum," said Lam, a College senior.

College Overseers meet with Stevens

(11/18/91 10:00am)

The distinguished alumni listened politely as English Professor Peter Conn described women tearing apart cows with their bare hands. They hardly flinched when he told them about a mother carrying her slain son's head by the hair. And as Conn detailed other grisly scenes from The Bacchae, a Greek tragedy that was required reading for all freshmen this year, the College of Arts and Sciences Board of Overseers reacted much as their undergraduate counterparts had, with a mixture of debate and disgust. Gathered at the University for their semiannual meeting last week, the overseers capped two days of discussion about the College's future with a seminar about The Bacchae. As Conn explained to the 35 overseers, administrators assigned the play to give all incoming students a common intellectual experience. But after listening to the graphic plot outline, Overseer Morton Kornreich, president of the United Jewish Appeal, questioned the choice of the play. "Of all the books, why would you pick this one?" he asked. Conn said the Euripides tragedy was chosen because although it is part of the literary canon, it questions many values considered traditional. Board members also discussed the play's image of divinity and issues of gender it raised. Chairperson Natalie Koether described herself as a moderate feminist and commented on the portrayal of women in in the play. "The women, as usual, have no control over what happens, but they are held responsible," she said. Earlier in the day, the overseers, whose job is to advise the dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, met with Dean Rosemary Stevens. It was Stevens' first meeting with the overseers since she assumed the dean's post in September, and she used the session to introduce her goals for the school to the board. According to Koether, an attorney, discussion focused on the public perception of the College and the need to develop pride among College students. Many board members said they were excited about Stevens' appointment, both because of her 12-year affiliation with the University and her because of her progressive stance on issues tying the University to the community. NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell, a member of both the Board of Overseers and the University's Board of Trustees, said she was pleased with Stevens' selection. "She expressed a strong interest in things that have great importance to me -- recruitment of women and minorities," Mitchell said. "What will clearly have great value to the faculty is her scholarship." Overseer Michael Crow said the board intends to take a heavily participatory role in its advice. He added that members of the board offer variety of non-academic perspectives on solutions to the College's problems. "We're not surrounded by the academic environment all day, every day," he said.

Calculators no longer allowed in Econ exams

(11/15/91 10:00am)

The Economics Department is prohibiting the use of calculators for all Economics 1 and 2 examinations, but students who took the tests yesterday and last week said they were unconcerned about the new policy. An advance in technology, which allows calculators to compute complex formulas, aroused concern among some professors, according to Economics 1 and 2 Course Head Herbert Levine. "It was pointed out to us, initially by some students, that contemporary calculators have a tremendous amount of memory built into them," Levine said. "It becomes perhaps too inviting to break the University rules about how to take exams." Students were allowed to use calculators on the first set of midterms last month, but both students and professors said that having calculators is not a determining factor in student performance. According to Associate Economics Professor Roger Lagunoff, a member of the committee that wrote the Econ 1 exam, numbers used on the tests have been simplified in response to the new regulation. For example, the computational section of last night's macroeconomics exam used numbers that were all multiples of 40. But Levine said he does not expect the new policy to impact grades on the exams, and according to Associate Professor Stephen Coates, who teaches microeconomics this semester, the computations on Econ 1 and 2 exams are always limited to simple operations like subtraction, division and finding ratios. Economics major Nicole Bergeron, a College senior, said that although a calculator with advanced capabilities would be a helpful tool in an upper-division class, it was unnecessary in Econ 1 and 2. According to Coates, a memo explaining the new policy implied that students with advanced calculators could have an unfair advantage but did not specify an incident that inspired the policy. "There was no suggestion that anyone had actually done this," Coates said. "I said to my class that if you're smart enough to figure out how to use it, you probably deserve to do well." Wharton freshman Sam Rivera, an Econ 1 student, said he did not feel that the material on last week's exam required a calculator. He added that he could have completed the first midterm without a calculator as well, but it would have taken him more time. And College sophomore Douglas Baumstein said students in his Econ 2 class groaned when the policy was announced, but he was not worried about taking the exam without a calculator. "They'll probably give us easy numbers," he said last night, before the exam.

Room in Hill House gutted by 3 a.m. fire

(11/13/91 10:00am)

A fire, accidentally ignited by a student's cigarette, gutted a Hill House room early yesterday morning, injuring no one but forcing hundreds of students to evacuate the dormitory for nearly two hours. According to Director of Fire and Occupational Safety James Miller, Engineering freshman Marc Lewis was repairing a shoe in his room when the cigarette came into contact with fumes from the glue he was using to repair the shoe, setting the glue on fire. Lewis and College freshman Arthur Czapka, who live in room 517, thought they had put out the small fire, but a spark entered a closet and within several minutes the contents of the closet were in flames. An automatic alarm alerted the Philadelphia Fire Department, University Police and Physical Plant officials at 3:34 a.m., and the fire was extinguished within 15 minutes of their arrival. The fire destroyed everything in the closet and blackened the room, but it was contained by Hill's cinderblock walls and did no serious damage outside of the room. Yesterday, the room stood charred and empty, its contents either destroyed or removed. Cleanup will take several weeks, officials said. Both Lewis and Czapka, who spent yesterday morning in a Hill House lounge, will be relocated to other rooms in Hill House. They could not be reached for comment yesterday. Yesterday, on the fifth floor of Hill House, a layer of soot covered the black linoleum outside Lewis and Czapka's room as their next-door neighbors wiped grit from books that had been saved from the fire and piled them in grimy milk crates. Fifth-floor residents said when they came out of their rooms shortly after hearing the fire alarm, they saw some smoke but did not realize the seriousness of the fire until after they were outside the building. The dormitory had a false alarm last week, and many students said they thought a fraternity's pledge had set off the alarm as a prank, so they were reluctant to believe that the fire was real. "We just had a drill last week, so some people thought it was only a drill and tried to sleep through it," said Tyler Dickovick, a Wharton freshman who lives in room 519. Students' skepticism about the fire coupled with many students' impression that the alarms were too quiet to hear created problems for firemen and University Police officials trying to evacuate the building. According to Senior Administrative Fellow Maria Elena Vieira-Branco, sleeping students were pulled out of their beds by Hill managers, graduate fellows and safety personnel. "What's puzzling to me is even though the alarms are so loud, there were some people that needed to be removed from their rooms," Vieira-Branco said. Vieira-Branco added that while she knows that all the students in the immediate vicinity of the fire were evacuated, she is uncertain that everyone left the building. Students were kept in Bennett Hall, across the street from Hill House, until fire safety officials declared the building safe shortly after 5 a.m. Vieira-Branco said that when she went to speak to the students, she estimated approximately 500 of Hill's 541 student residents were present. But she emphasized that this does not necessarily imply that the building was improperly evacuated. "I felt there were not quite 500 students, which can be explained by people being elsewhere on campus," she said. Ironically, Hill House administrators planned a fire drill for later this week, and GFs were instructed to review fire safety procedures with residents. The fire came at an inopportune time for many students in Hill who had midterm examinations or papers due yesterday. All the residents stayed in Bennett Hall until 5 a.m., and students who live on the fifth floor were barred from their rooms until after 10 a.m. and had to sleep in lounges. Vieira-Branco said she contacted advisors in the undergraduate schools to facilitate special arrangements for students who were unable to complete their work. College freshman Duane Och skipped the Calculus 141 exam that he was studying for when the fire started, but Engineering freshman Scott Goldman, who had to be woken up by firemen, said he took the exam. He said students were instructed to write "Hill" at the top of their papers so they could be reevaluated if the students felt their performance was affected. Marisel Moreno, an Engineering sophomore who lives next to Czapka and Lewis, took her physics exam even though she was up all night. "I said I'd give it a try," she said. "And I talked to the teacher and he said if it was bad, we'd talk about it."

London actors teach U. students

(11/13/91 10:00am)

Actor Sam Dale invoked the power of imagination yesterday as he guided a University class through the intricacies of directing a scene from Shakespeare. Using a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream, a play he described as magical and filled with fantasy, the actor demonstrated to Theatre Arts Lecturer Jim Schlatter's class the thematic and stylistic choices actors and directors make when deciding how to portray a scene. Dale and five other professional British actors are at the University this week, sharing their knowledge of Shakespeare and theater with students in Theatre Arts and English classes and giving three performances of Dream. Yesterday morning, as College seniors Jeffrey Coon and Lori Horowitz stood in the middle of an Annenberg Center practice room to read the scene, Dale answered questions about the text and called for the students' interpretation of the scene. After each set of suggestions from the class, Coon and Horowitz acted the scene again, adjusting their portrayal to fit the suggestions. While his intent is to teach about theater, Dale said he also learns from hearing students' interpretations of Shakespeare. "It shakes your confidence," he said. "It makes you reexamine your performance." The Actors From the London Stage are completing their 20th annual tour of American colleges. Sponsored by A Center for Theater, Education and Research at the University of California at Santa Barbara, they visit six schools a year to perform and to teach. Actor Eunice Roberts said she enjoys discussing Shakespeare from the different points of view demanded by the psychology, English and acting classes to whom she has spoken during the tour. "It's different depending on what sort of classes you go to," she said. "I enjoy the variety." Coon said the workshop was helpful because he was able to see the concepts discussed in class demonstrated in detail, but he added that it was difficult to follow the specific directions of his classmates. "That's really hard," he said. "I have ideas of how it should be played." According to Schlatter, students benefit from the dual mission of Actors from the London Stage, which is to teach and to perform. He added that the group's perspective on theater as a serious artistic discipline matches the outlook of the Theatre Arts Department. In addition to addressing classes throughout the week, Actors from the London Stage will give several readings and workshops open to the public. Roberts will read for the Philomathean Society Friday at 1 p.m., and Dale will read for the Irish Club Friday at 1:30 in the Benjamin Franklin Room in Houston Hall. The actors will also give a practical acting workshop for students in the Houston Hall Bowl Room Saturday at 1 p.m. A Midsummer Night's Dream will be performed Thursday at 1 and 8 p.m. and Friday at 8 p.m. in the Zellerbach Theatre in Annenberg Center. Tickets are available at the Annenberg Ticket Office.

FOCUS: Asian American Concerns

(11/11/91 10:00am)

Don't tell Phan Lam about the Oriental Studies Department. The chairperson of Students for Asian Affairs laughs when her program is compared, or equated, with student concerns about Oriental Studies. "A lot of the departments that we do have -- and if people point to the Oriental Studies Department -- they're great departments," said the College senior. "But many of the departments are of classical studies. [The Asian-American experience] is a unique experience." Lam and other students are frustrated that Asian Americans are not viewed as an American cultural group, but are seen as foreigners whose concerns should be lumped together with those of Asian nationals. Two years ago, students acting on this frustration formed SAA, a group dedicated to serving the distinct needs of Asians and Asian Americans at the University. With Asians and Asian Americans forming 18 percent of the University's student population, SAA is a new, serious voice working to be heard in an institution that says diversity is one of its primary concerns. Last year, the group lobbied successfully to institute a course on Asians in America, which is currently being taught on an temporary basis under the auspices of the American Civilization Department. This year, the struggle has continued as the group petitions to install the course permanently and add an Asian American literature class. Many California schools have majors in Asian American studies, and Brown and Harvard Universities both have courses in the subject. Lam said she thinks the University needs to keep up with that academic trend. · Jean Wu, a Bryn Mawr College professor who comes to the University once a week to teach the Asians in America course, said that the discipline of Asian American studies, like other ethnic studies, developed in the late 1960s in the wake of the civil rights movement. Minority scholars began to question the definition of an "American," contending that although the U.S. considers itself a melting pot, to blend into the society, one had to "melt" into the mold set by European immigrants, a mold that Asians could not fit because of their appearance. "No matter how long a person has been in this country, people still ask them, 'Where do you come from?' and, 'How did you learn to speak English so well?' " said Wu. Now, Asian American studies curricula around the country cover a wide range of historical and social science disciplines. The University of California at Los Angeles, for example, has an Asian American Studies specialization has courses relating the Asian American experience to law, women's studies, literature, and the media, as well as classes that are specific to one Asian ethnicity. But Wu said Asian Americans' experiences must be integrated into broader courses at different educational stages in order to form a complete picture of their contributions to American history. · Wu's classroom was in a controlled uproar toward the end of her three-hour class last Thursday afternoon as the students heatedly discussed the "glass ceiling" that sociologists say prevents the advancement of women and minorities in American companies. All but one of the 25 students in the class were Asian, and as the professor called on them to address Asian success and failure in the business world, they drew emotionally on their own experiences. One student said she planned to take advantage of new hiring trends that target women and minorities, while another said she hoped hard work would be enough to make her successful. Wu moderated the discussion while students nodded their heads in agreement or shot their hands up to comment. After class, College sophomore Yin Lai said she enjoyed the forum the course provided for discussing Asian American concerns. "I love it when we all argue and scream about it," she said. "You'd think that you're all think alike, but then you come up with Asians who have completely different experiences from you." Lai apologized playfully to Regan Allen, the only Caucasian in the class, for the way the class laughed when she brought up Asians' success in medical fields. Allen said the course gave her the chance to experience to experience academia from the point of view of a minority. "For me, this class is the first time I've been a minority," said the College junior. "Sometimes I get really upset when the professor asks us to relate to something and I can't relate." · Wu's class was implemented as a result of student action, and similar requests from the SAA have fallen on fertile ground at the University. Am Civ Department Chairperson Murray Murphey said his department has not received authorization from School of Arts and Sciences Dean Rosemary Stevens to continue Wu's course next year, but he said the course was not expensive and would probably be continued. He added that his department made a proposal to Dean Hugo Sonnenschein two years ago to develop Asian American studies coursework, and although the proposal was rejected, Murphey still considers the topic important. "We believe that such a course is necessary, at a minimum," Murphey said. "I think there ought to be more than this." And English Department Undergraduate Chairperson Alice Kelley said her department began looking for ways to add a course in Asian American literature after College senior Jim Lee wrote her a letter about the problem. The letter was circulated through the department, and Kelley said several professors told her they already taught the works of Asian-American authors in their courses, while Peter Conn expressed interest in teaching a course on the subject. But none of the professors is an expert in the field, and according to Kelley, it will be difficult to attract qualified faculty in a discipline as young as Asian American studies. "I know how eager these students are, and I really hope we can move quickly," she said. "I hope they won't think we aren't caring if we can't find someone." The swelling demand for Asian American studies mirrors the growth of other ethnic studies at the University. In December, the faculty will vote on the creation of a Latin American studies minor, the culmination of three years of student activism for the cause. Similarly, Kelley said an increase in student demands for African-American literature courses several years ago outstripped the University's ability to find qualified faculty. "It's like a few years ago when we were looking for a senior African-Americanist," she said. "We had to woo like crazy and we lost." The University administration has also begun to respond to requests for Asian American studies coursework. Sonnenschein created a committee last May to advise the dean on how to integrate Asian American studies into the curriculum. The committee will report to Stevens by the end of the academic year.

Number of early applicants to U. is up

(11/08/91 10:00am)

Early decision applications rose 14 percent this year, giving the University the second highest total ever. Admissions Dean Willis Stetson said yesterday early decision applications increased to 1401 from 1229, making this year's yield second only to 1988. Stetson added that although applications had to be postmarked by last Friday, the University may receive up to 25 more in the days to come. The number of minority applicants also increased. The number of black students applying early decision rose 9.5 percent to 42, and 266 Asian students applied, a 15.4 percent increase. Christoph Guttentag, director of planning for the Admissions Office, credited the rise to a wider awareness of the University's academic reputation and quality of student life. He said both publicity efforts by the University and word of mouth from current students helped spread this information. Guttentag added that although the University faces many difficulties, including crime, students who visit the campus are strongly attracted to it. According to Stetson, this year's applicant pool matched last year in quality indicators like class rank and standardized test scores. Stetson also said the number of applications from the northeast increased, especially from the mid-Atlantic states of Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. These states traditionally account for 40 percent of the University's population. Increases in early applications do not necessarily mean that overall applications will also rise. In the past, the correlation between regular and early applications has been weak. But Guttentag said he was pleased with the jump in applications. "I think it's a nice reflection on the institution," he said. "It makes me feel good that people are that enthusiastic about Penn. It makes me feel good personally, and it makes me feel good professionally." The increase in minority applications may be due to turnover in the position of director of minority recruitment. Clarence Grant, who replaced Pippa Porter Rex earlier this year, may have brought a fresh perspective to the job, according to Guttentag. Early decision applicants will be evaluated by mid-December. The University regularly accepts 30 to 40 percent of early applicants, rejects 10 to 20 percent, and defers 50 percent to be re-evaluated with the regular applicant pool in March. Students who are accepted early decision are obligated to enroll at the University.

Psych Dept. is latest to use PARIS block

(11/06/91 10:00am)

PARIS isn't as friendly as it used to be. Instead, PARIS recommends that they speak to a human being. And administrators said getting students to seek human contact was what they had in mind when they implemented a new "flagging" system that temporarily bars students from registration for next semester. Robert Rescorla, chairperson of the Psychology Department, said he decided to put all psychology majors on hold until they consulted with an advisor as soon as he knew the technology was available to do so. "I found that many majors were simply not getting even minimal advice," said Rescorla. "On occasion the Psychology Department has tried to encourage students [to see an advisor], but we've never been able to do more than encourage them." The introduction of PARIS two years ago opened up the possibility of contacting students through the computer, a tool that interacts with users. In the past, administrators had to rely on sending letters with no immediate way of monitoring student response. This semester, over 1500 students will be turned away by the computer because of requirements established by the College of Arts and Sciences, Student Health Services and the Psychology Department. All the offices are requiring that students meet with advisors before they can register. Diane Frey, director of advising for the College, said she thinks the hold on registering is a good tool for bringing students into the advising office to discuss choosing a major. "I think most [students] have had advising, but they just haven't followed through with the paperwork," Frey said. "This is the only means of leverage that there really is." But the ease with which PARIS can be used to communicate with students means that it may bear the brunt of problems caused by deficiencies in other University procedures. For example, many departments, including History and English, restrict a large portion of their courses to majors in an attempt to encourage students to declare a major, but there are enough loopholes that non-majors often register for those classes. And the College's new policy, which requires juniors and seniors who have not declared a major to meet with an advisor before registering, has increased the burden on the College advising office at a time of year when that office is usually busy. In addition to helping freshmen and sophomores chart their courses of study, the advising office has signed several hundred release forms over the last two weeks enabling students to pre-register on PARIS, according to Frey. "We saw a lot of heavy traffic the last couple weeks," she said. "It's unending. We're just tremendously busy." Psychology major Debbie Abrams said that although she felt confident about her course of study, the meeting she had with an advisor yesterday was a good experience. "I didn't feel like I needed to go in to an advisor, but it's a good idea if you're just starting off," said the College senior.

U. alum Fattah comes up short, but future looks bright

(11/06/91 10:00am)

The stark, white Wynne Ballroom was dotted with red, white and blue balloons. But as a smaller-than-expected crowd waited for the arrival of State Senator Chaka Fattah, even balloons could not brighten the atmosphere. For the first time in his five-week campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives, the outlook for the University alum was bleak. At 11:15 last night, the young politician in Armani glasses walked to the podium to deliver his concession speech flanked by advisors and friends. "Our campaign was centered around a set of priorities that need to be challenged," Fattah said, referring to the fundamental issues of his campaign -- housing, children's services and urban aid. But even as Fattah conceded the election to fill the congressional seat left open by the resignation of William Gray, he was looking to the future. "Losing in politics is often a step to success," he said. And although the young state senator spoke seriously about the issues of his campaign, the most frequently asked question in the Wynne Ballroom last night was, "Will you run again?" While Fattah would neither confirm nor deny his intention to run in April when the race for representative in the 2nd Congressional District will begin again, he implied that his political career -- already a decade old -- was just beginning. "I am eligible for any office except president and United States senator because I am not yet 35 years old," he said, grinning. "In a few weeks I will be 35." Fattah, a Democrat who ran under the Consumer Party banner, lost to Democrat Lucien Blackwell by 11 percentage points, edged out Independent John White and finished well ahead of Republican Nadine Bulford. Members of Fattah's organization said he was in the difficult position of being a third-party candidate in a district dominated by one major party -- the Democrats. According to State Representative Vincent Hughes, Blackwell had the decisive advantage of running with the Democratic Party's endorsement. "The Big D lever, you can't beat it," said Hughes. But Fattah said the strong showing he and other losing candidates made demonstrated that the big lever voters pulled to choose the Democratic slate was not an effective tool. At the same time, however, he said that as of 9:01 this morning, he will again be a registered Democrat. Fattah added that his campaign demonstrated what issues Blackwell will have to take to Capitol Hill. "It's not important who the messenger is, but what the message is," Fattah said. As friends, staff and supporters grooved to the beat of rap music in the sparsely filled Wynne Ballroom, Fattah removed himself from the stress of the finished campaign and reflected on less chaotic times. "My favorite thing about college was the parties in High Rise South," he said.

PARIS still distant for 1645 students

(11/01/91 10:00am)

The number of students blocked from registering for classes due to their failure to comply with administrative requirements has been halved, due to the efforts of College of Arts and Sciences and Student Health officials. 1645 students are currently temporarily blocked from registering, down almost half from last week's 3000 students risking of exclusion from PARIS. The reduced number of ineligible students is largely due to active publicity campaigns and the threat of obstructed registration, officials said. But they added that they have clarified their policies, which now allow ineligible students to register for spring classes through PARIS Monday by merely speaking to advisors in the appropriate office. College Dean Norman Adler said a letter sent to juniors and seniors created the mistaken impression that they would have to complete the declaration of a major before they would be allowed to register. "I apologize for the letter," Adler said. "It may not have been warm enough. All we want is for students to come in and talk to somebody." 550 College juniors and seniors will be unable to register on PARIS because they have not yet declared a major, 95 students will be barred because they have not turned in their immunization history to Student Health, and 1000 will be barred because they do not have an approved insurance plan. Student Health has sent letters to students who were not signed up for an appropriate insurance plan, but Student Health Director MarJeanne Collins said many students did not realize that their plans from last year would not automatically apply this year. "It might be that someone for whatever reason did not get the mailing," she said. "We have tried to work with the individual departments. They are usually the ones that can best reach their students." The insurance problem was intensified by the University's rejection of an insurance plan for which many foreign students had registered. The plan was deemed unacceptable because it did not offer coverage equivalent to the University's insurance plan. As a result, some foreign students were told this fall that they had to sign up for a $930 plan instead of a $360 plan, a cost which many had not anticipated. Some students did respond to administrators' prompting. Immunization coordinator Vernell Edwards said the number of students who had not turned in their forms dropped from 200 to 95 in response to a letter students received the same day an article ran in The Daily Pennsylvanian. "I was overwhelmed for three consecutive days with phone calls and students coming in and dropping off their forms," Edwards said. And Collins said the Student Health office hired three extra staff members to help students who she expects to respond during the pre-registration period. "The problem is there are a thousand people out there, and we won't be able to deal with them all on the last day," she said.

U. students French with computers

(10/31/91 10:00am)

Kekul Shah sat in front of a Macintosh computer in Williams Hall, room 104. On the screen in front of him was a story in French about students at a sidewalk cafe discussing movies. He came across an unfamiliar expression -- Il y a pour son argent. He highlighted it and clicked with the mouse, and a dictionary appeared at the bottom of the screen with a translation -- It's worth the money. When he finished reading the story, Shah clicked on an icon on the screen, accessing a short reading about French movie theaters. The exercise Shah used is part of a series of interactive computerized lessons developed by University French teachers Rebaia Saouli-Corley and Bonnie Youngs. The two instructors began using the Macintosh programs, which are based on a textbook called French in Action, for both homework and classroom exercises this semester. The purpose of the French Department's program is to search for the most effective uses of computers in language instruction. Homework assignments differ from common homework assignments by providing immediate feedback to students' answers and incorporating games, like a French version of hangman and a grammar baseball game. They are accompanied by a dictionary and explanations of ideas in the reading. Youngs and Saouli-Corley said they cannot be sure what impact the new tools are having, but they said students have responded with enthusiasm. Shah, a College sophomore, said he enjoys the computer exercises although he is unsure what effect they have on his studying. "It makes it more fun," said Shah. "I don't know if it makes us learn more. Sometimes, I'll look at the word in the computer, and I can easily forget it in a few minutes." But although the computer games are fun, Youngs said students still do not complete all their homework. She added that the major problem is access to the computer labs, which are only open on weekdays, a problem the teachers are combatting by giving students disks to use at home. "The ones who have Macs at home are very willing to do it," Youngs said. "It's easier to do than pen-and-paper homework." Students also it was difficult to find time to use the computers, and they miss the freedom of having books they can use in their rooms. But College sophomore Kristen Baker said that despite the inconvenience, she thinks the computer homework is an interesting change from her regular studies. "I sit there doing reading and reading and reading, and I look forward to doing something different," she said. "When you go back to your books, you feel refreshed." The effectiveness of computer teaching methods is still in dispute. Youngs, who is writing her doctoral dissertation on the subject, said professional opinion on the subject is divided. "Half of the literature is excited computing is being used in education," she said. "And half is dismayed because they say it is replacing the teacher." But Saouli-Corley said the computer cannot substitute the teacher because students still need a teacher to introduce and explain new concepts. Youngs said some instructors are so excited about the idea of using computers that they do not realize that not all programs are equally useful. One drawback to computer instruction is that it does not require students to produce new phrases or words, but only to choose among available options or repeat something the computer says. A computer does have some advantages over a human teacher. For example, students who are afraid to ask questions in class or are embarrassed by making mistakes in front of other students can get feedback from the computer in private. College sophomore Josh Polster said the computer's immediate response is helpful. "We get to check our answers by clicking on the screen," he said. "I think it makes it faster and easier to understand the passage." When the computer is used during class time, it decentralizes the classroom, allowing each student to interact one-on-one with the teaching program and giving the teacher time to concentrate on students who need extra help. And as a side effect of the French program, some students are learning more about computers in general. "I have students who had never touched a computer," said Saouli-Corley. "They were eager to learn." Shah said he had never used an Apple before, but it was not an obstacle to his using the French program. Youngs and Saouli-Corley said the French in Action program will be improved in the future. They want it to keep a record of each student's performance and give more explicit feedback on mistakes, and they want to add a wider range of exercises.

E-mail to include SAS students by next year

(10/28/91 10:00am)

In an effort to improve communication and raise the level of available technology within the University, all students in the School of Arts and Sciences will have access to electronic mail within the next year. In addition, a task force on e-mail will recommend to Provost Michael Aiken next month a University-wide e-mail system. Students in the Engineering School, the Medical School and the graduate division of the Wharton School currently use e-mail. According to College Vice Dean for Computing Ben Goldstein, every College student will be given an account by the end of 1992, enabling them to communicate with other students, professors and teaching assistants, and in some courses, allow them to hand in their homework over the network. Students will be able to access e-mail at terminals in campus computer facilities, and they will also be able to access the network from their rooms if they have modems. In addition to academic uses, e-mail has more frivolous applications. Users will be able to access Internet, an international communications network, at no cost. According to Goldstein, e-mail may replace other forms of student communication. "For the fun part, students use it to mail love letters to other students, to arrange dates, or to arrange parties," Goldstein said. At some other universities, the electronic mail network is wired directly to student dormitories, but at the University, cost prohibits the installation of such a program. According to Vice Provost for Computing and Information Systems Peter Patton, installing a comprehensive e-mail network that would give every student room access would cost $2.1 million, but he said alternative methods for bringing e-mail to the dorms are being discussed, including renting modems cheaply to students. Patton said he thinks free e-mail connections in at least some buildings would be a good investment because the system would make the dorms more attractive to students and might help slow the drain of students to off-campus housing. "We get a much better return on our investment if the dorms are fully occupied," he said. "The University could recoup its investment and it would be easier to maintain security [for students]." Not all students who have e-mail, though, take advantage of its capabilities. Engineering junior Tom Yannone said he has used his account to ask his teaching assistants questions, but he has not used his account in a year. "I rarely ever use it," Yannone said. "My friends and I send each other letters. I haven't used it in about a year."

FOCUS: Computerizing Campus

(10/28/91 10:00am)

The dog no longer eats the homework. In the age of laptops and mainframes, the newest excuse for not turning in a term paper is, "My hard drive has a virus." And the mailman doesn't bring your love letter anymore -- it's e-mailed. But while computer technology today pervades its birthplace, the University is in danger of falling behind the cutting edge of the computer revolution. Professors continue to invent new academic programs, but the University is barely keeping up with successive waves of technology that have made computer use increasingly widespread and convenient. Peter Patton, vice provost for information systems and computing, describes the University as "an early follower" in computer technology, making innovations in a few fields and acquiring new technology fast enough to be competitive with other schools. In other ways, however, the University has become reactive, building facilities in response to an increasingly computer-literate student body and growing levels of technology in society. · Today's University students are among the generation that learned to word process at about the same time it learned how to write a book report. And each year, the incoming class has more computer experience and a higher level of comfort with technology than the class before. A study of computer labs in college houses conducted in 1989 found that 78 percent of freshmen surveyed had taken a high school computer course, while only 59 percent of seniors had. Also, freshmen and sophomores were more likely than upperclassmen to have come from a home with a personal computer. In keeping with the growing needs expressed by these students, computer facilities on campus have expanded rapidly in the last few years, with labs accomodating heavy word-processing use installed in residence halls and in the Rosengarten Reserve Room. But the demand for the labs constantly meets the supply. The Rosengarten facility opened last October, and the Macintosh and IBM computers hum 24 hours a day. Students use the facilities for classwork, but these labs also serve an important social function, according to the same 1989 study, which was conducted by Pamela Freyd of the College of General Studies. Students learn to use new software from other people working in the labs, and they give each other emotional support and technical advice. As a result, even students who have computers in their rooms use the labs, and the study concluded that individual computers should not supercede public facilities. "When we began this study, we suspected that such labs would be temporary institutions until such time as every person had his or her own computer," the researchers wrote. "We end this study believing that residential computer labs should become expected campus amenities." Students said that although they did not make computer availability a criterion when they chose schools or residences, the presence of computer labs on campus is an asset. · Among faculty, the speed with which computer technology has overtaken the academic establishment has caused some pressing problems. Professors said they do not have adequate access to personal computers, while in instructional areas, equipment is being underused. While many faculty members use PennNet, the University's computer network, and 85 percent of the humanities faculty have computer workstations on their desks, some said the facilities and services provided are inadequate. Ronald Arenson, who filled the vice provost for computing post for two years before Patton took over last April, said some professors consider computers are basic equipment, as necessary to their jobs as conventional office tools. "There are some faculty in a school like Arts and Sciences, they feel they haven't gotten the support they would have wished for," he said. "Their argument is they're provided with telephones, and the computer is the same kind of tool. ]They say[ it's not a privilege, it's a right." The number of faculty using computers in the classroom is also still limited. Arenson also said the school is weak in encouraging faculty to use computers for teaching providing support for those efforts. A few professors do use new, high-profile instructional tools in the classroom. And several systems have been developed that have targeted the college market. An interactive videodisk program called the Cinema project, for example, received nationwide attention in The Chronicle of Higher Education, and professors of foreign languages, anthropology and geology have all brought computers to the liberal arts classroom across the country. But while these special programs are available, the problem of distribution at the University has hindered efforts to integrate computers into the classroom. Only 500 hundred College students per semester are exposed to computers in class. Professors who teach with computers said that the potential for computer instruction is far greater than what they are now using. They also note, however, that expanding computer availability also means training students how to use them -- a costly and time consuming process. Anthropology Professor Harold Dibble, who teaches a course about computer applications in his field, said his department does not have adequate facilities to train students in all the available techniques. "The University seems to be putting money into big computer labs to reach as many people as possible," he said. "My problem is that archaeology is its a little weird. You can't expect a lab geared to a wide range of courses to address that." And many of the faculty members themselves are unfamiliar with computers and feel uncomfortable applying them to traditional lessons. SAS Dean Rosemary Stevens said earlier this year that the generation gap between professors and students could lead to problems. "A lot of faculty have not had the advantage that a lot of students have of growing up with just the acceptance of a level of technology which is now basic technology for your generation but was not basic technology for my generation," Stevens said. And John Abercrombie, assistant dean for humanities computing, said revolutionary trends in computer use will outstrip human acceptance of those uses. "[Use of new techniques] has more to do with the receptability of the faculty than the ability to use technology for those purposes," Abercrombie said. One of the University's acknowledged strengths in the computing field is planning. Two years ago, a report called Planning for the 21st Century set a series of five-year objectives for computing, including increasing support for instructional and administrative uses, ensuring computing capacity for research, and providing networking facilities to students. But as the five year plan for computer development reaches its half-way mark, the University follows behind other schools as they move into an era of convenient, personal technology. Arenson said the biggest obstacle to making computers universal is cost, both to the school and to students. "We'd like to have every faculty member on PennNet and everyone to have his own workstation," he said. "We can't afford for have students to have computers across the board. We're afraid to make them compulsory for classwork and the like because it's a tremendous burden." However, the University taking a major step in the direction of widespread student computer use by introducing electronic mail -- a computer communications network -- to students in the College next year. A committee on e-mail will submit its recommendations to Provost Michael Aiken in November, and according to Vice Dean for Computing Ben Goldstein, every student will be issued an e-mail account by the end of 1992. Students in the Engineering School currently use e-mail, and it is accessible to College students under special circumstances, but the spread of availability means that terminals that can access the e-mail network will be installed in more dormitories and public places. The e-mail network will not be installed in dorm rooms as it is at some other colleges. Students who wish to access it from their rooms will have to purchase modems. Universal e-mail will also enable students to communicate with their professors for assignments and feedback and to access Internet, an international computer network. Vice Provost for Computing Patton said his goal is to bring the University out of its "early follower" position and into a stage of intensive use of computers, branching out into new fields as they are discovered. This intensification will require greater spending on computing. Patton estimates that to reach that stage, a school must spend three percent of its annual budget, and the University currently falls shy of that point by about $10 million. But the vice provost predicted that the University will be able to provide desktop computing to an increasingly large proportion of the faculty as personal computers become cheaper. And for students, the future holds more interaction with computers in the public areas of the University. From PARIS, the computerized registration system installed two years ago, to increasingly sophisticated computerized data bases in the library, students are constantly interacting with computers to get information. But for personal computing, they must still rely on equipment they bring from home. When next year's introduction of e-mail creates a widespread student network, that equipment will have greater value on campus. The pace of computer development is much faster than academia's tradition-bound growth. The University's task for the next decade is not to get left behind.

Over 3000 U. students may be barred from PARIS

(10/24/91 9:00am)

PARIS may become off-limits to more than 3000 students next week. Because of tomorrow's administrative deadlines set up by Student Health and the College of Arts and Sciences, students will be barred from advanced registration if they do not turn in health insurance forms, declare their major or provide a record of immunizations. Although administrators said students have been responding to these separate requirements throughout the semester, there is still a large pool of students whom the administration is targeting for compliance: · Kent Peterman, an executive assistant to College Dean Norman Adler, said approximately 800 upperclassmen had not declared majors at the end of last year. · Immunization Coordinator Vernell Edwards said 200 new students have not completed the appropriate paperwork. · Student Health Director MarJeanne Collins said the number of students without insurance is a significant number, but is "under 3000." Student Health and the College Office have been working to reduce those numbers by sending letters to students who have not complied with requirements. Administrators said they will not know until tomorrow's deadline how many students will actually be barred. When students restricted from registration call PARIS for pre-registration beginning November 4, they will be told to contact their division offices. "I don't know that it would have been possible before PARIS," she said. Immunization's Edwards said he barred 200 students from pre-registration two years ago, and last year, when he did not use that technique, students complied more slowly than they had with the restriction. He added that his main goal is to get students who are not in compliance to contact him, even if they cannot fill out the forms right away. "Once I talk to the students, I do remove the block because they have to register," he said. "The good thing it does for me is to contact the students personally to find out what's going on." According to Collins, this is the first year Student Health has used restricted registration to deal with insurance problems, although they set a deadline in September which was not enforced. The earlier deadline drew protests from foreign students, many of whom had signed up for a $360 insurance plan which the University said was unacceptable and who then had to sign up for a $930 plan. Many juniors and seniors in the College said they are unhappy with the deadline placed on them to declare a major, but administrators and student leaders said the restriction is a good tool for helping students plan their academic programs. Peterman said earlier this week that students should map their academic courses before junior year. "We believe it takes considerable planning and thought to plan a major," he said. Waivers are available for students who cannot declare a major now or who are unable to buy insurance.

Registration requirement gets mixed reviews from students

(10/22/91 9:00am)

Student and faculty leaders yesterday had mixed reactions to a new requirement forcing upperclassmen to declare a major before registering for next semester's courses. While most supported the idea of encouraging students to declare, they criticized the College of Arts and Science's new deadline -- set for the end of this week -- as an unconstructive policy. Although College of Arts and Sciences policy states that students must declare a major by the end of their sophomore year, that policy has not been systematically enforced, according to Kent Peterman, executive assistant to the dean. Peterman said the restriction was implemented in the wake of a discovery that approximately 800 juniors and seniors -- more than 20 percent of the two classes -- had not yet declared. He added that postponing the declaration of a major is damaging to students' academic planning. "That leaves less than two years in which they can throw themselves into a course of study," Peterman said. But just because students have not declared their majors does not mean they have not chosen an area of study. Many said they fulfilled the courses for a major but have not registered with the appropriate department. Student Committee on Undergraduate Education member Hallie Levin said most students know what they want to study and the University should enforce registration. She added that declaring a major is not as intimidating a decision as some students think. "When you declare your major, you're not declaring your life's occupation," said the College junior, who is on SCUE's steering committee. "If you end up miserable with what you've chosen, the school is not going to say you can't change it." But most students seemed upset with the method of enforcement, not the policy itself. SCUE Chairperson David Kaufman said the large number of students who are undeclared signals a defect in the University's advising system, and the problem could have been better handled by requiring that students without majors see advisors. "I think the idea of the policy is a good one to make people have to make choices and plan out their education, but the way they did it is very questionable," said the Wharton senior. "It's an example of the way the University uses the stick rather than the carrot." But Melvyn Hammarberg, undergraduate chairperson of the American Civilization department, said the registration restriction gives administrators a good opportunity to catch up with students who have not yet declared. "It is certainly one place where it is possible to intervene in the process and therefore guarantee that a student who has not yet declared a major is going to talk to someone about it," he said. "It's pretty hard otherwise to try calling up everyone on the telephone or going through their records. It's kind of a checkpoint." Undergraduate Assembly Chairperson Mitch Winston said he feels students should be able to make academic plans on their own timetable. The College junior said the UA Steering Committee will discuss the issue at its meeting this week. The College will make exceptions to the requirement if students fill out a form in the College office explaining why they are unable to declare a major.

College policy forcing juniors to pick major

(10/21/91 9:00am)

College juniors and seniors who have not declared their majors by the end of this week will be barred from registering for next semester's courses. The College announced the October 25 deadline in letters to students last week. The letter, which was dated October 1, cited students' lack of academic planning as the reason for the new requirement. "Too many students have neglected to plan and declare their majors in a timely fashion and found that they have had to postpone graduation and take additional courses to meet the major requirements," said the letter, which was signed by Vice Dean for the College Norman Adler. Some students said last night they had decided on a major several semesters ago and had been taking required courses but had not completed the necessary paperwork, while others said they had difficulty deciding on a major. All of them said they did not like being pressured to declare. College junior Donna Tortorella, who has not yet declared, said she was not prepared to choose a major before this semester. "I wasn't really positive about [majoring in] English until last year, and I was sort of going back and forth about going into a different major," she said. "I was confused about what options I had open." College junior Jamie Thibault, who intends to major in American Civilization but had not planned on declaring until next year, objected to the deadline. "I don't understand the use of it," he said. "You have to have a major to graduate. It [the requirement] narrows down the amount of time you have to decide. I don't think you should be forced into it." Officials in the College could not be reached for comment yesterday evening. The requirement poses administrative problems for some students. College junior Elan Zivotofsky intends to declare an International Relations major, but he has not completed the prerequisites for it. He must complete History 2 -- or be registered for the course next semester -- before he can declare. Now, if he is unable to register he will not be eligible to declare the major. "It makes kind of a Catch-22," he said. Until the new requirement was implemented, there was an expectation that students in the College would declare a major their sophomore year, but it was not enforced. This expectation is stated explicitly in the College's handbook, and some majors restrict pre-registration for certain courses to students in the major. But College junior Pam Urueta said she registered for restricted history courses without having declared. "Supposedly, I'm not supposed to register in any seminar courses, but I haven't been stopped," she said. "I was planning to declare this semester anyway."