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Experts to study U.'s academics

(12/09/92 10:00am)

A committee of experts, led by Bryn Mawr College President Mary Patterson McPherson, will begin examining undergraduate education at the University next April. Susan Shaman, the University administrator coordinating the committee, said Friday that bringing in others to look at the University is part of a continuing process to improve undergraduate education at the University. The committee will act as consultants for the University, not evaluators. McPherson said she is not sure yet sure of the format of their final report. "This is not an evaluative process," said Shaman, assistant vice president for planning and analysis. "They're going to come and help us discuss." The committee will spend the next three semesters studying the University and will probably issue a report at the beginning of the fall 1994 semester, Shaman said. The Middle States Accreditation Review will then consider the committee's work when it evaluates the University in the spring of 1995, she added. The committee, which will consist of approximately 14 people, will have members who are experts in nursing, business, engineering and liberal arts education, Shaman said. Each school will form a committee of faculty and students to act as liasons for the committee, Associate Dean of the Engineering School John Keenan said last night. During the first semester the committee will concentrate on looking at the individual schools. Inter-school relations and the schools' position within the University will occupy the rest of the committee's time, said Mary Naylor, associate dean of the School of Nursing. Majors, cross-disciplinary studies, freshman year and the transition to college and advising are some of the general topics to be considered, Shaman said. Each school also has its own issues. Keenan said that in addition to those topics, preparing engineers to work in the next century will be discussed. The results of three committees which are finishing a year-long evaluation of the undergraduate curricullum, the school's place within the University and technology's role in education will all be used as a starting point, Keenan said. The Nursing School will discuss how to prepare students for major changes in the health care system which may increase the emphasis on nursing, Naylor said.

Policy on PENNcard distribution changes

(12/01/92 10:00am)

After paying $10 for a yellow PENNcard with an ugly picture of themselves on it, partners of University students and employees may expect to gain access to a myriad of privileges once denied to them. That list, however, is actually quite short, and several require the new PENNcard holder to pay much more than $10. This semester, University Student Health started treating partners with PENNcards, Student Health Director MarJeanne Collins said. They are charged a "reasonable" fee lower than that charged by the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Collins said. "They can come to Student Health and they will pay a fee for service," Collins said. "There was a need for spouses and partners to have a place to go [for health care.]" Collins said that "only a handful of people" have come in to Student Health so far. Spouses do not need PENNcards, but they must prove that they are married to University students, Collins said. All other partners need PENNcards, she added. The PENNcard also allows partners and spouses to gain access to Van Pelt Library whenever it is open, said library clerk Melissa Musick. However, only faculty spouses and partners are allowed to borrow books. Students' partners can purchase a borrowing card at the same $250 per year rate as community members, Musick said. The Recreation Department offers a lower rate to spouses and partners, $25 a year as compared to $275 for community residents, Director of Recreation Robert Glascott said. The fees charged for other services, such as locker rental, are the same or slightly higher than those for students. Spouses and partners with valid PENNcards can come in alone to buy membership, Glascott said. Those without PENNcards should come in with their partner and proof that they reside at the same address, he said. After buying membership, the spouses and partners are directed to the PENNcard Center where they can buy a PENNcard to allow them past the card-reader at the buildings' entrances. Glascott said gay and lesbian couples have had no trouble proving their relationships and that "if there is a problem I want them to come to me" so he can resolve it. And spouses and partners with PENNcards can use escort service at no charge whenever they want.

Dorms allow gay couples

(11/15/92 10:00am)

Gay, lesbian and unmarried heterosexual couples will be able to live together in campus residences previously reserved only for married graduate students starting next semester, Director of Residential Living Gigi Simeone said yesterday. In the past, only University students and their spouses and children could live in University housing. Now, graduate students can have anyone -- from parents to lovers to unrelated friends -- living with them, Simeone said. "Graduate students in graduate housing will be able to live with others, provided they take full financial and behavioral responsibility," Simeone said. All residents must register with residential living, Simeone said. Non-University residents will receive PENNcards in order to gain access to their buildings after they bring written authorization from housing to the PENNcard Center, said Frank Neithammer, director of the Center. Neithammer said that their identifications will give them access to Van Pelt Library and Escort Service, in addition to their own residence. Like University students, they can pay to use recreational facilities, but borrowing privileges at the library and access to other buildings will have to be negotiated separately. Mayer Hall, Graduate Towers and the graduate area of Low Rise North -- the third and fourth floors -- are affected by the new policy, Simeone said. The Graduate Towers, which are not normally used for couples, would only be used if Mayer Hall is full, she added. Current occupancy rates in graduate housing are fairly high, Simeone said, adding that she does not know what effect the new policy will have. The change was made after evaluating a request the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly made last year, Simeone said. Both GAPSA and the Graduate Students Associations Council passed resolutions last spring urging a policy change. Past GSAC chairperson Anne Cubilie said she had been concerned because housing was not provided for gay, lesbian and other non-traditional couples. Because the final draft of the new policy is not completed, Andrew Nestler, co-chairperson of Lambda Grads -- the lesbian, gay, bisexual graduate student alliance -- said he was reluctant to comment last night. He said that a policy which forces the University to comply with city regulations against discrimination of gay and lesbian students would be welcomed. "One of the things we are working towards is equal rights for all, especially in living conditions," Nestler said. But Simeone said there are no plans to change residential living policies for undergraduates. "I don't foresee co-ed housing for undergraduates," Simeone said. "We've been focusing on graduate students." Although the policy will not be implemented until the spring semester, "for the rest of this semester we'll handle [requests for housing] on a case-by-case basis," Simeone said.

Grad group is unknown to many

(11/15/92 10:00am)

Nearly two months after the Coalition of Graduate Students appeared on campus to advance graduate students concerns, the bulk of administrators and graduate students are still unaware and unconcerned with its activities. Some administrators and several graduate students -- many of whom had never heard of the new group -- said they would like more information before they can form an opinion on the third graduate student group on campus. Some said they are skeptical that it will have any effect, while others said they think another group will at least promote more awareness of graduate students. Several students, primarily from the History and English departments, formed the organization last month to explore new methods of dealing with graduate students' problems at the University. One option they have considered is unionizing graduate students. COGS member Steven Conn, a History student, said he was not surprised that the group was composed of mainly English and History students because they are "two of the largest departments on campus" and have a high number of teaching assistants. But members and outsiders alike said the group's main problem is visibility on campus. "It's a good idea and it would be even better if other people were involved," said Allen Orsi, chairperson of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly. "It would behoove the organization to do some more outreach." And some graduate students said last night they had never even heard of the new graduate student organization. "I've never heard of it," Julia Poltorak, a sociology student, said. "I never saw any flyers around. But I'm not very active in these activities because I'm an international student [and] I don't feel part of it." Poltorak said that although she is concerned about health insurance costs, she would go to the Office of International Programs and not COGS if she had a problem. COGS member Marc Stein said that "we're working on publicizing the organization. We weren't really an organization until two weeks ago [when we chose a name]." The COGS meetings, which have attracted between 20 and 35 people, have been getting progressively smaller. "Part of that is that there are a lot of graduate students that don't know what is going on [at the University in general]," Conn said. Political Science student Joseph Cannig, who was also unaware of the new group, said that he "likes the idea of unionizing and would join [in]if they did," but does not think the group will accomplish anything. "I'm skeptical that they can get anything done," Cannig said. "People have tried to unionize at other schools and been unsucccessful." Conn said that while more members from other departments would be welcome, the group is large enough to accomplish its goals. "In order to be effective you need to have a critical mass of people, and we have that critical mass," Conn said. History Chairperson Michael Katz said last week that he does not know very much about the new group and that most students are satisfied with the graduate history program. "You mustn't assume this represents dissatisfaction," Katz said. "I think our graduate students are among the most pleased [at the University.] Most of the issues they're raising don't pertain to the department, they pertain to the University." "History students usually seem to be politically active people," Katz added. Both Donald Fitts, the associate dean for graduate studies, and English Graduate Chairperson Rebecca Bushnell said that the only information they have received about COGS is what has appeared in The Daily Pennsylvanian. "They haven't spoken to me. All I know is what I read in the DP," Fitts said. "I think it would be nice if they would come to talk to me." "I didn't think from what they had said in the DP that they were seriously considering unionizing," Fitts added. Conn said that the group has not yet discussed what type of relationship it wants to form with the administration. Katz and Bushnell said they would be "receptive" to the new group. "I welcome their efforts to advance the cause of graduate student education," Katz said. "I like this group of people and I take what they say very seriously."

Grad student leaders retreat locally

(11/10/92 10:00am)

Leaders from several graduate and professional schools discussed their roles at the University and the surrounding community at a retreat held in Bryn Mawr last Saturday. "The goal of the leadership retreat was to give these representatives a sense of their responsibility as leaders, both within the University community and without," said Graduate Student Associations Council board member Cheryl Butler, who helped organize the event. The Graduate and Professional Students Assembly invited the schools and organizations to send their presidents and leaders to the day-long retreat, rather than their regular GAPSA representatives, in order to connect more people with the central graduate governing body. During the retreat, Penn Program for Public Service Director Ira Harkavy spoke to the group of approximately 25 about how universities had strayed from their "original agenda to transmit knowledge as well as to serve the community," said Butler, an English graduate student. "He said that we drifted away from the second goal and we no longer serve the community," Butler said. Wayne Glasker, a former GAPSA chairperson and graduate student activist, explained the power structure at the University and the position of graduate student leaders within it, Butler said. The students discussed how to better incorporate multiculturalism into the classroom and improve communication between the schools during two workshops, said GSAC Chairperson Michele Grimm. Butler said that involving more people in the Graduate Perspective and providing e-mail access for all graduate students might help cut down on the isolation they often feel. "We're going to look into the status of e-mail within all the schools," Grimm said. The students also discussed creating a graduate student pub and "institutionalizing some place where we as graduate students can convene on campus," Butler said. Several students praised the retreat and the opportunity it gave them to exchange ideas with graduate students they had never worked with before. "It gave us a chance to talk with people, who if we had met before, we had only met for a short time," Grimm said. "We were able to really pool our resources and expertise," Butler said. "It helped us to create a community and helped us to understand why we are here. It helped us to see the bigger picture -- that we don't exist in a vacuum." Student Life Programs and GAPSA co-sponsored the retreat. GSAC was also involved in planning it.

GSFA limits happy hour

(11/05/92 10:00am)

Graduate students were concerned yesterday about the fate of Friday afternoon happy hours sponsored by the Graduate School of Fine Arts, after hearing rumors on campus for the last two weeks that it was being cancelled by administrators. However, Assistant Dean Susan Coslett said last night that the happy hour -- which is held every Friday -- has not been cancelled, but has been restricted to GFSA students and their friends to prevent underaged drinking and to keep alcohol off Locust Walk. "There's a good deal of concern on campus about underaged drinking and drinking on Locust Walk," Coslett said last week. The popular late afternoon event tends to spill onto the Meyerson Hall patio in conflict with a University policy banning alcohol in public places, Coslett said last week. By restricting entrance only to GFSA students, it will be easier to keep the event in the basement of Meyerson, Coslett said. Coslett said she was unaware of problems at the event but, "we have to be very careful about underaged drinking." Provost Michael Aiken and Vice Provost for University Life Kim Morrisson's offices said last week that they had not officially contacted GFSA about the event, although many graduate students thought they had ordered the events to be cancelled. Morrisson said she had mentioned concern about underaged drinking at the event to Fine Arts Dean Patricia Conway informally, however. "We have a task force on alcohol and drugs and they have heard several times of the ease of access to alcohol by underage drinkers," Morrisson said last week. Morrisson added that she understands the importance of the event to the graduate school. "There is no intent to constrain it," said Morrisson. "The happy hour serves a purpose for students who are of legal drinking age and as long as it is carried out [without violating the law, it can continue.]" The happy hour is vital to GFSA because it allows students from the school's diverse departments to gather and exchange ideas, said GFSA student and Graduate and Professional Students Assembly member Ron Koenig. Fine Arts graduate student Ruth Cserr, who coordinates the event, said in an interview last night that she is "perfectly happy" and that nothing has changed anyway because the event is only for GFSA students. GAPSA member Maria Sieira said that only GFSA students could gain entrance to the event because "only Fine Arts students are allowed to be in the building after 5 pm and there's a guard at the door checking IDs for GFSA stickers." "The people downstairs all know each other so if there's someone there who doesn't belong there they'd know," Sieira added. Cserr said that "it really wasn't appropriate" for GAPSA to discuss the event at its meeting last night because it is only an internal GFSA affair and "sometimes other people come but that's because we know them." "It's not meant to be a graduate-wide function," Cserr said. "It's not something that's meant to go beyond the school. GAPSA has nothing to do with it." Students at the GAPSA meeting did not agree with Cserr. They referred to it as an event at which students from departments throughout the University could mix. "It's the only thing on campus where students from all different schools from Wharton to Engineering show up," past GAPSA Chairperson Michael Goldstein said after the meeting. Goldstein added that the concern over underaged drinking is ridiculous because there are no undergraduates who attend or show any interest in attending the event and "less than one block up the Walk are fraternities which engage in [underaged drinking] all the time." During the meeting, Koenig said that there was also some concern and confusion about the legality of selling alcohol and who gets the profits, if there are any, from the event.

Dorm policy brings praise

(11/02/92 10:00am)

Some graduate students last week gave tempered praise to the University's new policy allowing unmarried couples to live in residence halls, centering their concerns on safety. "It's fine with me, I'm not in any way biased," said Law student David Cahn, a Mayer Hall resident. "I don't see a homosexual couple being any different than my wife and me -- roomates that love each other." And homosexual groups and administrators also praised the University's decision last week, saying it is one that was long in coming and well-deserved. "I'm very pleased. I think it's a step in the right direction, although I think the University still has a long way to go in granting [equality to gay, lesbian and bisexual students]," said Bob Schoenberg, assistant director of Student Life Programs. The University changed its residency policy last week after graduate students and activists said the policy of only allowing graduate students, their spouses and children to live in residence halls was discriminatory towards gays, lesbians and unmarried heterosexual couples. Members of Penn's Eagerly Awaited Radical Ladies -- an organization mainly for lesbian and bisexual women -- praised the change last week. "We've been fighting for a long time to get partnership rights recognized," said History graduate student Beth Clement, co-coordinator of PEARL. "I'm glad it happened." Clement said that the change would not "induce" her to live on campus however because her Center City apartment is more comfortable and less expensive than the residence halls. "Even if nobody ever uses it, it's an important thing to have on the record," said Abby Schrader, who is active in PEARL and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly. Schrader said that although it is too early to know what effect the new policy will have, first-year graduate students who are new to Philadelphia will probably be the ones to take advantage of it. Claudia Buchweitz and her husband, Education student Pedro Jarcez, also supported the new policy, saying that the new residents "won't be noisier" than all of the children in Mayer Hall. "Everybody here will be students, and that's the main thing," added Buchweitz, who takes courses in the College. "Everybody will be doing the same thing -- studying when exams come. This won't be a problem." The couple said that the change would alter the atmosphere of Mayer Hall and make it "more like a regular building than a dorm." "In a regular building you don't get to choose these things," Buchweitz said. But building manager Dessa Deforest said that the change in atmosphere would be "unfortunate." "The families are very close and everyone knows everyone else," Deforest said. "Mayer Hall kind of has a family reputation. If we start bringing in other couples I could see it causing lots of conflicts . . . with other students who are very much against it." Deforest, who has a young child, said she was also concerned about the effect it would have on the children who live in the building. "I think the policy for Mayer Hall should stay the same because there are a lot of children here, and role model-wise it's not the best," Deforest said. "I'm big on not sheltering children from the world, but there are some things they don't need to experience on a daily basis until they're old enough to understand," Deforest said. However, Kahn, who has children, disagreed saying that "the kids don't know the diference." Some graduate residents also were concerned with the safety of having non-University students in the building now that graduate students can live with whomever they want. "We've really been trying to keep up security here," Deforest said. "If people are going to be bringing vagrants in it could be [dangerous]." Law student Greg Krasovsky said that the greater security risks were "the price of freedom." And Wharton student Jon Zagrodzky said he objected to "people that aren't members of the University having access to University facilities." Although the final draft of the policy is not yet completed, it is already in effect. "Somebody did come today and say that 'my partner wants to live with me,' " Brigitte Blanco, director of graduate programs in residence, said on Thursday. Blanco said that she does not expect many changes to occur this semester since most of the rooms are full.

189 people send gov't letters on effect of IAST

(10/09/92 9:00am)

Nearly 200 West Philadelphians and University members have sent letters to the U.S. Air Force to discuss the impact that the proposed Institute for Advanced Science and Technology will have on the area, Air Force spokesperson Jane Knowlton said yesterday. But none of the 189 letter-writers -- eight of whom specified that they were affiliated with the University -- brought up new issues, Knowlton said. "Basically all of the letters we have received so far raise issues that were brought up at the scoping meeting [in August] or elaborations of that," Knowlton said. The government is soliciting letters for an environmental impact study it is required to conduct before it can tear down historic Smith Hall to make room for the new laboratory facility. Gathering community input is the first step of the study which will probably be completed next summer. History and Sociology of Science graduate student Elizabeth Hunt said yesterday that regardless of what the letters said, the number of responses the Air Force received indicates that a large part of the community feels strongly about the issue. "They're not looking for new ideas, they're looking for community concerns," Hunt said. Hunt, who has been actively opposed to the razing of Smith Hall for the past two years, said she sent a letter herself. The Air Force initially set September 11 as a deadline for comments, but extended it to October 1 in response to student and faculty requests for more time. The government received 13 letters by the original deadline and 176 by October 1, Knowlton said. "Because the Air Force Environmental Analysis is ongoing, all the letters will be considered," Knowlton said. Although only eight of the letters stated they were from people affiliated with the University, Knowlton said other letters may have been written by people who did not identify themselves as such. "A number of students had written these letters, they simply didn't identify themselves as students," Hunt said. "I didn't identify myself as a student." "If I were to take a wild stab at it, my guess would be something on the order of 30 to 40 percent [of the letters came from] people who have any affiliation with the University," said graduate H & SS student Mark Hamel. Most of the letters -- 136 -- were a form letter with "no letterhead on it to identify it," Knowlton said. The Penn Coalition for Science in the Public Interest, an organization which opposes the building of the IAST, wrote the letter and distributed it to different groups which had their members sign it, said Hamel, who is a member of the group. The organization did not put its name on the letter because several different groups distributed it. "The form letter was intended to be something for people to sign and address if they didn't have time to write their own," Hamel said. Some people also used the form letter as a base for writing their own letters, Hamel said. The form letter posed a number of questions about the materials to be used in the IAST, the risks associated with them and what emergency precautions have been planned. The letter asked about past safety records of the Chemistry Department and other departments that would move into the IAST. The letter also questioned why the University plans to build on the current site of Smith Hall. The other letters were from private citizens and community groups, such as the Spruce Hill Community Association and the Philadelphia Historical Commission, Knowlton said. The letter-writers mainly expressed concern about destroying a historic building, hazardous waste disposal and the appropriateness of defense-funded research, Knowlton said, adding that this concern is misplaced because the Air Force is partially funding the construction of the IAST, but has not committed to funding any research. "Not all [of the letters] are in opposition to the proposal," Knowlton said. "We've received five letters in support of the proposal. We've had a few letters which suggested alternative sites, [and] some which requested information."

Graduate students teach beneath the trees

(10/09/92 9:00am)

Even the trees can speak German now. After all, they spent a whole day listening to graduate students teach German -- and Spanish and French -- outside on the Green yesterday as part of a teaching assistant awareness day yesterday. More than 55 TAs began their fourth "Class in the Grass" session yesterday -- which is planned to continue today -- in order to make themselves more visible to the University said Jessica Neuwirth, Graduate Student Associations Council board member. Oscar Sierra, a modern language graduate student, said he had not planned to bring his Spanish class outside but "they requested and I thought it was a good idea." He said that he planned to take the other two classes he teaches outdoors also. His students also said they were enthusiastic about their temporary location under a tree by College Hall. "I think it's great, it makes class a little more lively," said junior Jessica Shoemaker. Most students said they enjoyed having class outside, although many did not know why their TAs moved outdoors. College senior Paul McKenzie said that he thought his history class met outside "to commune with nature." McKenzie's TA, GSAC Treasurer Brian Huck, explained that the day was intended to "attract attention to what the graduate students do." "It's for us to feel some comraderie," said Linda Odgen-Wolgemuth, who teaches a German class. GSAC used the event to collected information. When graduate students registered at the table set up by the Button, they were asked to fill out a questionaire identifying their concerns regarding funding, health insurance, the quality of their education and teaching and research assistant positions. For members of the newly-formed Coalition of Graduate Students, it was a day to inform people about their group and increase membership beyond the History and English departments, said graduate history student Denise Davidson. "It seems like more people from different departments are interested," Davidson said. "By the next meeting, we'll have a large enough and varied enough group that it will be representative of the graduate students." Students from the Education, Sociology and Engineering Schools as well as various departments in the School of Arts and Science expressed interest, Davidson said. Huck said that attendance this year may have been better than in the past because of the warm weather. Last year, it was held in the spring and some classes were discouraged by the cold weather. GSAC plans to hold "Class in the Grass" again next spring anyway, Neuwirth said. "I think it's a fine way for graduate students show their importance," said Janice Madden, vice provost for graduate education. "I can't believe that anybody working with graduate students is unaware [of their importance.]"

TAs to hold fourth 'Class in the Grass'

(10/08/92 9:00am)

Teaching assistants will hold "Class in the Grass" today and Friday as part of a graduate student awareness campaign on College Green. In addition to teaching their classes outside, some TAs will hold outdoor office hours and some research assistants plan to take their research projects outside. "Last year we had about 100 graduate students and 1,000 undergraduate students out," said Graduate Student Associations Council Chairperson Michele Grimm. "All we ask is that graduate students bring out their classes and come to the table and sign up with us." The goal of "Class in the Grass" is to demonstrate the importance of graduate students to the University community, said Jessica Neuwirth, the GSAC board member who organized the event. "I hope that 'Class in the grass' will give [graduate students] more of an opportunity to let people know that they're there," Grimm said. The event is also an opportunity for GSAC to get in touch with a large number of graduate students, she said. "It is a way to get to know them better and find out what's going on on campus," Grimm said. "Last year we used it as a way to let them know about the T.A. compact." Tables with representatives from GSAC, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and the Coalition of Graduate Students will be set up near the button from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to direct classes to outdoor locations, answer questions about graduate affairs and distribute T-shirts and buttons to participants, Neuwirth said. "We'll all have information about various issues graduate students are concened with," Grimm said. Students who are curious about COGS, a new organization attempting to find more effective methods of solving graduate students' problems, will have a chance to get their questions answered today and tomorrow. The organization has not yet defined which issues it will deal with, and plans to use the event to find out what the students would like it to do, said graduate history student Liam Riordan. Students interested in joining the new group can also sign up, Riordan said. The focus this year will be on "what the graduate students want, what are issues facing them," Neuwirth said. Since it is early in the school year, GSAC will have time to work on the students concerns, she said. In the past, "Class in the Grass" took place in the spring. "We had a lot of trouble last spring with cold weather," said Grimm. "Last year because it was rainy and cold we talked about moving it up." "It will be nice to be able to talk with students at the beginning of the year and find out what they want and act on it instead of waiting until final exams," Grimm added.

New graduate student coalition picks name

(10/02/92 9:00am)

A group of about 20 graduate students, mainly from the History and English departments, met last week to continue organizing a new graduate student movement. The students named the new group COGS -- Coalition of Graduate Students -- after rejecting several other names such as SERF, or Students Enraged by Ridiculous Funding. The students said that they wanted a name which would be humorous but that the administration would take seriously. "I wanted to be called SERF. I think that's more apropos, but this is fine," said History graduate student Steven Conn after the meeting. The students also vaguely defined COGS as a group to deal with graduate students' issues. "There are a handful of grievances that a large body of graduate students at the University have," said Conn. "We have felt frustrated for several years that there is not an effective [organization to deal with these grievances]. This organization is not necessarily about unions. What we're trying to think about, in a creative way, is what our options are." Health insurance and the decision-making process regarding graduate student life were two of the issues Conn said concerned him. Teaching conditions and funding are also priorities, History graduate student Marc Stein said. Discussions on unionizing and on which schools and which graduate students to include in COGS -- teaching and research assistants or all graduate students -- were tabled until the next meeting. Stein said he hopes a more varied group of graduate students will attend the next session. At the meeting, information obtained since their first meeting two weeks ago about unions at the University of California at Berkley and several State University of New York schools was discussed. The students also composed a list of specific questions to ask their contacts at the schools before the next meeting. Conn said that the organization must move slowly if it wants to help graduate students effectively. "The kind of activities we are talking about take a long time," Conn said. "They usually self-destruct because people don't give them enough time."

Grad students fear police taking photos

(09/26/92 9:00am)

During the past six months, Robert Davies attended all of the demonstrations on campus, along with his polaroid camera. Davies, a molecular biology emeritus professor, is an open expression monitor and he carries the camera with him to take pictures of demonstrators who refuse to identify themselves when asked. "There've been occasions in the past where students refused to show their IDs and the monitors were frightened," Davies said. But other open expression monitors said they feel uncomfortable taking the photographs, Davies said. As a result, Davies said, the monitors decided to have University police take the photographs instead "because it's unlikely the police would be attacked." However, Davies said, University police are not allowed to. "There is a rule which prohibits the police from taking pictures," Davies said. "That ruling came from many years ago when University security would often go to meetings and take records of who was there." Davies said that an exception should be made for open expression, since the pictures would only be used for identification purposes. But at a Graduate and Professional Students Assembly meeting last night, graduate students said they were worried about giving the police the power to take pictures, and passed a resolution stating "that GAPSA opposes the taking of pictures by University Police under the guidelines of open expression." GAPSA President Allen Orsi said at the meeting that he is uncomfortable with the idea of police photographing students. Daives said that since he began carrying the camera six months ago, "no picture has been taken." "My personal hope is that [the camera] will never be needed, but my hope is to have it ready and available at all times," Davies said.

Grad students fear police photographing

(09/23/92 9:00am)

Graduate students are concerned that the power to take pictures of people participating in demonstrations may soon be in the hands of the police, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly Chairperson Allen Orsi said yesterday. Orsi said University Council may vote next month to allow University Police to photograph students violating the University's open expression guidelines. He said graduate students oppose this proposal -- which would return power taken from police in the '70s -- because they think the officers may use the pictures to compile files on student activists. Last May, the University Council, an advisory board to President Sheldon Hackney, discussed allowing University Police to photograph students violating the guidelines because open expression monitors were uncomfortable doing so, said David Hildebrand, chairperson of the faculty senate. A decision was postponed until the next meeting in October because the Council was not yet prepared to decide, Hildebrand said. When a demonstration is held on campus, open expression monitors attend the event to ensure that the demonstration is not disrupted. If people disrupting the demonstration -- thereby violating the open expression guidelines -- refuse to stop their behavior and identify themselves, the monitors are supposed to photograph them for identification purposes, said Robert Davies, chairperson of the University's open expression committee. Davies said the monitors voted last spring to have the police take the pictures because they consider themselves student advocates and should not be taking pictures that might be used against students. The monitors also were concerned about being attacked if they attemped to take a photgraph and thought it "unlikely the police would be attacked," Davies said. "There've been occasions in the past where students refused to show their IDs and the monitors were frightened," Davies said. Davies said he is the only monitor who will carry a camera, and as a result he attends every demonstration. "I'm prepared to do it, because I feel the need to insure that the University regulations are fulfilled," Davies said. Graduate students said yesterday they think the police should not be taking pictures of the demonstrators. GAPSA passed a resolution last Wednesday opposing "the taking of pictures by University Police under the guidelines of open expression." Orsi said he was concerned with how the process would work. He questioned how a disruption would be defined, how the people would be identified from the pictures and what exactly would be done with the pictures. "It just doesn't sound like it's a good system, it's not even efficient," GAPSA Chairperson Allen Orsi said. "It seems that it's almost by default that they're asking the police to take the pictures because no one else wants to do it." But Davies said that throughout the several month-long debate, no pictures have been taken. "Ever since it was agreed that polariod cameras should be bought, not only have no photographs been taken, there was never an occasion when we needed to," said Davies. Hildebrand said that in only two incidents during his 27 years at the University have students refused to identify themselves. "It's kind of a nuisance problem," Hildebrand said. "I don't think the future of the University rests on this, but I find it fascinating; it's about who pushes the button." Hildebrand said it became an issue because people do not want a "police authority connected to something as important as open expression." The police are currently forbidden from taking photographs because "many years ago University security would often go to meetings and take records of who was there," Davies said. Hildebrand said he does not see how that situation could reoccur, however. "There's no question that when the picture is taken the picture is given over to the care of the open expression monitor," Hildebrand said. "It's so explicity stated. They push the button and the pictures must be immediately turned over to the monitors."

TAs to get written pay contracts

(09/23/92 9:00am)

All graduate students who receive funding from the University must receive a written agreement detailing the conditions for the funding as of October 1, Vice Provost for Graduate Education Janice Madden announced last week. The agreement will outline the amount of funding, the time period it covers and a job description, including the number of hours of work per week and the specific responsibilities of the student, Madden said. A standardized form was not created for the agreement, but the compact that the Graduate Student Activities Council designed last semester can be used, Madden said. The compact, which has a list of questions about funding details and student tasks, is to be filled out and signed by both the professor and the student. The compact limits students to working 15 to 20 hours per week. Madden said the University decided to mandate the written agreements in order to clarify teaching and research assistants' duties. She said she has not dealt with any disputes between professors and their assistants in the year she has been at the University, but "it's difficult for a graduate student to complain about this." Madden said that the written agreement "empowers the student" because "now the student has in writing what they're expected to do" and can take action if this is violated. "I think both the graduate students and the faculty need to be protected," Madden said. Members of GSAC, which worked on having compacts distributed in the School of Arts and Sciences, said yesterday they were happy with the new policy. "We're very pleased to see the TA compact being implemented as a part of University policy, particularly because, in the past, communication with the graduate chairs, faculty and students about the distribution and use of the compact has been difficult," said Brian Huck, treasurer of GSAC. Huck said the compacts still have not been distributed in many departments of the School of Arts and Science, although last spring SAS agreed to distribute them to all teaching assistants. The deans of the graduate schools agreed unanimously last summer to pass the new policy, Madden said. Madden said that she may also use the forms to analyze the working conditions of students in the future.

Second Degree: Identity Crises

(09/22/92 9:00am)

Many graduate students are searching for their identity. And last week thirty met to try and find it. Unlike professors and undergraduates who are certain of their roles -- to teach and to learn -- many graduate students claim their position is not well defined at the University. Marc Stein said last week that several key issues, including costly health insurance and low stipends, stem from this identity conflict -- the University views graduate students as apprentices while many see themselves as employees. Stein, a history graduate student, said he assembled the graduate student group last week as the first in a series of steps to clarify graduate students' role and take action to "improve our situation" -- a task which some graduate students claim requires unionization. "In some ways graduate students are becoming as vital to the functioning of the University as [unionized staff,]" Stein said last week. But Stein added that unionization is only one of many ideas and requires serious consideration before action is taken. Students at the new group's first meeting said they would soon investigate the results of unionization efforts at other universities. But University administrators said last week that they are opposed to unionization and believe that student complaints can be resolved more effectively without a union. Donald Fitts, the associate dean of graduate students for the School of Arts and Sciences, said that he believes a union would hurt the students more than help them. Fitts said last week that graduate students would find "in the long run" that unionization would "work to their disadvantage." He noted that if the students unionized they would have to pay income tax on their tuition. "The TAship is part of their education, this is the apprenticeship for their becoming a teacher," Fitts added. "The problem with them being a union is that then they would be employees and they are not employees." But many graduate students said last week that they do not believe that they are apprentices. "We're not just students, we're student-employees," Stein said. "It's hard to believe that we teach because it's part of our education, like the University tells us. We teach because the University needs us to." Stein added that the lack of a formal training program for teaching assistants proves that the University does not consider TAship part of the education process. But Fitts said the TAship is an integral part of the graduate students' education and added that each department is responsible for training its own TAs. "In some departments they take a course, in some departments they take a workshop, in some they do neither," Fitts said. This same question as to whether TAs are employees or apprentices helped propel students at Temple University to attempt to form a union two years ago. Jay Longshore, a Temple anthropology graduate student, said that many graduate students wanted a union since as teaching assistants they considered themselves employees -- and therefore deserving of employee benefits. "[The administration's] argument was that whatever work we did was training," Longshore added. "[But,] it is not at all the requirement of any degree program that you have to be a teaching assistant or research assistant." Longshore said that the union effort ended when the administration gave into some student requests. "We never actully formed a union, but we wanted to," Longshore said. "For a year there was really a lot of momentum, but the university basically bought everyone off." Longshore said that the Temple administration agreed to an 11 percent stipend raise and improved health insurance coverage. Graduate and Professional Student Assembly chairperson Allen Orsi said that if students in the new University group try to form a union they may be met with a similar response. "I imagaine the University would not want to unionize and would come back with more for the TAs," Orsi said. Efforts to form unions at private schools are rare and have only succeded at Yale University, according to its organizers. At Yale, however, both sides have agreed that the graduate students are not university employees. Rather, the Graduate Employee and Student Organization works to increase stipends and student representation on university boards. After holding a three-day strike last February, GESO won a 10 percent raise for teaching assistants, a teacher training program to prepare teaching assistants and three seats on the graduate school's executive committee, according to GESO spokesperson Eve Weinbaum. This is the first time graduate students have been represented on the influential policy-making body, Weinbaum said. But other perks which the administration promised, such as 28 percent raise for almost half of the TAs, have not been granted, Weinbaum added. "After we left [for the summer] the administration decided not to implement it. There are still lots of things that we're working on," Weinbaum said. Weinbaum said the union, despite early setbacks, has been effective in capturing the attention of Yale's administration because it represents over 1350 of the 2000 graduate students. "Until December of last year they had a very strict policy of not meeting with GESO representatives," Weinbaum said. "Then, after we started putting on the pressure, they met with us. They're now very friendly with us. The new dean of the graduate school met with us right away. They've been quite attentive." · Former GAPSA chairperson Susan Garfinkle said University graduate students discussed forming a union two years ago, but never implemented their plans. She said last week that she doubts students will form a union this time either. "Someone said the word [union,] it got into The Daily Pennsylvanian, and caused such a big fuss no one said it again," Garfinkle said. Stein said that the new graduate group may find working with GAPSA, the Graduate Student Associations Council and individual departments to be more effective than unionizing. GSAC chairperson Michele Grimm said she believes that all three organizations will be able to work together and is "pleased they're not jumping into the idea of unionizing without information." Stein said that the new graduate group wants to increse stipends which are currently $9000 a year. "We're talking about health insurance and rent eating up half of [the stipend,]" Stein said. Stein also said that working conditions for the TAs are not acceptable and their responsibilities are not clearly defined. He added that many graduate students have no office space and an excessive number of undergraduate students. For the first time, all research and teaching assistants will receive a written outline of their responsibilities, Grimm said last week. At Yale the graduate student union GESO is also trying to better define TAs responsibilities. "[Published guidelines] give a range of students and a range of hours," Weinbaum said. "But they are not enforced at all." Stein added that the new group will also discuss summer funding for graduate students since the current stipend only covers the nine-month academic year and many students study through the summer. But Fitts said last week that summer fellowships are available and noted that students who are not working for the University, during the summer, have time to find an outside job.

Grad students form a third gov't branch

(09/18/92 9:00am)

Several graduate students last night formed a new graduate student organization to better define their position at the University and increase their stipends. The 30 students, who were led by history graduate student Marc Stein, gathered yesterday to discuss various ways to improve their situation at the University, including forming a graduate student union. They did not come to a decision about the union. At the meeting, the students complained that they are not informed about University policies and that they do not make enough money as teaching and research assistants. "Graduate students at Penn are very concerned with what their situation is," said History student Liam Riordan. "Communication is a major cause of concern." Although all but three of the students at the meeting were in the School of Arts and Sciences, several did not know that SAS Associate Dean of Graduate Studies is Don Fitts. The students decided at the meeting to look at students' attempts to form unions at other universities and to consult with the labor unions at the University before meeting again in two weeks to discuss their findings. "We want to explore possibilites," Stein said. Graduate Student Association Council Chairperson Michele Grimm said she was not sure if the students would form a union, but that she "thinks it will accomplish something even if it just organizes what the students want to know." "I think we all can definitely work together," she added. "I think it's a good idea, but I wonder if, once the school year starts, they'll continue," said Graduate and Professional Student Assembly Chairperson Allen Orsi, who did not attend the meeting. ''I think they should look into it very critically." Stein organized last night's meeting because he felt that problems disturbing graduate students often get ignored due to inaction. The problems are usually not brought up until the spring, when people are too busy to deal with them, Stein said. Stein did not criticize the existing student government branches -- GAPSA and GSAC -- but said he felt that another organization was needed. "GAPSA and GSAC are already part of the University's official decision-making process," Stein said. "That creates a possibility for influencing decisions, but it also constrains those organizations." Although the new group may not create a union, "it would be completely inappropriate for GSAC and GAPSA to form a union," Stein said. At the meeting, students asked about housing, health insurance and funding, but many questions went unanswered because no one present knew the details. Two years ago, students considered creating a graduate student union but did not accomplish anything, said Susan Garfinkle, a former GAPSA chairperson. "Someone said the word [union,], it got into [The Daily Pennsylvanian], and it caused such a big fuss no one said it again," Garfinkle said.

Grad students to discuss the unionization of TAs

(09/17/92 9:00am)

Graduate students will meet tonight to discuss forming a labor union for teaching assistants, History graduate student Marc Stein said yesterday. Graduate students are considering whether unions could solve problems of low pay for teaching assistants and lack of office space. "There are several schools that have worked on unionizing lately," Stein said. "A lot of state universities have graduate students that are unionized." Stein said he is not sure whether unionizing students is the right path to take at the University, and said other options will be discussed as well. Working with graduate student government or individual departments, or taking job actions like "Class in the Grass" are other options that will be discussed. "It's been something they've talked about," said Michele Grimm, president of the Graduate Student Associations Council. "There hasn't been that strong a movement [yet]. There are some students that are definitely for it and some that are definitely against it." The administration would probably not acknowledge a union unless most students joined it, Grimm said. She added that since health insurance is lower for single students and "working conditions for TAs are getting better," she is not sure how many students a union would attract. Stein said he organized tonight's meeting because graduate student issues are often not brought up until the end of the year, when he said they are easily ignored. "I want to get the ball rolling early," Stein said. He compiled a list of graduate student gripes that he will use to begin discussion at the meeting, he said. Funding for graduate students is at the top of the list. He said he is concerned that pay for teaching assistants is too low. Some students receive stipends for nine months, but are in school for twelve. Not enough students are funded, he said. Stein said he has no criticism of graduate student leadership, provided by the Graduate and Professional Students Assembly and GSAC, but believes there is room for another organization. "I think GAPSA and GSAC have roles to play as part of the University decision-making process and they generally play those roles effectively," Stein said. "I hope we will work very closely with them, but there's a need for a new organization to do this work." The meeting will be held at 5:15 p.m. tonight in room A-4 of the David Rittenhouse Labs.

Single students save with insurance

(09/17/92 9:00am)

Although this year's student health insurance policy is more expensive for married couples, the total savings for single students will be $1.2 million, Martha Brizendine, chairperson of the graduate student committe that recommended the new policy, said yesterday. Under the new system, the policy rate went down to $820 from last year's $930 for a single student rate. Associate Vice Provost for University Life Larry Moneta said yesterday the policy would have gone up to $1060 if the University had stayed with the old carrier. The University switched this year from Blue Cross to Mega Life and Health Insurance Company. Moneta said that the number of graduate and undergraduate students enrolled for insurance has not been affected by the new policy. Over 3000 students have signed up, and he said he expects 3000 more to enroll this year. Last year, 5600 students bought the University's policy, Moneta said. As of yesterday, half of the students had not sent in waivers or enrolled for insurance, although the deadline was September 1, Moneta said. He said that late responses are typical, and that the new carrier accomadates this, although the old one did not. Last year, students who missed the September 15 deadline could not buy insurance from the University and were forced to look elsewhere. Under the new policy, students can buy the insurance at any point during the semester, Moneta said. "We have an open window enrollment," Moneta said. "The penalty for signing up late is that you have to pay" for the whole semester. The benefits offered under the new policy are not as extensive as those of the old one, Moneta said. However, many of the benefits that were cut were not benefits which students needed, Brizendine said. Under the old policy, $500 of prescription medicine was covered, while the new policy only provides for $200. Brizendine pointed out that many students use no prescription medicine at all. The new carrier also has a lower limit for dental care and ambulance use. Graduate students expressed approval of the new plan at the opening meeting of the Graduate and Professional Students Assembly last night. "We ended up with a new policy that the students really like," Moneta said. Also at the GAPSA meeting, representatives from each school reported on summer changes and orientation activities. The 30 people at the meeting also passed a resolution relating to the open expression guidelines and discussed forming subcommittees for this year.

U. hikes rates for spouses

(09/16/92 9:00am)

Health insurance rates for married students and their spouses have increased by over $1000 this year, although individual students' rates have dropped. Last year married students could purchase the University's health insurance policy for $2179 per couple -- this year the cost is $3270 for the student and their spouse. Single students can purchase the policy for $820 -- down from $940 last year. The University's policy changed prices after they switched insurance carriers last April in compliance with a graduate student study. The Graduate and Professional Students Assembly commissioned Wharton graduate students last spring to determine whether the University could offer a better policy for less money, according to Michele Grimm, Graduate Student Associations Council president. But Grimm said at yesterday's GSAC meeting that she has received many complaints from married students who feel the new prices are too high. The issue will be further discussed at the Graduate and Professional Assembly meeting tonight, according to GAPSA President Alan Orsi. "The main concerns are the spousal rate, the child rate and the cutback on prescriptions," Orsi said last night. "I think a lot of spouses and their children shopped around to find a better rate. They don't need to buy this policy." The new policy costs $900 extra per child, whereas under last year's policy an entire family plan could be purchased for $3231. The old policy provided students with benefits they were not using, according to Martha Brizendine, who served as chairperson of GAPSA subcommittee which commissioned the Wharton study. Brenzadine at yesterday's meeting that she believes the new system is better since the student receive a lower price and spouses "have other options." Grimm also said at the meeting that SAS compacts between teaching assistants and professors had not been signed by all SAS teaching assistants this year. Last year GSAC and SAS agreed that professors and teaching assistants would sign compacts that outlined the graduate students responsibilities, Grimm said. She added that GSAC will be looking further to determine why the compacts have not been signed. Donald Fitts, SAS associate dean of graduate studies, said the agreements are voluntary and graduate students can still sign the agreements. Today's GAPSA meeting which will address the new health insurance policy will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Ben Franklin Room of Houston Hall. An explanation of the new policy will precede the meeting at 5:30.

Military to accept imput on IAST

(09/11/92 9:00am)

The U.S. Air Force will accept comments on the proposed construction of the Institute for Advanced Science and Technology until October 1 so that students can give their input, government and University officials said this week. Vice Provost for Research Barry Cooperman said the Air Force, which will may pay for half of the $75.2 million dollar building, agreed to extend the deadline because faculty and students complained that many would not be back on campus to make the original cut-off, September 11. Julia Cantrell, an environmental protection specialist for the Air Force said the government is required by law to conduct an environmental impact study before demolishing Smith Hall to determine what effect the new laboratory will have on the campus. The first step in the study, Cantrell said, is to gather input from students and faculty. "I think [the new deadline] goes a long way toward making up for the meeting being held when no one was on campus," History and Sociology of Science Elizabeth Hunt said, after hearing that the deadline was extended. "I think it will make an enormous difference." Hunt added that by extending the deadline, the Air Force and University demonstrated that they want student input for the study, instead of excluding students and "sneaking behind their backs." The two week extension will not delay the study, Cooperman said. The study aims to gather as many opinions as possible in order to determine what effect the IAST will have on its surroundings, according to Cantrell. A final report is expected in July. Cantrell said that information about the IAST will be made available at campus and local libraries. She sent the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation information last week. She also plans to send information to faculty, student and communtiy leaders, the Mayor, City Council, and members of the historic commision. Cantrell said she is trying to reach "as many people as we could think of who would be interested."