New UMC Chair Jerome Byam hopes to educate Penn students about racial stereotyping. Like all Penn students, College junior Jerome Byam tries to be careful when he walks through West Philadelphia's streets at night, staying on well-lit sidewalks and keeping an eye on the nearest blue-light phone. But unlike many of his classmates, the new United Minorities Council chairperson sometimes draws an unusual reaction from other students as he heads down Spruce Street. "I've seen white Penn students cross the road," Byam said. "It's weird to be in a situation where people perceive me as a mugger." Byam said he has dealt with these types of racial stereotypes and prejudices throughout his life -- and it is largely due to these experiences that he wants to work to educate students about stereotypes during his tenure as the leader of the UMC. Born in Guiana, raised in Trinidad and Toronto, Byam has been increasing awareness about minority issues in the political arena since his high school days in Canada when he founded the African Caribbean Canadian Association at his school. "In a school of about 1,000, there were about 20 black students," Byam said. "We just wanted to educate people." While the racial breakdown at Penn is not as severe as it was at his high school, Byam still thinks there is a lack of cultural awareness across the University. As UMC chair, he says he will strive to attack these cultural and racial issues head on. "The way to break down racism is to break down peoples' perceptions," Byam said. Byam has been a member of the Caribbean American Students Association for over a year. And despite his active involvement with the Caribbean American Student Association and the UMC, student government is not his only passion at Penn. A Biological Basis of Behavior major, Byam is interested in pursuing a career in neuropsychology, which he says will allow him to study the relationship between the brain and other aspects of the body. "It allows me the opportunity to deal with patients and do research into the functioning of the brain," he added. But when this pre-med student's brain wears down from cracking the books, he heads to the pool for swim team practice. "During the time you spend in the pool, your mind is completely clear, it helps you re-evaluate the day," said Byam, who swims the 50-meter free-style among other events. And Byam will need a clear mind to survive his upcoming year on the UMC. He is taking up the reins after outgoing Chairperson Chaz Howard's two terms and will have to work with a range of minority groups and other student government organizations on campus. According to College junior Hoa Duong, the outgoing chairperson of the Asian Pacific Student Coalition, Byam is committed to the job and is already working to educate himself about the issues facing various minorities. "I can personally vouch for [Byam's] character and leadership ability," Duong said. Duong added that Byam has "already taken steps to find out more about what's happening in various minority communities," such as meeting with minority student leaders and going to various minority student group meetings.
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Under new leadership, the multi-racial student group looks to grow. When filling out the typical college application, students are asked to check off one racial category. But for multi-racial students, that is not possible. This dilemma is the namesake of the student organization Check One, which represents students of mixed races, heritages and cultures. "Its important to realize that virtually everyone is of mixed heritage at this school," said incoming President Desiree Strickland, a College sophomore. "It's something everyone has to deal with." And outgoing president and College senior Marc Lener noted that there is a "great amount of self segregation on campus" that this group seeks to combat. Check One was born seven years ago as a discussion group for multi-ethnic and multi-racial students, but has since evolved into a cultural and political organization. In October 1998, it was officially inducted into the United Minorities Council. The ethnically diverse group is gaining popularity across campus. It currently has approximately 25 core members, an increase from last years membership of about 10 students. "We've been really focusing on advertising and getting our name out," said Lener, who noted over the past year the board has devoted time and energy to becoming more visible. Last night, Check One elected a new executive board. The group elected Strickland president and College junior Maria Wormack vice president. "I feel very honored to be elected president," Strickland said. "Although its going to be a tough job I think that it will be a great experience and a lot of fun." As president, Strickland said she hopes to continue the recent efforts to increase Check One's visibility on campus while incorporating a community service aspect. "We all have a lot to give and there are a lot of people who need [us]," she said. Wormack echoed Strickland's opinions on the importance of outreach. "Now that there are more mixed children being born, there is more discussion about their varying perspectives on social issues," she said. "Due to this increase, I think that Check One is now more important than ever." Over the next semester, Check One plans to hold several events on dating between different races -- a key focus for the group. Check One's annual interracial dating forum features University students and faculty who speak on their interracial dating experiences and facilitate a discussion on the topic. And this year, the group is planning their first interracial date auction which will be held around Valentine's Day.
The umbrella group elected College juniors Jerome Byam and Anita patel the new chairperson and vice chairperson. Bringing to an end the two-year tenure of College senior Chaz Howard as United Minorities Council chairperson, the representatives of the 12 UMC constituent groups came together last night to elect College junior Jerome Byam as its new leader. Byam, a member of the Caribbean American Students Association, said he was appreciative of Howard's work and optimistic about his upcoming time as chairperson. "I think Chaz has left some very tough footsteps to follow, as he has led the UMC through a period of transition and change," Byam said. "I hope to be an effective leader for the UMC and continue to give it direction and focus." Working side by side with Byam next year will be College junior Anita Patel, who was elected vice chairperson of the umbrella organization. Patel ran unopposed and received a majority of the votes, with a few voters abstaining. She will replace College senior Traci Curry. The race was close between Byam and College junior Archana Jayaram, the current programming tri-chairperson of the UMC, with Byam winning by a small margin. "I'm glad I didn't have to vote," Howard said. "I think all the candidates were excellent." Byam's main objectives for the new board include establishing a five-year plan for the UMC to follow and creating a cultural show to expose the University to the various cultures represented by the group. The plan will be "flexible, but I think very directed," Byam said. "It should outline certain goals UMC will wish to achieve." According to Byam, such an outline will enable the UMC to focus on its ongoing objectives, such as minority recruitment and retention among students and faculty. Byam said he would also like to increase the lines of communication between the UMC and the three other minority coalitions, the Asian Pacific Student Coalition, UMOJA and the Latino Coalition, by having monthly meetings attended by representatives of all four groups. The Latino Coalition left the UMC last year, citing a lack of political focus. When asked what he sees as the future between the Latino Coalition and the UMC, Byam said that he "would maintain our current stance where the door is open and [they] are welcome to come in" and rejoin whenever they choose. He added that whether or not the Latino Coalition reapplies for membership in the UMC, the Council should increase its involvement with the coalition. "We should recognize their independence," but still collaborate with them on various projects and common issues, Byam said. During the question and answer period, Byam fielded many questions that helped illuminate his abilities and ideas. He explained his background in dealing with minority issues by telling the voters that he grew up in a multicultural community. That experience, along with his involvement in minority affairs while at the University, helped him to understand a range of issues facing minorities. "I do believe I have a lot to learn about many groups, but I don't think I'm coming from scratch," Byam said. Regarding his ability to use diplomacy when dealing with the administration, Byam responded that he realizes tact and persistence are important. "Your agenda is first on your list but not on theirs," Byam said. "It requires a great deal of persistence." "I am very excited," Patel said. "I hope to see the UMC be more vocal and visible on campus." In order to achieve this end, Patel seeks to "create a link between the minority and non-minority communities on campus." Both outgoing board members Howard and Curry said they were sad to see their time with the UMC come to an end, but are hopeful about the new board's ability to carry on their work and create new directions for the group. "I am acquainted with both Anita and Jerome and I am fully confident in their ability to lead the UMC to bigger and better things," Curry said. The UMC will select the rest of its new leadership team next semester.
Sangam was added to the United Minorities Council as its 12th member group. The United Minorities Council recently welcomed into its membership a new group devoted to progressive South Asian interests. Sangam, which in Sanskrit means "a confluence of rivers" -- a metaphor for unity -- is the 12th member of the UMC. The group's membership represents just the latest movement of campus groups into or out of the UMC. In the spring of 1998, two Latino groups -- El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan and La Asociacion Cultural de Estudiantes Latino Americanos -- withdrew from the UMC, citing the group's lack of political focus. And in the fall of that year, the bi-cultural group Check One joined the umbrella organization, followed by the Penn Arab Student Society in January 1999. Members of Sangam hope that through their association with the UMC they will increase their interactions with other groups, develop larger publicized events and gain more exposure. "Our goal for the spring is to build partnerships and do collaborative work with other organizations," said College senior Gaurab Bansal, co-chairperson of Sangam. "That's part of the reason we joined the UMC." Both Bansal and College senior Tariq Remtulla, Sangam's other co-chairperson, emphasized that their group is more political than some of the other groups in the UMC. That quality, they feel, made Sangam look more attractive to the UMC. "There's a South Asian Society but it focuses on social and cultural events," Remtulla said. "We provide a niche for South Asian students who want to look at other issues." Remtulla added that in addition to its political focus, Sangam is also a cultural group which "wanted to add another South Asian voice to the UMC." Both Sangam members and the UMC leaders said they are excited about the new union. "They've been a welcomed addition to our family," said UMC Chairperson Chaz Howard, a College senior. Howard added that Sangam has already made a name for itself within the UMC by supporting Unity Week activities, contributing to panel discussions and being willing to lend a hand with the everyday tasks that keep the UMC running. Howard agreed that Sangam's "political edge" attracted the UMC to the group. "We felt that since they are essentially a political group before anything else, they could definitely contribute to the atmosphere and growth of the group in general," he said. Sangam began in 1996 as a vehicle for addressing South Asian women's issues and is specifically trying to boost its male membership. "We want to have a broadened scope this year without forgetting [our original objectives]," Remtulla said. Some of the issues Sangam has explored include how to dispel myths and stereotypes about South Asians, as well as identity issues and the homosexual South Asian experience. Sangam has sponsored various forums and symposia over the past three years to raise awareness about such issues, often co-sponsoring events with the Greenfield Intercultural Center and the South Asian Society.
The Unity Week vigil was held to denounce crimes based on bias. Trying to put aside prejudices and hatred, more than 50 students gathered together last night for a series of events focusing on hate crimes that culminated in a march from the Greenfield Intercultural Center to the Peace Sign on College Green. As they walked through campus, the marchers read accounts of hate crimes from across the country: "In Fairfax County, Va., an affluent community near Washington, D.C., in 1993, a 41-year-old black woman heard a doorbell ring at the home where she was housesitting," one marcher read. "When she looked out the window, she saw a cross burning 10 feet from the front door." The participants attended a town meeting at the Iron Gate Theater, then broke up into discussion groups at the GIC and later a smaller group of about 20 students participated in the vigil. The evening, which was part of the United Minorities Council's Unity Week, was both emotional and educational for many participants, who spent several hours discussing the controversial issue. A group of five panelists, all well versed in social and racial issues, discussed the importance of both hate crime legislation and preventative education in schools as a means of attacking a very complicated problem. Emily Greytak, the assistant director of the Anti-Defamation League's Eastern Pennsylvania/Delaware regional office, explained to the attendees that Pennsylvania's equivalent of hate crime legislation, which is called the Ethnic Intimidation Law, does not currently contain language on sexual orientation, gender or disability. She firmly believes that this legislation should be changed. "Hate crimes? send a message not only to the victims but to all members of the community that they should be afraid, that they should change their lifestyle," Greytak said. "When looking at hate crime legislation, the goal is to send a message that corresponds to the message being sent by the crime." Everyone is guilty of some amount of ignorance, prejudice and stereotyping, Greytak added, but she stressed that most people who hate do not commit hate crimes. Another panelist, psychoanalyst Elizabeth Young-Bruehl, talked with students about the psychology behind many hate crimes. She told the audience that those who commit hate crimes often feel threatened by their victims in some way. Young-Bruehl cited both affirmative action practices and the perceived affluence of some minority communities as sometimes causing resentment among others, saying that "minority groups are perceived to be making progress that is very hateful to those who feel superceded by it." Joo-Hyun Kang, executive director of the Audre Lorde Project in New York City, talked about the need for people to come together across boundaries and unite against hate. "We need to practice coalition politics," he said. Those in attendance agreed with Kang and were optimistic that the evening's events worked to increase unity among diverse groups and raise awareness of hate crimes. "I think people are going to begin to look at this issue in the multifaceted way that it is," said Karlene Burrell-McRae, associate director of the GIC. "I think there were people there who were genuinely concerned with the issue and wanted to learn some new information, and I think the 50 people there will pass it on."
Ernest Green, one of nine teens to integrate a Little Rock high school in 1957, spoke last night. In 1957, Ernest Green faced jeers, racial slurs and overwhelming hatred from hordes of white teenagers as he entered Central High School in Little Rock, Ark. Last night, 32 years after securing a key role in the civil rights movement as one of the "Little Rock Nine," Green delivered an engaging keynote address in College Hall as part of the United Minorities Council's Unity Week. Green was part of the first group of African-American students to enroll at Central High School following the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision that declared school segregation illegal. In his talk, Green stressed that all people can and should make a difference. His experience at Central High School, now taught in schools as a defining moment in the civil rights movement, became the subject of a recent film and earned him a Congressional Medal of Honor last week. Much of Green's talk focused on the integration of the school and the controversy surrounding it. When he enrolled at Central in the late 1950s, Green said, he had been merely trying to improve his personal lot. Little did he know, however, that being one of the first black students to demand rights in a then all-white school would have a major effect on the entire nation. "Coping was part of our issue at Little Rock," Green said. "I didn't have any particular insight into the future." Although Green might not have fully understood the implications of integration then, he was hardly oblivious to the danger of his situation. "Armed federal escorts were as much an entrance requirement for me and [the other African-American students] as pencils and paper," Green told the crowd. "It was a dangerous time for black folk who had the hope and courage to dare not know their place." But the potential harm that the nine teenagers' actions presented did not subdue Green and the other students. Instead, they relied on the "fundamental belief that you were either going to deal or get dealt." Green underlined his point by quoting Frederick Douglass, who said, "You may not get what you pay for but you certainly will pay for what you get. Power concedes nothing." Still, Green said, the parents of the nine students deserve as much recognition as the students themselves, for it was the parents who were willing to risk their families' welfare in order to change the status quo. "They were able to see the difference between the American Dream and the American reality [and] they were able to sacrifice their own personal comfort to merge the two," Green said. Shifting forward, Green expressed pleasure with the strides taken since the 1950s to improve race relations and seemed optimistic about the future. "We are very much more alike than we are different," Green said. But the work begun with Green's integration and continued with protests and marches throughout the following decade is far from done, he noted. "With so many core common experiences? how have we gotten to the place where we have gotten so far apart?" Green asked the audience. In order to bridge the gap between different cultures -- a chasm which Green said is considered exceptionally large by many "scientists and sociologists" -- he urged students to get involved in their local communities. "When you leave these hallowed walls of the University of Pennsylvania, it is up to you to be of service to the greater community," Green told the students. There are also opportunities for students to give back while at the University, Green said. He cited student groups, religious organizations and mentoring as some examples. "The lesson from Little Rock is that we can change our environment, we can change the world," Green said. When asked how he is continuing his service work, Green told the group that he works with various service organizations, serves on the board of Africare, a non-profit organization which deals with quality of life issues in rural Africa, and has created a scholarship with his wife for minority students at Michigan State University, his alma mater. During the question-and-answer period, a student asked Green his views on the push to end busing students from underfunded school districts to better schools. With regard to what one student called the current "assault on affirmative action," Green expressed a lack of concern for the future of the institution. He believes even if affirmative action falls out of favor now, it will return -- although not necessarily under the same name. "Corporations? will want to grab talent, no matter what color it is," Green said.
Events this week celebrating cultural divesity will include a vigil and a fashion show. About 50 students kicked off Unity Week last night with a coffeehouse at the Veranda showcasing cultural diversity and featuring performances by dance troupe Strictly Funk, the Penn Filipino Association, poetry quartet Assada and other individuals who illustrated various cultures represented in the Penn community. The goal of the week-long series of events is to raise awareness of ethnic issues and to help bridge the cultural gaps on campus. "We do these events to bring people together and educate people [about the fact that] we've all been through similar struggles, even though we may look different from each other," said College senior Chaz Howard, chairperson of the United Minorities Council. "We need to come together and unify to get past [our problems]." UMC programming Tri-Chairperson Archana Jayaram, a College junior, echoed Howard's sentiments. "We're trying to make it an integrating kind of thing," Jayaram said. "We want to get people out of their comfort zone to meet people not of their background." In an effort to achieve this goal, many of the week's events are co-sponsored by various groups, including the Undergraduate Assembly, the Social Planning and Events Committee, Connaissance, the Tangible Change Committee, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Center and Alliance and Understanding. Other events this week include speakers such as Sayantani Dasgupta, a physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and poet Piri Thomas; a fashion show; a town meeting against hate crimes; and a candlelight vigil. The week's keynote speaker will be Ernest Green, one of the "Little Rock Nine," the group of students who initiated integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., following the Supreme Court's 1954 decision to bar school segregation. Green, who is currently the managing director of public finance for Lehman Brothers' Washington, D.C., office, served as assistant secretary of labor for employment and training during the Carter administration and was appointed chairperson of the African Development Foundation by President Clinton. The week's coordinators said they were very pleased with both the turnout and performances at yesterday's coffeehouse and hope it will serve as an indicator of future success this week. "We're trying to make people aware Unity Week is beginning," said College junior Huria Nabiwala, programming tri-chairperson for the UMC. "Most of the acts embodied the theme of the week and were definitely diverse." Last night's event was held in conjunction with Poverty Awareness Week, and the proceeds will go to a local West Philadelphia charity which is yet to be chosen.
Rodin advised the students on how to proceed with the idea. In a meeting yesterday with approximately 20 Asian-American students, University President Judith Rodin expressed her support for an Asian-American resource center, suggesting she would help students develop the center once they submit a clear proposal outlining their goals. In a comment that left Asian-American students feeling generally optimistic, Rodin said, "Your requests? are highly legitimate. We support the idea of an Asian-American resource center and I share [Provost Robert Barchi's] commitment to really pursue it." Asian-American students on campus spent much of Asian Pacific American Heritage Week two weeks ago protesting the lack of a resource center and blasting the University administration for failing to address their concerns for more than a decade. At yesterday's meeting, Rodin stressed that Asian-American students lost sight of the overall goal by injecting harsh rhetoric into their criticisms of the administration. "Your action plan doesn't have any action in it," Rodin said. "It has a lot of rhetoric and anger. In creating a plan with faculty advisors, you will show your proactivity and, in turn, I will be proactive." Rodin repeatedly cited La Casa Latina, as well as Kelly Writers House and Civic House, as examples of how to effectively propose a resource center. Those who worked on the development of La Casa Latina had the advantage of a permanent faculty member to assist them in developing a proposal which explained the needs of the students and how a center would meet them. Rodin explained that the development of an Asian-American resource center would be partially contingent on the level of faculty commitment. "It's going to depend on faculty involvement and commitment because that's the way things succeed at Penn," Rodin said. "The president doesn't sit down and plan resource centers -- I just can't do it. My role is to make sure [students' plans] get implemented." Students, however, expressed serious concern that Asian-American faculty mentors are hard to come by at Penn. "We are here right now because we can't find mentors," said College junior John Lin, the political chairperson of the Asian Pacific Student Coalition, pointing to the small number of Asian-American undergraduate faculty members at the University. Rodin pointed out that there are 148 Asian Pacific-American faculty members at the University, with 52 in undergraduate schools. There are 20 in the College of Arts and Sciences, 15 in the Wharton School, 17 in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and none in the School of Nursing. Rodin also made it clear that the University would not hire any new staff whose sole purpose would be to guide and mentor Asian-American students and suggested that students not rule out graduate students as possible mentors. "Penn has hundreds, bordering on thousands of student groups, and each group does not have a mentor," Rodin said. If the University had a mentor for every student group, "Penn would drastically have to cut back the number of student groups." Not everyone agreed with Rodin's assessment of the situation. Edward Southgate, a graduate student in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, felt that while some groups, such as the Penn Skydiving Club, do not need a faculty mentor, other groups do. "To say 'they don't have an advisor, so why should you have an advisor' to me is a ridiculous argument," Southgate said. Several attendees said they were optimistic following the discussion with Rodin. "We came in thinking we had to persuade her but it seems like she already supports the idea," said College junior Jennifer Wound, vice chairperson of the Asia Pacific Student Coalition.
The Christian Assoc. will displace La Casa Latina over the summer. Officials are cautiously optimistic. Upon hearing the news Wednesday that the highly praised and 1 1/2-month-old La Casa Latina would be forced to relocate at the end of this academic year, members of the Latino community say they are keeping a close eye on University President Judith Rodin to make sure she provides them with a viable alternative. The news came last week that the University purchased the long sought after Christian Association building on Locust Walk, moving the CA to the Westminster House at 3700 Chestnut Street, where La Casa Latina is currently housed. In displacing La Casa Latina, Rodin promised the facility would receive "equally good, if not better" space on campus. She said, also, that the leaders of the new Latino center knew from the start they would likely have to move at the end of the year, and that she believed the move would be less harmful to the center now rather than later. The center's leaders expressed hope that the move would result quickly in a permanent home for La Casa Latina. "On the one hand, I find it very troubling [because] it is important to have a permanent location that we can consider our home on Penn's campus," said College senior Jonathan Canto, president of El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, the University's Mexican-American and Chicano group. On the other hand, "it really provides Penn an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to the Latino community." According to Canto, the University could express its concern for Latinos on campus by providing them with a larger facility. "What is going to shape people's opinions about it is what Penn does next," he added. La Casa Latina Director Lilvia Soto said she received a letter from Rodin when the center opened which stated that the facility would remain at its current location for two years, not one. But Soto added that she is not troubled by the move and understands that Rodin couldn't have foreseen the purchase of the CA building, which the University has been pursuing for at least 20 years. "I am not upset at all because we knew it was going to happen," Soto said. "Actually, I prefer it this way, sooner rather than later, before we get settled in. Thanks to the early move, Soto said La Casa Latina will be able to avoid spending money on items such as bookshelves and a sign for the outside of the building that may not be transportable to a new location. "I welcome this," Soto said. "If we had stayed longer we would have made investments on things we wouldn't be able to take with us." In addition, Soto says, "It is a good opportunity to get a larger place, as we don't currently have enough room." With regard to the students' concerns about the move, Soto said she will try to assuage their fears. "The essence of La Casa is not Westminster House, not the space," Soto said. "We carry our culture in our bones and we'll have that wherever we go.? We should be optimistic and think of this as a very positive development."
Students argued for increased faculty and a resource center. In an effort to raise awareness and elicit a response from the University, Asian-American student leaders held a speakout Friday on College Green to voice their grievances over the small number of Asian-American faculty and the lack of a resource center. Even though they make up roughly 25 percent of the University's population, Asian-American students say they are severely underserved. "The administration at the University of Pennsylvania has neglected us.? We're not some outsiders saying 'hey, give us something,' we're part of the community," said Engineering senior Mark Yoshitake, president of the Penn Nihon Club and the emcee of the event. "We need support from the University, and we want it now." Yoshitake added that there are about 15 Asian-American faculty and staff at the University to support nearly 2,000 students. College senior Edward Southgate, a member of Lambda Phi Epsilon, also referred to the disparity, saying, "It's critical to rectify the gap between the number of Asian-American enrolled students and the number of faculty to support them." Many of the speakers noted the need for Asian Americans to take action and express their concerns to the administration. "The stereotype of us as the model minority is really misleading," said Vinay Harpalani, a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Education. "It makes us think that everything is OK and we don't have to speak out." Other students echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the importance of students being persistent in their requests for support from the University. "The University addresses student issues by saying 'we'll see what we can do,' and hope that they'll forget and go away," said Andrew Chai, a Wharton junior and president of the Undergraduate Thai Student Association. Hoa Duong, a College junior and chairperson of the Asian Pacific Student Coalition, spoke about many of the past measures students have taken to elicit resources and support from the University. She remarked specifically on petitions and suggestions for an Asian-American resource center. Students cited the need for meeting space, increased unity among Asian-American groups and a visible centralized location on campus as incentives for the resource center. In addition to students' most recent requests, a center was recommended in 1998 by both a Pluralism Committee, an Asian Pacific American Student Affairs Committee established by University President Judith Rodin and focus groups conducted by the Vice Provost for University Life. According to Duong, the University did not respond to the Pluralism Committee's report, and responded to the APASAC recommendation by citing past efforts the University has made on behalf of Asian-American students. "In schools across the country, students enjoy the luxury of institutionalized support that students here must sit and wait for," said Duong. "We are here today because we have exhausted all democratic procedures."
At a college admissions fair held in Logan Hall yesterday, students were able to ask about gay life on campus. Representatives from various colleges and universities throughout the Delaware Valley area came to Logan Hall yesterday in an attempt to reach out to gay and questioning high school students and give them information about gay communities at their respective schools. Penn is the third university to hold an event of this kind, drawing together around 10 area colleges and a small group of high school students targeted by an outreach program. "We are always interested in creative ways for outreach," said Jim Bock, director of admissions at Swarthmore College. "We are glad the college fair's organizers have opened the doors to give students the opportunity to find a safe environment on not only an academic, but also a social level." One of the biggest problems for gay and questioning students who are seeking information about gay resources is finding a way to get information discretely. "It's a difficult issue in admissions," said Julie Russo, a student worker in the admissions office at Swarthmore. "It's hard to figure out how to get information out to people. This is a wonderful forum [for reaching people]." Erin Cross, assistant director for the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center at Penn, echoed Russo's sentiment, saying that at standard college fairs it is hard for students to ask about gay issues when their parents or peers are present. However, Conestoga High School junior Adam Brody stressed the importance of asking questions about gay support groups at various universities when investigating college options, even if it's uncomfortable at first. "Gay issues are a real concern and you'd be shafting yourself not to go ahead and ask anyway," Brody said. The decision to hold gay-oriented college fairs came after researchers at the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities discovered that there was a common need among gay and questioning high school students to find information on the climate and resources available at various colleges. "We're being contacted by more and more students who are coming out or exploring their sexual orientation while they're still in high school, so knowing something about what it will be like for them at various colleges and universities, being an out or exploring student, is extremely important," LGBTC Director Bob Schoenberg said. "This is a way for them to find out, to talk to students who are already at those colleges and to talk to admissions counselors." While the event did not draw a large turnout, attracting approximately 10 high school students, several universities in attendance used the event as a chance to network and update one another on upcoming activities. And the students present seemed to benefit from the resources available at the fair. "It put things in perspective to see how many colleges are so supportive," Conestoga High School junior Amy Knight said. "It's nice that they brought so many students who are involved [in the gay community]." The event was sponsored by the LGBTC; the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network; the Philadelphia chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays; and Safeguards, a gay men's health and prevention organization.
Following the lead of African Americans and Latinos on campus, Asian Americans want to get a resource center. In the midst of Asian Pacific American Heritage Week, many Asian-American students are complaining that administrators have repeatedly ignored their concerns and now accuse the University of giving them a raw deal. Topping the list of Asian-American student-leaders' grievances is the lack of an Asian-American resource center, which they envision to be a home base for meetings and academic and psychological support. According to Asian Pacific Student Coalition Chairperson Hoa Duong, a College junior, proposals and committee suggestions for an Asian-American resource center date back to at least 1991, but the request has yet to be realized. "There are problems unique to this community that the University is not addressing," Duong said. "It's really tough for students to identify mentors and advisors and a resource center would provide these opportunities." APSC Vice Chairperson Jennifer Wound, a College junior, said a resource center has been recommended to administrators in more than one committee report, including the final report of the Pluralism Committee in 1998 and the University President's Asian/Pacific American Student Affairs Committee. "I think if the University decides to open an Asian-American resource center, geared specifically for Asian-American needs, this would prove that the University addresses the needs of its minority students and treats them as students of equal importance on campus," Wound said. "Right now, the distribution of resources does not parallel the University's claim of recognizing 'the importance of student diversity in maintaining a rich and versatile educational setting,'" she added, quoting a statement from the Admissions Office's World Wide Web site. According to Provost Robert Barchi, the administration is not ignoring the needs of Asian-American students. He cited a lack of space as causing the absence of an Asian-American resource center. "We recognize and support the need identified by Asian-American students for a resource center," Barchi said. "Although we are currently experiencing serious space constraints on campus, this is a priority for us and will be something we actively pursue as space becomes available." Last spring, the Asian-American Studies Resource Collection Center opened on the eighth floor of Williams Hall. The facility contains Asian-American books, magazines and other research materials, but there is little room for students to gather. In addition, its availability is severely limited as it is only open 11 hours a week and is run by a work-study student instead of a permanent staff member. "There is no real staff," said Undergraduate Advisory Board Co-Chairperson Stephanie Hwang, a Wharton junior. "[And] it's basically for the Asian-American Studies program." Hwang also noted the effect on unity a permanent center would have for Asian-American students. "If we have a central location on campus, we will use the place for meetings and it will give a visible place for Asian-American students," Hwang said. "Right now, a lot of clubs run back and forth between various locations." Asian-American student leaders plan to hold a speak-out tomorrow to make their demands loud and clear. "Asian-American student leaders cannot and will not remain silent any longer," Duong said. "We wave waited and waited for the University to fulfill its commitments, but it seems that we are counted when it's convenient in emphasizing the University's diversity, but we only receive token acknowledgement in terms of institutional change. We contribute so much to this University and we deserve more respect."
In a Center City area gripped by feat of a serial rapist, women met to 'Take Back the Night.' Opening with the chant, "What do we want? Safe streets! When do we want it? Now!" various University women's groups held a Take Back the Night rally at Rittenhouse Square last night to unify the community against sexual violence. The event brought together about 50 men and women to the area of Center City being stalked by the serial rapist who police believe has committed at least six sexual assaults in the area, including the 1998 rape and strangling death of Wharton doctoral student Shannon Schieber. Speakers voiced their feelings about rape and sexual assault and discussed ways for people to protect themselves from such violent acts. "We are here to demonstrate the power of women's voices? to turn our fear into action," Penn Women's Center Director Elena DiLapi said. "Surviving is about our individual strength and this rally is about our collective strength." Several of the speakers echoed DiLapi's statement, emphasizing the importance of not only acknowledging the fear and anger brought about by the threat of rape and sexual assault, but also acting on those feelings to affect change. "You have to decide you are going to take control of how you feel, admit that you feel scared, that you feel vulnerable, and do something about it," self-defense instructor Mary Katherine Roper said. "You are the only person who can make yourself feel safer." The issue of the underreporting of rape was a major concern, prompting speakers to encourage people to talk about their sexual assaults. Doing so, they said, can help remove the stigma from victims of rape and catch perpetrators of sexual violence. Currently, only 30 percent of all rapes are reported and only one fifth of the cases result in a conviction, one speaker said. Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham sent out a personal plea to the crowd to reveal any information about any sexual assault or rapist, and in particular about the Center City rapist. "For those who have not reported a crime? please, I beg you, come forward and reveal those details about this horrendous incident," Abraham said. "This may give us the clue that we need." Roper used her speaking time to give some tips for making oneself less of a target for sexual assault, including carrying fewer items, wearing sensible shoes, walking with others and getting to know one's neighbors. Although she only had a few minutes to discuss how to defend against an attacker, Roper showed the crowd how to properly hit someone in the windpipe and outlined some of the most vulnerable and easily reached places on the body, including the eyes, knees and throat. "Know your strengths and resources, know how to exploit the weaknesses of the person who is attacking you," Roper said. "Anything in your hand or within your reach at the time you're being attacked is a weapon." In addition to fighting back individually, many attendees believed that the key to ending sexual violence lies in community. Pennsylvania State Sen. Shirley Kitchen spoke on behalf of women of the Senate offices and of North Philadelphia, expressing their support for the Center City community. "You are not alone in this struggle because when one woman is violated, then we all are," Kitchen said. "We cannot continue to just stand around and point and say 'it's not on my block' or 'it's not in my neighborhood.'" Overall, both organizers and attendees felt positively about the rally and its effects on the crowd and the community. "I am pleased that people gathered -- I think the folks who spoke? had really clear, strong messages to give," Penn Women's Law Project worker Debbie Rubin said. College senior Hema Sarangapani, chairperson of the Women's Alliance and one of the rally's organizers, agreed that the event was successful. Sarangapani said she "was pleased to see random people from the park joining along," in addition to those who knew about the rally in advance. She added that it was good to see both men and women in attendance. "I think people are really afraid and I hope this rally actually gave them the strength the deal with that fear in a very active way, in a proactive way," Sarangapani said.
Penn's National Coming Out Day events included a campus rally and a vigil. Proud members of the gay community popped out of the Button yesterday afternoon to celebrate sexual diversity on campus as part of National Coming Out Day, but the lighthearted tone turned somber as members of the University community came together for a vigil on College Green to remember victims of hate crimes. During the noon rush on Locust Walk, about 10 students and staff gathered at the Button and passed out stickers to demonstrate their pride in their sexual identity. Many of them crawled through the holes in the Button as a coming out gesture, which was appropriately accompanied by the song, "I'm Coming Out" by Diana Ross. The group received mixed reactions from passersby. Although they felt they were generally well received, not everyone embraced the event and its message. "Many people thought, 'Oh my God, a gay thing, run away.' That saddened me," College freshman Karim Javeri said. "It's something they don't want anything to do with." Other participants agreed that the crowd sentiment was not all positive. While passing out stickers, "I got to one girl who said, 'Actually, I don't support it,'" College sophomore Rudy Ramirez said. "That was like a piece of ice right through me? because it was truly the first time I encountered somebody who did not support me." He added that he felt generally fortunate to be surrounded by friends and others who support him. Despite a few unpleasant moments, the event's organizers said it was overall a creative way to commemorate National Coming Out Day. "This is a little bit of a contrast [to the other events] because they can be emotional, and this is just to have fun and celebrate? and to be seen and see what National Coming Out Day is all about," said College senior Kurt Klinger, chairperson of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Alliance. And College junior Mike Hartwyk, a member of the LGBA executive board, added, "It's important for us to reflect back on the time when we were not out and to remember what it was like and to help people.? We have to make ourselves present so that people know they are not the only ones." The event sought both to symbolize the participants' coming out and to show support to those who might be struggling with their own sexuality. "It's symbolic that lesbian, gay [and] transgender people have to come out every day of their lives and that it takes a tremendous amount of courage for them to do that," said Bob Schoenberg, director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Center. The day quickly lost its largely cheerful nature as last night's vigil touched on the difficulty of being a sexual minority. Around 10 people, both gay and straight, addressed a crowd of about 50 attendees on their feelings about hate crimes. The event was intended primarily to commemorate the death of Matthew Shepard, the gay Wyoming college student who was killed almost exactly one year ago, but was used as an instrument to discuss hate crimes of all sorts. Kurt Conklin, the advisor to Students Together Against Acquaintance Rape and Facilitating Learning About Sexual Health, related a story that detailed his own experiences as a victim of a gay hate crime, in which perpetrators repeatedly ripped down a rainbow flag in front of Conklin's home and urinated on his house. "Bad things are happening right in your own neighborhood," Conklin said. Many of the speakers emphasized the importance of reflection and introspection as a catalyst for change. "Take a look inside yourself. Confront your own prejudices, your own fears," said Undergraduate Assembly Chairperson Michael Silver, a College senior. "We all have them, I have them. Nobody's perfect." The attendees generally felt a sense of duty and moral responsibility to attend the vigil and show support for minorities who are the victims of hate crimes. "I feel it's important to show there is a strong support network for all people at the University and this is a good way to show that," College sophomore Karly Grossman said. "I hope it serves as an inspiration for people to remember to appreciate themselves and look out for each other."
In her time at the University, Afi Roberson has worked to create new avenues for cultural interaction. When she came to the University 10 years ago, Afi Roberson was an unknown administrative assistant in the African-American Resource Center -- answering phones, working with budgets and performing general secretarial duties. Now, as Roberson prepares to celebrate her 10-year anniversary as an AARC staff member, those who know her say she has moved the center in the right direction and that she has a lot for which be proud. "She has been the backbone all these years," AARC Director Jeanne Arnold said. "She signifies what the AARC is all about.? As she's grown and developed professionally, the AARC has grown and developed." Officially, Roberson is a staff assistant at the center, but unofficially, she is the center's anchor -- going beyond the confines of her job description to develop workshops and programs that benefit members of both the University and West Philadelphia communities. And through her efforts to reach out to students and staff, several students say Roberson has become a mentor. "You can talk to her about anything and feel comfortable around her," said College senior Kianesha Norman, co-chairperson of Alliance and Understanding, a group dedicated to exploring black-Jewish relationships at Penn. "She's at everything possible on campus -- if it has to do with the students, she's there and she's telling you about it." And College senior Miriam Joffe-Block, co-chairperson of Alliance and Understanding and a member of the Progressive Activist Network, said, "I feel completely comfortable asking her for advice and she's a great resource." Some of Roberson's recent efforts include collaborating with Hillel and the Greenfield Intercultural Center to develop Alliance and Understanding, as well as researching, designing and facilitating a 12-step program to teach Penn employees assertiveness skills. A long-time West Philadelphia native, Roberson has also injected her efforts into the community, helping to facilitate neighborhood workshops on basic job skills and single parenting. "I always look for a challenge," Roberson said. "I'm very creative and think that most people have creative juices, but just have to be given the opportunity to expand and grow." Roberson -- who entered a master's program at the University after being hired in 1989 and took classes while working at the AARC -- attended a leadership conference in California three times, returning to Penn with new ideas for programs, including one workshop called "Embracing Diversity" and another titled "Building Collaboration Among Student Groups." And two years ago, Roberson and her collaborators from the GIC and Hillel presented to the conference attendees their model for building black-Jewish relations -- the Alliance and Understanding program. The program itself began with a group of 16 students who sought to raise awareness between the two ethnic groups and create a link between them based on a discussion of their shared histories, Roberson said. "Alliance and Understanding was recently awarded a grant from [University] President [Judith] Rodin's diversity fund, which means the program is up and running and is recognized as a viable program," Roberson said. In addition to creating programs and workshops, Roberson has sat on several boards and committees over her 10 years at the University, including her current membership in University Council's Admissions and Financial Aid Committee. "It's good to make an impact, especially where policy is concerned, and committees allow you the opportunity to have your voice heard," Roberson said. She has also paid particular attention to the issue of recruitment and retention of African-American students and faculty, noting that she has seen "an exodus of African Americans" since she came to the University. "The presence is not here and it sends out a negative message," Roberson said. "You like and appreciate seeing people like yourself around [in upper-level positions].? I'm looking for representatives of my people."
One of Lilvia Soto's goals is to create a stronger Latino community at Penn. Lilvia Soto, an assistant dean for academic advising in the College of Arts and Sciences, says she has a special mission to fulfill as the new director of La Casa Latina, the Center for Hispanic Excellence. Soto, a native Spanish speaker who was born and raised in Mexico, said she wants to "try to develop in young Latinos a greater knowledge, understanding and love for the culture of their ancestors." As director of La Casa Latina, Soto's chief objective will be to work to increase the recruitment and retention of Latino students at the University. In addition, she will help implement social, cultural and academic programs for Latino students. Soto also said that the development of a Latino Studies program at Penn is on her agenda. Sociology Department Chairperson Doug Massey helped establish a Latin American Studies program at the University, but the program, according to Soto, only marginally addresses Latino issues. One of the biggest impediments to the development of this program, aside from funding from the University, is a lack of professors qualified to teach Latino Studies classes. "In the past we've had some people but they're all gone now," Soto said. Massey was recently authorized to hire one Latino Sociology professor for next year and Soto hopes that the appointment will mark the beginning of the creation of a group of Latino faculty. "If this year, a Sociology professor is hired, maybe next year a History professor will be hired," Soto said. "It will be built over time." Of the four finalists for the position at La Casa Latina from a search process which lasted four months, Soto was the only internal candidate. "The decision was unanimous," said Electrical Engineering Professor Jorge Santiago-Aviles, a member of the search committee. "She helped obtain support for the program and was instrumental in writing proposals for getting funds for La Casa Latina." Soto's current visibility among Penn's Latino students has prompted students to place trust in her ability to lead and facilitate interaction between students, faculty and administrators, Santiago-Aviles added. "The entire Latino Coalition pushed for it because [Soto] understands Penn and has many connections with the administration," said College senior Leslie Heredia, president of La Asociaci-n Cultural de Estudiantes Latino Americanos. And Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum agreed that Soto was a good choice to head up the center. "I am delighted that the search committee found, right here at Penn, a colleague whose passion for advancing Latino presence at Penn is equaled by her commitment to the Philadelphia Latino community," she said. In addition to having taught one year at the University, Soto has also held teaching positions at Harvard University, the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Washington University, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Temple University and the Cornell-Michigan-Penn Academic Year in Seville Program, which is run out of Spain. She will continue on as an assistant dean half-time for now but says she is anxious to become the full-time director of La Casa Latina. "When people have a better appreciation for their roots they become stronger, better able to lead," Soto said. Soto, who has been at the University for six years, received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Washington University and her doctorate degree in Hispanic Languages and Literature from the SUNY-Stony Brook.
Student activists are gathering signatures to pressure the administration into accepting a code of conduct. Penn's Progressive Activist Network launched its "No Sweat" campaign this week in conjunction with the national United Students Against Sweatshops group in an attempt to raise awareness about sweatshops in the clothing industry. The sweatshop issue came under discussion last year as students from several universities held well-publicized sit-ins to demand that their schools develop codes of conduct prohibiting the use of sweatshop labor and disclosing the locations of all factories that manufacture apparel bearing the school's insignia. Last February, representatives from every Ivy League school -- except Penn, which chose to skip the meeting -- met in New York City to discuss possible guidelines. On Monday, PAN and USAS members set up a table on Locust Walk with an oversized T-shirt for students to sign in support of the campaign, and publicized its goal of forcing the University to establish a code of conduct for the factories which produce Penn-logo apparel. The students are demanding several points in the code, including full public disclosure of the locations of factories, a living wage for workers, women's rights and freedom of association. "We are trying to use our leverage as students at a large university to put an end to sweatshops? by trying to get our clothes at the bookstore made in 'sweat free' conditions," said College sophomore Harrison Blum, a member of both PAN and USAS. Currently, the Fair Labor Association -- a group of corporations and monitoring agencies -- exists to watch conditions in garment and other factories, but many anti-sweatshop proponents have called the FLA ineffective. In March, Penn and 16 other colleges and universities joined the FLA following high-profile student protests across the nation. "Companies can say, 'Yeah, we're monitoring factories,' but they have announced monitoring so people who run factories have time to clean it up for that particular day," said Wharton sophomore Brian Kelly, also a member of both PAN and USAS. Blum agreed that corruption exists within the FLA and that not knowing the exact locations of factories makes it difficult to monitor them. "The FLA is composed of and run by corporate interests," Blum said. "To put it simply, the bad guys are in charge of making sure they don't do anything wrong." Recently, two former factory workers from El Salvador came to the United States to speak out about being fired from Caribbean Apparel, the factory where entertainment personality Kathie Lee Gifford's clothing line is manufactured. They said they were fired because they attempted to organize a union and spoke out about poor factory conditions. Caribbean Apparel is a member of the FLA. Campaign organizers said the living wage component -- which aims to provide factory employees with a standard of living -- is also important for the improvement of worker conditions. From the typical $20 T-shirt, a factory worker receives 27 cents, said College senior Miriam Joffe-Block, a PAN and USAS member. In contrast, "the living wage pays for food, clothing [and] transportation -- enough to provide for the necessities of life," Joffe-Block said. PAN and the USAS also feel that freedom of association is important in order for workers to lobby for their rights and improve their conditions. "They work every day in terrible conditions without any opportunity to improve their lives," Joffe-Block said. So far, organizers said the campaign to raise awareness has been successful. "I'm kind of surprised, considering the apathy on Penn's campus, but there's been a lot of support and a lot of people wanting to get involved," Joffe-Block said."The t-shirt is like a petition.? We'll deliver it to the administration to show that students really do care about this issue."
Latinos and Latinas alike attended "Fight Night" at Mad 4 Mex last Friday night to kick off Latino Heritage Month with the welterweight boxing title match between Felix Trinidad and Oscar de la Hoya. And though many were dissatisfied with the judges' final decision -- Trinidad won in a very close match -- the event was well-attended and its organizers are hopeful that the rest of Latino Heritage Month will be just as popular. "It really energized the Latino community and gave us a good start to Heritage Month," said College senior John Canto, who is president of El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, the University's Mexican American and Chicano group. "[Latino Heritage Month] gives us a chance to open up to the greater University community, give insight into our lifestyles and show prospective students and freshmen that Penn is committed to the Latino community." Though National Latino Heritage Month takes place in September, the University's celebration traditionally spans parts of September and October. Organizers from the Latino Coalition -- an umbrella group for Latino organizations that was formed last year -- have already planned a slew of events to celebrate the month and their heritage. Some of the other programs this month include a freshman barbecue, a Cuban art exhibit and various discussions, including "Latinos and Sex in the '90s," "The Life and Legacy of Che" and "Where Have All the Good Latin Men Gone?" "[Latino Heritage Month] is a good opportunity for us to celebrate our culture, learn a little bit more ourselves and have open dialogue," said College senior Leslie Heredia, president of La Asociaci-n Cultural de Estudiantes Latino Americanos, the University's Latin American organization. "It also helps bring us together as a community." In the past, various Latino groups have organized and sponsored events independently of one another, but this year's events are organized by the Latino Coalition. The biggest event so far in the month-long celebration was yesterday's ribbon cutting ceremony for La Casa Latina, the University's new Latino resource center. The center will function as an academic and social haven for Penn's Latinos through various programs and events. "The value in La Casa Latina is in a commitment by the University to our Latino community," said Canto, "I see La Casa as a gesture that Penn cares about us, that we are part of the University family." Many of the Latino students on campus say they are excited about the month's upcoming events. "It's a period where we get to demonstrate a lot of the special qualities about our culture," said Nursing junior Nancy Calderon, who is a member of MEChA. "We're trying to bring professionals from the community in and establish a network with them," she added, referring to some of the month's events. Some said they feel that during Latino Heritage Month it is just as important for Latinos to share their heritage with others as it is for them to celebrate their culture together. "It helps us remain true to our culture and keep us close to our roots," Canto said. "Latino students can keep close to their culture, even though they may be far away from home."
The campus group is aligning with the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, but maintaining the same platform. In order to seek more support and greater resources, the Penn chapter of the National Organization of Women voted to change its name and affiliation to the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance last week. College junior Angie Liou, who is a tri-chairperson of the new FMLA, said one reason for the change was that the campus women's group didn't focus enough on legislative and national issues as a NOW chapter. Whereas Penn's NOW chapter used to have greater contact with the national group, "as people graduated, that connection was eventually lost [and] NOW really isn't set up for that," Liou said. Still, organizers maintained that the basic principles behind the women's group would not change along with its title. "FMLA will help teach everyone to lead and organize," College senior and FMLA tri-chairperson Kim Junod said. "Our aim really hasn't changed.? FMLA has the same stance on the issues [as NOW]." FMLA is designed specifically to create interaction between campus chapters, as well as to provide support for their various groups throughout the country. Founded in part by Eleanor Smeal, a former president of NOW, the goal of the FMLA is to create a network through which young women can learn from each other in order to become leaders and activists of women's environmental and minority issues. "We were never really affiliated with the national organization of NOW," Junod said. "Now, we will be in closer communication with the national group." Junod stressed her belief that FMLA chapters are more connected to each other. "We feel [FMLA] is making an effort to help out younger feminists," she said. One of the resources that the FMLA provides is a group of field representatives for each region of the country. Agents work with students and faculty to establish FMLA groups on different campuses, keeping each group informed about happenings at other campuses and serving as a connection to the Feminist Majority Foundation, the FMLA's Washington, D.C.-based parent organization. The FMLA also has a World Wide Web site to facilitate campus-to-campus interaction and conversation. In addition, each member receives a binder with tips for effective speaking and leadership skills, as well as information about important topics such as reproductive issues, violence against women and women in the workplace. Most former NOW members reacted positively to the switch. "The organization and assistance FMLA offers [is helpful]," School of Social Work staff member Craig Abbs said. "This year, we're going to get a lot more accomplished." College senior Hema Sarangapani, chairperson of the Women's Alliance and a member of the FLMA, agreed. "The support [the FLMA] gives us is very important -- it has a lot more resources to help out younger feminists," she said. Not everyone felt that the change was necessarily a good idea, however. "I was hesitant about the change," College senior Shirley Zilberstein said. "I have been a member of NOW going on six years.? I still held to the belief that NOW had a stronger, more well-known history and better name recognition." Despite some mixed feelings, most everyone agreed on the need for a feminist group at the University. "I'll still be a strong supporter no matter what the name, and if this attracts more people, so much the better," Zilberstein said. At their first meeting last night as the new organization, the group fleshed out some of their goals for the year, including bringing Smeal to speak on campus and supporting the Progressive Activist Network's upcoming No Sweat campaign against sweatshop labor. In addition to organizing events and supporting others, FMLA is eager to increase its visibility on campus. "We seek to increase the feminist voice on campus and make sure women are heard," Sarangapani said.
The event at the Greenfield Intercultural Center featured assorted foods and music. Sunshine, salsa music and a variety of ethnic foods greeted about 20 students, faculty and West Philadelphia community members at the Greenfield Intercultural Center's Open House on Friday afternoon. The event was designed to acquaint minority and other students with the services available and activities offered at the GIC. According to GIC Director Valerie DeCruz, the center's goal is to "support and highlight the rich traditions at Penn and give students an opportunity to come together across communities, which doesn't happen much on campus." This year, the center will "focus on raising [its] visibility on campus" and facilitate intermingling among different ethnic and cultural groups, DeCruz added. The atmosphere was one of fun and lightheartedness as the salsa band "The Supercombo" livened up the well-fed crowd with their second set, and a small group danced on the patio while shaking maracas. "It's good they're trying to promote Latin culture," said College senior Zadith Pino, president of the Latin dance group Onda Latina. And the program celebrated a variety of cultures, in particular through the food offered, which ranged in ethnicity from homemade Puerto Rican food to catered specials from the local restaurants Beijing, Tandoor and Uhurus, a Jamaican venue. "It's important for us to support minority businesses in the area," GIC Associate Director Karlene Burrell-McRae said. The GIC, located at 3708 Chestnut Street, co-sponsors speakers and workshops with various ethnic and cultural groups to promote the needs and interests of students, faculty and staff of color at the University. Its facility contains a lobby, library, lounge, finished basement and outdoor patio which all can be reserved to accommodate various group sizes, and the video library features both documentaries and feature-length films. Tiffany Anderson-Purvy, the office coordinator for the center, emphasized the meeting spaces and video library in particular as resources that all students should utilize. One of the most prominent attendees, Vice Provost of University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum, expressed her enthusiasm for the open house and the GIC. "It's wonderful to be in one of the spaces on Penn's campus which welcomes all kinds of folks," she said. "The GIC creates great communication between Penn and West Philadelphia and the world."