The process was the most selective ever The University admitted 35 percent of early decision applicants this fall -- down from 52 percent last year -- making this the most selective early admissions process in Penn's history. Early applications increased by 26 percent, for a total of 2,040, according to Admissions Dean Lee Stetson. Only 714 students were accepted. And with the number of regular decision applications already up 10 percent, the trend does not seem to be waning. As the University becomes a more popular choice among high school seniors, the Admissions Office is able to defer more students than usual in order to compare them to the regular applicant pool. A total of 722 students were deferred, while 582 were rejected. Stetson added that he hopes to admit a smaller class this year -- another factor that led the office to accept fewer early decision applicants. Under the early decision process, students apply to the University in November and agree to attend if accepted. Since more students applied, Stetson said the quality of the pool was slightly lower. "[The students] were probably using the early application as an attempt to get an edge," Stetson said. "Penn is more sought after and there is a sense that we are more selective because our admission numbers have dropped." The average Scholastic Aptitude Test scores were 639 for the verbal section -- down from 645 -- and 670 for math -- down from 671. Accepted early applicants ranked, on average, in the 97th percentile of their class, jumping from last year's 95th percentile. The College of Arts and Sciences admitted 435 of the 1,294 students who applied and the School of Nursing accepted 22 of its 28 applicants. The Wharton School of Business accepted 183 of the 535 applicants and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences admitted 74 of the 183 students who applied. Seven students were admitted to the Program of International Studies and Business and 14 were accepted to the Management and Technology program. For the first time ever, the University admitted more women than men, at 53 percent. Public school students make up 62 percent of the group already admitted and 26 students come from Philadelphia, Stetson said. Minorities comprise 22 percent of the admitted pool, with 112 Asians, 25 blacks, five Mexicans, 16 Hispanics and one Native American student. As in every other year, the majority of admitted students hail from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, making up 57 percent of the early admitted pool. Eight percent of the students are from the Midwest, nine percent from New England, 10 percent are from the Western region and 13 percent come from the South Atlantic area. Admissions officers admitted 33 international students. After spending approximately two intense weeks reading applications, admissions officers spend an even more grueling two weeks in selection committee -- where each student's application is reviewed. Sequestered in committee for at least seven hours a day, five days a week, the officers discuss the applicants' potential to thrive at Penn, according to Regional Admissions Director Amy Calhoun. The regional officer who reads a particular student's application then explains any inconsistencies in the record. "In some ways, selection committee is the most fun part of the job, because it's the culmination of why you just spent seven, eight, nine weeks on the road," Calhoun said. "It's a sign that this is in fact a profession, and not just people willy-nilly making decisions."
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Upon first glance, religion and science may seem mutually exclusive. Religion often addresses moral and spiritual questions while science explores the world's physical reality. But in a new Religious Studies class offered next semester, "Science and the Sacred," students will learn what religion and science have in common. William Grassie, a visiting professor from Temple University, will teach the course, which fulfills the College of Arts and Sciences society distribution requirement. Maximum enrollment for the class is 60 students. Dividing the course into four parts, Grassie will first provide an introduction to philosophical issues. During the second section of the course, students will conduct a comparative study of cosmology, evolution and metaphysics. They will try to understand different interpretations of evolution. In the third part of the course, students will consider how gender, culture and class influence the philosophies and practices of science and religion. "The practice of science is highly political and social," Grassie said. "Our biases influence the selection of which projects get funding and what work is published. "Cultural studies of science have raised a lot of indignation and disbelief among scientists," he added. "But it has been taken for granted in religious studies and the social sciences that the identity of the observer and his assumptions play a role." In the last part of the course, students will look to future trends in science, society and the perception of the self and the sacred. One aspect of this section will include extensive discussion about the impact people have on the environment and society. Throughout the semester Grassie said guest speakers will address issues covered in the course such as genetics and theories of creation. "The most obvious thing that people think is that science has outdone religion," Religious Studies Department Chairperson Ann Matter said. "That science has given better answers for something like creation than religion has, and that therefore religion is a dead duck. "But that idea doesn't show an understanding of what religion is," Matter added. "It is a belief about what is true and is deeply embedded in our culture. So in that sense it has a lot in common with science." Matter said science poses several ethical questions that can be addressed by using a system of beliefs that follow religion or science. Some of the questions include when life begins, and how long doctors should prolong a life. "Humans have become an evolutionary force," Grassie added. "Whether it's through bioengineering or the changing of the composition of the atmosphere, there is no natural selection anymore. We are the authors of life."
College-bound high school seniors may be confused by the guide books published this year that evaluate academic institutions nationwide. The U.S. News & World Report ranked the University 11th overall this September. But Penn did not even make the list of the top 20 schools with the highest academic quality in The Princeton Review Student Access Guide to the Best 309 Colleges. And Washington and Lee University, which didn't make U.S. News' list of top 20 universities, placed first in the academic quality section of the Princeton Review guide. But such discrepancies do not lessen the value of either source, said Ed Custard, co-author of the Princeton Review. "It's like comparing apples and oranges," Custard said. "They use totally different methods." Published every year, the Princeton bases its evaluations of each school solely on students' opinions, according to Custard. U.S. News, on the other hand, uses more factual information than the Princeton Review -- such as faculty resources, the size of an institution's endowment and the student-faculty ratio. Every three years, Princeton Review sends representatives to each institution who station themselves at a popular area of campus. The representatives approach students and ask them to fill out a survey. Last year, 238 Penn students participated. Students must answer questions in four categories -- personal information, academics and administration, students and social life as well as an optional free response section. Based on the survey results, Princeton Review compiles a write-up of each institution and lists the schools that scored the highest in each category. Regarding academics, the Princeton Review quoted one Penn student who said, "Research is the primary concern of professors and administrators; as a result, graduate departments are strong, but the ability to teach undergrads is minimal." A high school senior reading the Insider's Guide to the Colleges, written by the Yale Daily News staff, would discover a completely different perspective on the University. The Insider's Guide -- which includes both student opinion and factual information in its write-ups -- quoted one undergraduate who found that "there is really great student-faculty interaction. The professors go out of their way to make themselves available to us." Authors of the Fiske Guide to Colleges send questionnaires to schools' admissions offices for information about programs the universities offer, according to editor Edward Fiske. Admissions officers choose which students should answer the survey, he added. Letting the admissions officers determine who responds eliminates the possibility that a troubled or disgruntled student would use the questionnaire to vent frustration, Fiske said. It also ensures that students with varying interests will be represented. "We've found that college kids tell it like it is," Fiske said. "In addition to asking students about their general experiences, we ask them about the school's biggest weaknesses, too." Students can dispute the opinions highlighted in each write-up, but some of the facts appear to be just plain wrong. Princeton Review, for example, reported that 30 percent of Penn students hail from Pennsylvania, but Admissions Dean Lee Stetson said only 20 percent do. Princeton Review also reported that the University "is reluctant to discuss the inner workings of the admissions process in any specific way." But according to Stetson, admissions officers openly discuss the criteria used when evaluating students. The officers, however, cannot be too explicit when explaining procedures because the process does not follow strict rules. "It's that notion of uncertainty and selectivity that makes a school attractive to a student," Stetson said. "If students knew they would get in, then they wouldn't be as eager to apply." Stetson also suggested that prospective students read several guidebooks and keep in mind the shortcomings of each method of evaluation.
20,045 high school seniors make Penn first choice Early decision applications to the University increased by 20 percent this year, up from 1,629 last year to 2,045. Admissions Dean Lee Stetson said the rise reflects a trend in recent years of growing interest in the University. He added that although he had expected the number of applicants to increase, he had not expected such a dramatic rise. Stetson based his original estimate largely on the fact that summer visits to campus were up almost 30 percent. He added that based on the preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test scores, it appears that the quality of the applicants might have also improved. So far, the Class of 2000 applicant pool's average SAT score is 1,302, without accounting for the score changes of students who recently retook the exam. When students take the SAT a second time, their scores often increase, Stetson explained. The Class of 1999's average SAT score is 1,311. By applying early decision, the applicants have committed to matriculating at the University if they are admitted. The admissions office will notify all early applicants of its decision in December. Because so many more students applied early, Stetson said the process will prove more selective. "The number of admissions [of earlier applicants] will probably remain near 740 students," Stetson said. "Since we expect to have a stronger regular pool too, we want to have room for them." Early decision applicants typically make up approximately 35 percent of each class. Stetson predicted that based on an increase in regular decision applications, 16,000 students will apply to the University in January -- up from 15,050 last year. The most significant increase for early applications was in the northeastern and seaboard states, according to Stetson. New Jersey's early applicant pool jumped from 296 to 410 and Pennsylvania's from 272 to 349. More international students also applied early, increasing from 106 to 127. The minority applicant pool grew from 434 students to 528 -- including a 13 percent increase in Hispanic students, from 56 to 64, but a slight decrease in black applicants, down from 53 to 50. Stetson attributed the rise to the outreach initiatives by admissions officers, the University's heightened visibility in the media and the presence and efforts of President Judith Rodin. Despite the large number of applicants, Stetson said the admissions officers have made the process more personalized. "When students return from a visit and they request more information, we try to have an officer write a letter personally to the students, saying 'It was good to see you, I hope to follow up and here's the information you requested,' " Stetson said. "Students don't expect that kind of attention, especially from a large urban school," he added. "That gives the University a more approachable image." The admissions office's joint travel program with Georgetown, Harvard and Duke universities to regions underrepresented in applications also helped expose Penn to students who would not have otherwise considered applying, Stetson said. In addition, the University has gained more visibility among the general public. Director of News and Public Affairs Barbara Beck said the Public Affairs department has been more aggressive in contacting the media with the message that "Penn is an institution that is ready for the 21st century."
Remembered for his humor Lou Koch, the co-owner of Koch's Take Out Shop, died yesterday in the Acme Market parking lot on City Line Avenue, according to a sign posted outside the store at 4309 Locust St. An Acme employee said that Koch -- who left the store at approximately 10:30 a.m. -- had previously complained of chest pains. Three hours later a passerby noticed Koch slumped in his car, which was still parked in the lot, and notified police. An official at the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's office said Koch was taken to Lankenau Hospital in Montgomery County. But the hospital would not confirm the information or release Koch's cause of death. A sign currently posted on the deli's door reads, "Store closed due to the death of Lou Koch." Famous for its hefty sandwiches and award-winning milkshakes, Koch's deli often draws customers willing to wait an hour just to place an order. Koch and his brother Bob have often helped patrons pass the time with free samples -- and their sense of humor. Jan Zucker, who owns Lee's Hoagie House on Walnut Street, said he will remember Koch as a devoted businessman. "He and I were of the same philosophy that money wasn't the most important thing in all instances," Zucker said. "It was taking care of the community and the students." Students who frequented the deli said Koch's personality helped make the store an off-campus landmark. "He brought a sense of community to Penn," College senior Jon Slotkin said. "Whether you were a Penn student or a local, he always greeted you with a hello and a joke."
With his calm, friendly demeanor, Mathematics Professor Dennis Deturck could ease almost any calculus student's anxiety about studying the frequently dreaded subject. And with a $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Deturck is developing methods that will not only make students feel more comfortable with math, but also aim to revolutionize the way they perceive the field. Heading a consortium that includes the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Villanova University and University City High School, Deturck and his colleagues initiated the project to help remedy what they and many educators nationwide consider a major problem with the way students are taught math. Too often, Deturck says, teachers depict math as an isolated subject. As a result, their students do not understand that scholars in a huge range of fields apply fundamental mathematical concepts to their studies. "Math is often taught as a collection of techniques and tricks," Deturck said. "We're trying to get students to internalize what they learn, and not just memorize it. "You can send students to read about how math is used in other fields, but you usually end up with, 'Is this on the final?' " Deturck added. "But if the student realizes that what is in calculus is on the physics exam, it makes learning the information more compelling." Deturck began implementing his ideas this summer in Penn's pre-freshman program. Deturck taught a rigorous course integrating mathematics with chemistry and physics. In the class, Deturck would introduce a mathematics concept and then Physics Professor Larry Gladney and Chemistry Professor Anthony Pietrovito would show how they use the concept in their respective fields. "In the beginning the students tended to see disciplines, rather than ideas," Gladney said. "We had to spend a lot of time convincing them that if you switch the labels, there's no difference." Before teaching the course, Deturck, Gladney and Pietrovito wrote a text to accompany the class. The professors put the book on the World Wide Web and Gladney says people around the world have contacted him to find out more about the project. Within the next few years, Deturck predicts that the University will offer many more courses that resemble the class he taught this summer. "Students will still take calculus, physics and chemistry, but the boundary lines will be a lot blurrier," Deturck said. "An economics professor might show up in a calculus class, either in person or in a multimedia way. "Or a student will have calculus at 11 o'clock and physics at 12 o'clock, but the professors would show up for both." Deturck and his colleagues are also trying to show that math is not confined to the classroom. He pointed to American Airlines as an example. The company employs 1,000 people who study how to maximize profitable routes and use equipment efficiently -- a practice that relies on math and saves the airline $1 billion every year. And Deturck hopes to take his students to Amtrak's control facility in Philadelphia to learn of other practical applications of mathematics. In one of Chemistry Professor Ponzy Lu's courses, students can watch on video how scientists use math when they conduct experiments to learn about DNA. By showing math's practical applications, Deturck says he hopes that students will gain a better appreciation for the field's influence on everyday life in the modern world. "It's like studying a hammer," Deturck said. "If you look at a hammer, you learn that it's used to pound in nails. But if you never build anything, studying that hammer isn't very gratifying."
and Danielle Silverman After urging one of their classmates to recite some poetry he had written, the Edison-Fareira High School seniors listened intently as the student read a poem about his true love. If only there were 25 hours in a day, he wished, he could spend the extra hour with the girl he adored. "He's an athlete and a poet," one student swooned. "It's just too much." Gathered in the Van Pelt College House lounge last night, the seniors participated in a Philomathean Society poetry reading as part of the Penn-Edison Partnership. The Partnership, now in its fifth year, provides Penn student tutors to high school seniors at the nearby school. The 18 high school seniors came to the University yesterday to experience college life. With Penn students as guides, the seniors visited classes, libraries and computer labs. Today an admissions officer will discuss the application process and financial aid opportunities with the students. Penn Women's Center Assistant Director Gloria Gay will also talk about issues affecting women and minorities. By establishing the partnership, the seniors gain access to resources they would never have in their community, according to English graduate student Tim Waples, one of the Penn-Edison program coordinators. In the school's North Philadelphia neighborhood, 92 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, Waples said. "Of the 1,000 incoming high school freshmen [at Edison-Fareira], less than 300 are expected to graduate," Waples said. "The idea is to work with the kids who have the best chance of going to college." High school senior Danielle Johnson, who participates in the program, said the partnership has become an integral part of her high school experience. "I was not even thinking about college before this program encouraged me and made it sound reasonable," she said. "It has changed everything." Every week Penn graduate and undergraduate students travel to Edison-Fareira and help the students develop their reading and writing skills. Tutors critique the essays students write for class. They also help them with college applications, teach them how to analyze literature and explore the Internet. And in a school with teachers who are often overworked or apathetic, Waples said the students would have little chance otherwise to receive the intellectual stimulation the tutors provide. The University also helped the school set up e-mail accounts for the students so they can send their work to the tutors and receive feedback throughout the week. College senior Joan Kim said she has also acquired new skills through the partnership. "While the kids are smart and interesting, they need to have their intellectual energies channeled," Kim said. "Tutoring has helped my public speaking skills and has given me experience at being a teacher." But the partnership is not only geared to helping the students intellectually. The tutors often play games with the students, Waples said, showing them that all teachers are not boring.
Princeton University -- known for its academic reputation, Nobel laureates, majestic Gothic buildings and popular trailer park. Trailer park? While not a traditional fixture on campus, a number of students are calling it home. Because more freshmen than expected enrolled this year, Princeton was short of dormitory space. So the university rented 10 trailer homes from the After Disaster Housing Corporation. Students currently occupy nine of the units, which house four people each. Divided into five residential colleges, Princeton students must live on campus during their freshman and sophomore years. Princeton erected the trailers in a field next to Butler and Wilson Colleges -- conveniently hidden at the edge of campus -- and asked sophomores to occupy the rooms. Worried that sophomores would not voluntarily occupy the trailers, Princeton sent the students letters over the summer describing the predicament. The university referred to the trailers as "modular housing units," and offered the students a $1,000 deduction from its $6,116 board fee if they agreed to move there. The trailers will only stand for this year. And luckily for Princeton's landscape, the trailers will not taint the pristine campus too much. But in many ways the trailer homes have proven a more attractive option to the students -- even without the financial incentive. Equipped with a full kitchen, two bathrooms, air conditioning and lots of space, the trailers offer more amenities than many dorms. Students living in Butler College -- affectionately called "the Butt"-- have small doubles and no private bathrooms. Trailer residents approach their living arrangements with a sense of humor. "We're a little worried about fires, but we figure that we could just throw a chair into a wall if we have to get out," sophomore Liz Moller said. The New York Times contributed to this story.
As the new millennium approaches, hundreds of people have professed clairvoyant powers and conjured dramatic scenarios for the momentous day. Ranging from a disease that will wipe out the population to an enormous explosion that will destroy the Earth, each prediction seems more fatalistic than the next. But amidst all of the speculation, some have taken a more technical approach to prepare for the event. Assuming that the world will not end and that the University will admit a Class of 2000, University Information Management Services began planning how to adjust approximately 1,000 computer programs to the new millennium. Under the old program, class year was identified by the last two digits. But the computers do not have the capacity to recognize years beyond 1999. So a student graduating in 2000 would be treated by the former program as a student graduating in 1900. For the countless departments that used these programs, the new millennium posed serious technical difficulties. Take Residential Living, for example. Priority for room assignments is based on class level. The computer reads a member of the class of '96 as older than a student graduating in '99. But if Residential Living used the old computer program, a freshman in the Class of 2000 would be treated as a student in the class of 1900 -- much older than the average sophomore, junior or senior. The Registrar would also find organization of its service muddled by the old system. Class schedules and grades on students' transcripts, for example, are arranged chronologically. But students who study at the University before and after 2000 would find their classes from that year listed first. Preventing a major technical disaster, Management Information Services Analyst Stuart Benoff organized a 13-month, two-phase project to reprogram the relevant databases. During the first phase -- which started in April 1993 -- Benoff and seven other employees removed millions of files from the databases and reprogrammed the system to make room for the first two numbers identifying the millennium and century. The group then put the files back in the database. During the second phase, Benoff and his co-workers wrote programs that allowed them to add the first two digits to each date. "The weekend that we installed the first two numbers, we had to work 30 hours in a row," Benoff said. "We had 15 PC's in one room. Everyone took turns monitoring the program and slept in the back on the floor. It was like old college days." Adding to approximately 50 new programs, Benoff also designed programs to compare the files before and after the reprogramming -- ensuring that none of the information was changed during the transfer. After completing the monumental project, Assistant Registrar Edwina Patruno said she tested the program. So far, Benoff said, the transition has gone smoothly. "When you write so many programs, you expect to have a few problems," Benoff said. "We're constantly running programs to verify that everything is right. We've only had one or two small contained errors that haven't affected the integrity of the data." The program's real test will come when the Class of 2000 registers next fall. Then, barring any world disasters at the turn of the millennium, Penn computers should be able to relax for another 100 years.
Seniors score nearly the same as freshmen As seniors were preparing for their last round of final exams in May, the University asked 60 students to take another test. But this test was not for a grade. In an attempt to assess College students' quantitative and critical thinking skills, a committee of faculty members sent randomly selected seniors a 44-question multiple-choice test. Thirty-six students responded. And in order to compare Penn students' skills before and after they complete their undergraduate education, the committee also sent the test to 120 incoming freshmen this summer. Sixty-one students completed that exam. The results? The scores for seniors and freshmen were remarkably close, both averaging about 70 percent. "There were several questions we wanted to look at," said Biology Professor Ingrid Waldron, who supervised data analysis for the exam. "[For example,] do students have difficulty in thinking about what they are learning and figuring out how to put the information together in new ways?" The test focused on areas in which professors suspect students may have difficulty. Waldron said that to a large extent, the test results confirmed the professors' assessments. But she emphasized that the test is still in its experimental stages and should not be relied upon as an accurate judge of students' abilities. Divided into two sections -- numeracy and critical thinking -- the exam included word problems and graph interpretation. For the numeracy section, students needed a background in statistics and probability to complete many questions. While freshmen and seniors both had problems with probability and reading graphs, Waldron said the seniors often fared better on the questions that required a background in statistics. Waldron said the study is flawed because the sample size is too small, some of the questions are unclear and the exam was given to seniors close to graduation -- during a time when they might not have put in considerable effort. The committee will now discuss reasonable goals for improving students' skills. Although Penn graduates may not necessarily require expertise in mathematics in their careers, College Dean Robert Rescorla stressed that numeracy and critical thinking abilities are necessary for such basic skills as understanding newspaper articles and business issues.
Plagued by overcrowded classes and a shortage of seminars, Annenberg School for Communication officials are making it more difficult for prospective communications majors to matriculate. By raising the minimum cumulative grade point average from 2.5 to 3.0, Communications Professor Joseph Turow, who oversees undergraduate affairs, said he hopes to limit the major to 100 students per graduating class. For the past few years, more students have applied for the major, but according to Turow, the department cannot accommodate the growing numbers. As a result, students have had trouble getting into the three core courses they must take before applying and majors are have been repeatedly shut out of seminars. Turow said the Annenberg School accepted almost 140 students last year. With the new requirement -- which will take effect in February when students can apply again for the major -- Turow estimated that this year's applicant pool will decrease by about 30 students. Notifying as many students as possible who might be affected by the decision, the College office mailed letters to students who have taken core communications courses. The deadline for fall applications was extended 10 days to October 16 so that students who might have waited until February to apply can do so this month. Communications professors are also trying to help remedy the problem by teaching courses in both semesters that are usually offered only once a year. College Dean Robert Rescorla, who made the decision in conjunction with Turow, said he feels excluding more students from the major is unfortunate. But he said limiting the number of students seemed the only way to ensure that the students who qualified for the major could take the classes they wanted and develop meaningful relationships with professors. "The decision is not long term, and it's the best we can do in the interim," Rescorla said. "I'd like to find some way to satisfy the demand." For many in the Annenberg School, the new requirement is a welcome change that they do not foresee eliminating. Considerably smaller than the other schools, Annenberg serves primarily as a graduate program. And by limiting the number of majors, Turow said, the Annenberg faculty can devote most of its time to graduate students. But some students consider capping the major unfair. "It defeats the purpose of the College -- I came here to get a liberal arts education," said College sophomore Deborah Miller, who could not register for core communications courses two semesters in a row. "And now that I know I want to be a communications major, it's harder to do."
As the daughter of '70s pop duo Sonny and Cher, Chastity Bono led a privileged life in many ways. But when a tabloid magazine revealed her homosexuality -- something she was unprepared to have nationally exposed -- Bono found that her parents' fame would not protect her from prejudice. Bono shared her story last night at the Annenberg School as part of national Coming Out Day. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Alliance sponsored the event, which drew an audience of about 30. Though she recognized her homosexuality at age 13, Bono only felt comfortable telling her parents five years after her discovery. "Before I told my dad, I asked him questions like, 'Is there anything I could tell you that would make you not love me anymore?' " Bono said. "Then I left a lesbian fiction novel in my room which he found. I guess that was my scared way of telling him." Developing her identity as a lesbian, Bono started going to gay bars and events. She even bought her mom a T-shirt that says 'I love my lesbian daughter' -- which Bono joked, Cher does not wear. But Bono soon found her homosexual lifestyle and musical aspirations irreconcilable. Pursuing a music career, Bono had joined a band and in 1990 released an album. Just before the album came out, The Star exposed her homosexuality. Warning Bono that being a lesbian would destroy her career, several friends urged her to refute the stories any way she could. Bono granted The National Enquirer an interview, assured that it would deny The Star's allegations. "I got rid of any incriminating photos of my lover and I, we left the apartment at different times," Bono said. "Even when we went out to dinner, we always made sure we were with a man." Bono's record sold poorly -- something she now considers lucky. In that same year, her lover developed cancer, which progressed rapidly. The lover died four years later. Devastated by the loss, Bono said she reevaluated the choices she had made. Now a reporter for the gay magazine The Advocate, Bono said her life has "fallen into place." Using her experience as an example, Bono urged audience members to "come out" for their personal benefit and that of the gay community. "You need to say to people, 'There's nothing wrong with me -- I'm your neighbor, I'm your friend. I'm not some molester who's trying to destroy family values,' " she said. While many audience members agreed that more gays and lesbians need to "come out," some voiced frustration that Bono concentrated on her experience rather than exploring issues that other gay people, such as racial minorities, face. Others were very pleased with Bono's presentation. "I was happy with the discourse," said LGBA President and College senior Anthony Putz. "I like it when people talk intellectually across lines and address complicated issues." The LGBA kicked off Coming Out Day yesterday with a rally on College Green. Members encouraged others to "come out" by symbolically jumping out of The Button sculpture. And several people read poems and discussed their experiences as part of the gay community.
As the woman walks through the aisles in the Israeli grocery store, she studies the Hebrew words on packages of food. A recent immigrant, the woman has not yet mastered the language. The woman is a fictional character in a video designed to show how foreigners learn Hebrew through experiencing daily life. And University students who watch the video may get a better grasp of the language than if they had just memorized their textbooks. The videos are only part of a project that Associate Hebrew Professor Yael Zerubavel has organized to completely restructure the way Hebrew is taught at the University. Zerubavel said she initiated the project because of the vast difference between the way Hebrew is written in Israel and how University professors teach language here. Because the Hebrew alphabet only contains consonants, traditional Hebrew has small signs above, below and inside letters indicating which vowel sounds to make. And learning the intricate rules that dictate which vowel to use when writing can often take months of practice -- taking considerable time away from studying Hebrew vocabulary and literature. So for the past 15 years, Israelis have virtually abandoned vowels, relying on the word's context to determine its pronunciation. Aiming to give students a more practical education, Zerubavel brought Hebrew Professor Ronit Engel from Tel Aviv University to help develop a new curriculum that emphasizes conversation and reading -- teaching only the basics about vowels and grammar. "The level of teaching can be higher now," Zerubavel said. "Students can move from simpler text to more complicated text much faster. "Before, the transition from vocalized to non-vocalized text was so difficult that students often lost momentum," she added. College senior Dana Rice, who studied Hebrew at Penn before travelling to Israel last year, said the new curriculum should make students more prepared for Israeli life than she had been. "Because the Hebrew I learned at Penn focused on writing skills, I lacked the oral skills necessary to converse with people who studied in Israel," Rice said. "Learning in Israel was fun -- we were thrust into a real life environment. We had to do things like go to the market and speak to people in Hebrew." According to Engel, the Hebrew language itself is changing as well. Because Hebrew dates as far back as Biblical times, the language has only recently gained words to represent modern ideas, such as alienation and privatization. Because these new words do not obey traditional laws of grammar regarding vowels, students learning with the old curriculum would have even more trouble adapting in a modern Israeli setting.
Sharing personal stories and advice, about 25 students grappled with how they can maintain their Asian identity without isolating themselves from the rest of the community. The Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity sponsored the event, which was open to the public. Lambda Phi Epsilon President Jonson Chen, opened the forum by warning freshmen that as minorities, they might encounter prejudice at the University. "Some time during your stay at Penn, you'll probably come across a bad experience," Chen said. "It might make you develop hatred and spite toward a race or group of people, which is hard to handle. "Better than penting it up inside, find someone to talk to about it," Chen added. "There are plenty of organizations here to help you deal with it." While many at the event recounted times when they heard racist comments directed at them, others seemed more concerned with balancing their friendships with Asian and non-Asian students. Students encouraged each other to pursue friendships with people representing various backgrounds. But many also agreed that while they started with a diverse group of friends, their circle gradually narrowed to include mostly Asians. "I like to use my native language," said Wharton junior Mike Hsu, who was born in Taiwan. "And a lot of the things I like other Asian people like too. It's hard to listen to Chinese music with non-Chinese people." Some described a common tendency to hang out with mainly Asian students as a cycle, while usually unintentional, that keeps repeating itself. Because of their common background, Asian students said they often feel most comfortable together. Therefore other students might feel reluctant to approach what seems to be an exclusive group. "There's definitely a clique mentality here, but you don't have to interact in that group," College senior Elliot Hyun said. "It's all a matter of how you view yourself." Chen and Kwon then asked the students why they categorize themselves as Asian American and what stereotypes accompany that classification. Students freely yelled out common stereotypes -- such as knowing karate, wearing glasses and being good at math. "When we were playing basketball the other day, a white guy said as he was running down the court that he didn't know who to guard because all Asians look the same," Hyun said. But others said Asians at times can perpetuate their own stereotypes -- particularly the notion that all Asians are overachievers. Wharton senior Jake Hsu said his family's history has a considerable influence on how he approaches his education. "I feel a lot of guilt because I know what my parents went through to come here," said Hsu, who emigrated from Taiwan when he was 11 months old. "I know they gave so much to me. I owe it to them to choose a career that will make them happy."
Makes it tough to seeMakes it tough to seehow students stack up While the Educational Testing Service restructured the Scholastic Aptitude Test grading system with the intention of clarifying the scores, college counselors have found that the move has made it even more difficult to determine exactly what the SAT measures. Starting this past April, the ETS adjusted the scoring of the SAT so the national average for both the math and verbal sections were close to 500 points. Each section has a maximum of 800 points. In past years, students scored consistently higher on the verbal section than the math, and the national averages changed from year to year. Last year the math average was 428 and the verbal was 482. According to Janice Gams, an ETS spokesperson, many students had difficulty assessing their scores because they could not tell how they had compared to other students. While the ETS scoring report includes the percentile in which the student placed, Gams said students tend to rely more on the actual score than the percentile. By recentering the exam to 500 for each section, students can measure how well they did as soon as they receive their score -- instead of having to wait for the national average. "Students take the SAT so that they know how they compare to the students at the schools to which they are applying," Gams said. "There's no reason why they should be comparing themselves to students in the 1940s -- which is when the test was last recentered." Gams added that recentering also eliminates some discrepancies between how the ETS counted points at each end of the scale. A student who got one answer wrong received a 740, but as the student made more mistakes, fewer points were deducted, Gams said. "Even though some students were at the 99th percentile, they were led to believe that did not do as well," Gams said. "Now we have put the score and percentile in better balance." Months before the first recentered exam, the ETS launched a major publicity campaign, sending newsletters to schools across the country, holding workshops for guidance counselors about the new grading process and creating videos for students that explained the new system. But until students get accustomed to the adjustment, many counselors worry that with the increase in scores, some students could overestimate how well they did. "I've encouraged students to look more at the percentile," said Julie Makin, college counselling director at the Agnes Irwin High School in Bryn Mawr, Pa. "But, there is definitely the danger that the kids who have taken the exam before and after the recentering will think that some miracle has happened," she added. And according to Judith Williams, counselling director at the Shipley High School which is also located in Bryn Mawr, students will have trouble gauging how they compare to the students already enrolled at the schools to which they are applying until all universities adjust their mean SAT scores.
Yale and Princeton universities have abandoned the early action admissions procedure in favor of the early decision plan, which Penn and several other Ivy League schools use. Students who are accepted early action in December are still free to attend other schools. The early decision program, however, is binding. While it is still too early to tell how the policy switch will affect the University, Admissions Dean Lee Stetson said that so far, the decision has not caused a decrease in applications. In fact, the University has already received the first part of 750 applications -- almost twice as much as the amount sent in at this time last year. The number includes both early and regular decision applicants. But Stetson said he does not know yet whether the number of applications will continue rising. Stetson attributed the increase in applications to the University's improving image and a general desire among high school seniors to get started earlier. Now that Princeton and Yale have switched to early decision, Penn could see a decrease in applications which would then increase again in January. "At first, one might think that we will lose applicants because they will make a commitment to one school earlier," Stetson said. "On the other hand, there could be fewer students willing to apply early decision than early action because it calls for a commitment that they might no be ready to make." The students who do not apply early could then apply to the University for regular decision. "It all might even itself out," Stetson said. After attending the National Association of College Admissions convention in Boston over the weekend, Stetson said he will have a better idea of how many students Princeton and Yale will accept early and how this will affect Penn. Yale Admissions Dean Richard Shaw said Yale changed policies so students could no longer hold a spot at the school through early action and then apply to several other schools regular decision. "About 80 percent of our students admitted early accept," Shaw said. "But that's still 125 that said 'no.' Having early decision lets students disseminate themselves the way they truly feel, and makes more sense for the college application process." Shaw added that several high school guidance counselors told him that students wanted the opportunity to make an early commitment. But many say that applying early action provides a better option for students because it gives them more time to explore which school best suits them. And even under regular decision, Brown Admissions Officer Jess Lord said, students apply to several schools and hold spots until they make their choice. Lord added that Brown would only switch to early decision if it is receives an overwhelming amount of early action applications. Whether an institution uses early decision or early action can also have a profound effect on the school's atmosphere. Because the University admits almost 40 percent of its early applicants -- about 33 percent in December and 7 percent with the regular pool -- it ensures that a substantial number of students have explicitly chosen the University. "By December we already have a basis of commitment to Penn in more than one third of the class," Stetson said. "If you include those who get a second chance after being deferred as well as the regular pool, about 70 to 75 percent have made the University their first choice. "That creates a more positive feeling at the University," he added.
As a breathless freshman flung open the navy blue curtain separating cheerleading squad hopefuls from the main Palestra arena where they auditioned, the other students had one question for her: "How'd you do?" The atmosphere was all enthusiasm and anxiety for the 15 women and three men who kicked, jumped and danced for the junior varsity cheerleading squad tryouts last night. Eight women and as many men who can who meet the requirements will make the JV squad, which cheers at all home junior varsity football and basketball games. Tryouts for the Penn mascot were held during the same audition period. The first leg of the three-day cheerleading audition process began Tuesday. The cheerleading hopefuls learned some of the Penn squad's sideline cheers and talked about partner stunts. On Wednesday, the group met again with members of the varsity squad to practice tumbling and to actually try the stunts they nervously watched cheerleaders demonstrate with seemingly little effort. The students' work culminated last night, when they were asked to perform either a dance that the squad choreographed or a sideline cheer, a jump and partner stunts. When trying out, the students must have crisp movements and polished technique, and show tremendous excitement, according to College and Engineering senior Chip Keener, who is one of the varsity co-captains. But for many of the women trying out, acting enthusiastic came easily. "When I got here I thought, 'I can't believe I'm trying out for college cheerleading,' " College freshman Elisia Abrams said. "It's so much bigger than in high school. There I was in the middle of the Palestra -- it was huge." Students also had to get accustomed to the high level of athletic skill that college cheerleading requires. Because most high school squads only consist of girls, most of the students trying out had never performed coed stunts. While College freshman Yael Aufgang said she felt scared at first, she soon became more secure performing the stunts. "I feel more comfortable with one guy than with four girls," said Aufgang, who had only performed stunts with girls until yesterday. "Especially since the guys are on varsity and have been doing this for a few years. "It's really fun, but it's still a little scary," she added. For the male cheerleaders, whose duties include lifting the women and throwing them in the air, performing stunts can also be a tense experience. Wharton freshman Bill Redeker -- who has never cheered before -- said he did not realize how complicated the stunts are. "I am more bruised and scratched than I ever was after playing football as a kid," Redeker said. "Stunts require a lot of strength to get the girls in the air. "Cheerleading also requires coordination to do the sidelines, in a way that a lot of guys aren't adept at doing," he added. While cheerleading takes hours of practice, Wharton senior Rick Miller -- who landed the role of mascot for the fourth semester in a row -- said that getting the crowd involved comes naturally to him. When trying out, Miller said that he had three minutes to show what he would do during games as the mascot. "There's not a lot of pressure," Miller said. "All you have to do is act like a clown. So, if you mess up, it's even better." But after three semesters as mascot, Miller said he has learned a few tricks to get the crowd involved if it is not as responsive as he would like. "Sometimes I throw candy out," Miller said. "They always like that, and once you get them on their feet they get excited and into the game." When the crowd does get enthusiastic, Miller said he feels truly exhilarated. "Being the mascot is a feeling -- it doesn't come from a thought process that was logically brought about," Miller said. "It's a 180-degree turn from what I do in Wharton. It lets me experience my primal side."
Alliance created to defend against Warsaw PackAlliance created to defend against Warsaw Packaggression seeks mission in post-Cold War world Tracing the development of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization from the end of the Cold War to the present, several NATO officials addressed a small crowd at the University yesterday. Nearing the end of a national lecture tour, U.S. Navy Capt. David Taylor, German Army Lt. Col. Gunter Forstenichner, and Col. Panayot Panayotov from the Bulgarian army discussed the alliance's structure. Comprised of 16 countries, NATO has shifted its focus as world events have changed, according to Taylor, who began working for the alliance about six months ago. "During the Cold War, our primary role was to deter the Warsaw Pact from an attack," Taylor said. "If we could not deter the pact from an attack, then our role was to defend. "But now, our concepts of operation are different from the confrontational atmosphere during the Cold War," he added. After the Warsaw Pact dissolved and the Cold War ended, many questioned whether the world still needed NATO. Especially between 1989 and 1991, Taylor said, alliance leaders reevaluated their role and the state of foreign affairs. "What we realized was that history does not come to a screeching halt," Taylor said. "If there was a garden in Eastern Europe, it certainly wasn't rosy." The three leaders often referred to the conflict in the former Yugoslavia as an area where NATO assistance is desperately needed. In addition to responding to new international problems, the alliance has created a new strategic concept designed for "peace, crisis and war." The new concept focuses on fostering dialogue and cooperation between countries, managing crises and addressing "multifaceted and multi-directional" risks, Taylor said. Taylor also identified economic hardship, nationalism and ethnic conflict as some of the conditions that could pose serious risks to stability. Included in the new strategic concept is the Partnership for Peace, a branch of NATO that has developed relations with 26 countries, many of whom would eventually like to join the alliance. But some are reluctant to admit new countries because all the members must approve any action the organization takes -- thus stalling decisive moves. This year alone, Partnership for Peace has sponsored 90 programs worldwide for its member nations. Some of these projects included seminars and military exercises to help the countries remain strong and stable. Ultimately, though, NATO's goal for peace has withstood the drastic changes in foreign affairs the past few years. "And we old buggers are relying very much on you guys," Forstenichner said. Deeming NATO the most successful international alliance ever, Taylor said his experiences with the organization have shown that genuine cooperation between nations is possible. "I was amazed at the ability and commitment of the European officers to attempt to look at a situation from the perspective of what's good for NATO," Taylor said. "And not what's good for their own countries." The Naval Science and Political Science departments sponsored the forum, which was held at the Graduate School of Education.
Inching toward U.S. News & World Report's top 10 list of colleges, the University received its highest ranking ever, tying for 11th place with the University of Chicago. The newest ranking, released yesterday, also puts the University sixth in the Ivies, ahead of Columbia and Cornell Universities. This is the first time the University has ever surpassed more than one Ivy League school. U.S. News bases the evaluation on several criteria -- including academic reputation, resources and selectivity, and then gives each school an overall score. The University received a 96.4 out of 100, two-tenths of a point below the number 10 school, Johns Hopkins University. The University has steadily moved up during the past few years, placing 16th in 1993 and 12th in 1994. At one point, it was not even included in the top 25. In this year's survey, the University ranked eighth for faculty resources, ahead of Yale and Brown Universities and Dartmouth College. It placed 14th for academic reputation, also ahead of Dartmouth. While University President Judith Rodin said she always wonders about the methods U.S. News uses when conducting the survey, she said the University's improved ranking represents what is already evident. "I think Penn is on a roll," Rodin said. "We've had a remarkable increase in popularity judged by the application rate, a 33 percent increase in press coverage and I expect that the momentum will continue. "The ranking will add to the momentum, but it won't be a major variable," she added. "Penn is on the move, and everyone is recognizing it." For the sixth consecutive year, Harvard University finished in first place in the poll, followed by Yale and Princeton Universities, which tied for second -- an improvement over Yale's third place last year. Columbia slid six spots to 15, while Johns Hopkins jumped from number 22 to 10th place. Few would deny that a high ranking boosts the University's image. Admissions Dean Lee Stetson said the University could feel the effects of the survey as early as this fall. "I'm pleased to see that we're moving in the right direction," Stetson said. "I expect that in the year that we are anticipating ahead, we'll see the admission and application rate improve even more." Last year, the University received 15,050 applications -- the most ever. Of those, only a third were accepted, the lowest percentage in years. Stetson said one cannot give the survey too much credibility because it does not always provide a full picture of the institution. "The fact that a school like Johns Hopkins can go from 22 to 10 shows that the method is flawed," Stetson said. "Institutions inherently don't change that quickly. "I always felt that it would be better to just have a list of the top 25," he added. "The level of specificity that is applied is sometimes misleading." Duke University, for example, ranked higher than the University at sixth place, Stetson said. But more high school seniors who are accepted to both schools choose to attend the University, he added. And Dartmouth, which placed seventh overall, received 17th for academic reputation but earned the top ranking for teaching. The U.S. News report also surveyed 947 college presidents and 365 student newspaper editors about affirmative action in the spring. The presidents and editors appeared divided over the issue, with 55 percent of presidents saying that affirmative action should largely remain unchanged, compared with 26 percent of the student editors. Fifty-seven percent of editors said that preferential treatment should be limited to the economically disadvantaged, compared with 37 percent of presidents. The full report, published in the U.S. News 1996 "America's Best Colleges" guidebook, will hit the stands September 25.
Introducing the various academic opportunities at the University, faculty and students from all four undergraduate schools held a fair yesterday afternoon geared toward new students. Freshman and transfer students were able to learn about topics ranging from studying abroad to preparing for graduate school at the 10 information tents set up on College Green. College Associate Director Lawrence Friedman said the Council of Undergraduate Deans created the fair -- which has never been part of New Student Orientation before -- so students could become aware of how to enhance their education. At the tent devoted to research, students studying several disciplines displayed posters explaining their projects. The projects included "Japanese Import Initiative of 1990," "Moving Large DNA Molecules in a Rotary Mechanic Spectrometer" and "New Racism and Television News." Many of the students stood by their posters, ready to answer any questions. Two tents were devoted to computers, showing how professors can use computers in their classes and what electronic information is available through Van Pelt Library -- such as the Oxford English Dictionary. Many new students said they were glad that they could learn about the University's programs and services so easily. "I had no idea, until I stopped by, about everything I can access in the library on computer," College freshman Karin Rogers said. "Now that I have a computer in my room it will be a lot more convenient than going to the library." Students could also inquire about unusual classes, interdisciplinary programs, the University Museum and student-run programs.