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COLUMN: With the blueprints drawn, Penn's plans progress

(09/03/97 9:00am)

Guest Columnist: Judith Rodin Guest Columnist: Judith RodinI hope you had a wonderful summer. Now that you are on campus -- some of you for the first time -- you may be speculating about the upcoming year. In fact, some of the speculation began early. Over the summer, I was asked on several occasions what "the plan" is for the year ahead. Each time I gave the same basic response: "The plan is to follow the plan." Because Penn is large and disparate, it may appear at any given time that a range of distinct and unrelated activities is taking place around campus. New technology here, new programs there, construction and reconstruction: "What does this have to do with that?" is a frequently heard question. The answer, much of the time, is that seemingly disconnected endeavors and developments are, in fact, essential and interwoven parts of our institutional agenda. They relate to each other like the working parts of a body and, as Penn drives ahead toward comprehensive excellence, each has its own vital role. Penn needs and has a blueprint, an Agenda for Excellence, because more than ever before, students need a superb education and the world needs the growth in knowledge produced by the best research universities. Moreover, the world of higher education is growing ever more competitive and, unless Penn strives to be among the best, we will end up -- certainly not among the worst -- but among the many. That is simply unacceptable for the university founded by Benjamin Franklin. With this as background, I offer an account of our recent progress on a number of fronts. Each is an area of emphasis in the Agenda for Excellence; our progress is not happenstance. Exciting new academic programs We have launched vigorous new programs in a number of Penn's schools in a campus-wide spirit of innovation. To highlight just a few, the School of Arts and Sciences has instituted a rigorous quantitative skills requirement that will help prepare its graduates for life and careers in the 21st century. SAS and the School of Engineering and Applied Science have also established a small battery of competitive new master's programs. The School of Medicine is moving forward with Curriculum 2000, perhaps the most significant curricular development in medicine this century. The Law School is developing strategic cross-school programs with Wharton, SAS and other schools as it takes broad advantage of Penn's multi-disciplinary opportunities. And significant advances in distance learning are being made across the University. A leader among universities in the wise use of technology Penn continues to be recognized nationally for its innovative leadership in the use of information technology. Undergraduates who live in first-year and college houses will see a real breakthrough this month in our support for their computing needs -- through a support-in-residence program that integrates computing support with academic support in math, English and the use of library resources. The rest of the campus is settling in to the first full year of computing service delivered under a new decentralized-support model that puts users more directly in touch with technical resources. Penn's groundbreaking Resnet project is finished. And we're beginning to link up with new high-speed networking that goes beyond what the conventional Internet can do. An urban campus of great beauty and function Penn's academic programs have been enhanced and enriched by our peerless campus. A unique gem in the middle of a major city, it remains home to each of our twelve schools and is being wisely, strategically developed. This year we will see: * Completion of the world-class Institute for Advanced Science and Technology and Logan Hall for the College and several SAS departments * Construction on our new student center, the Perelman Quad; a revitalized Sansom Street running west to the new Sansom Common; and new laboratories and research space in Biomedical Research Building II * Planning for new and renovated SAS and SEAS facilities and a new Wharton building that will help solve the School's dire space needs. A neighborhood that is clean and safe Cleanliness and safety are the two main goals of the University City District that was inaugurated in August. Supported by Penn and other area institutions, UCD will complement city services with cleaning, security and other services specially tailored to our West Philadelphia community. UCD will augment the University's commitment to the safety of our community. Over the past year we added more than twenty new police officers to our force and contracted with a leading firm to bring state-of-the-art electronic security systems to our buildings and residences. Because of our continuing efforts, the number of reported robberies in our area has dropped significantly from a year ago. When crime does occur, our police are now able to make more and quicker apprehensions. Our students are equally impressive. I know our upperclassmen join me in welcoming Penn's Class of 2001 -- our "millennial class." The road that led these bright young people to Penn was documented in a marvelous April cover story in U.S. News and World Report. And our student "accept rate" is even higher than last year's record. Our newest students bring great promise to Penn, the excitement of the new millennium, and the hope of many good things to come. So, too, does all of our strategic planning, implementation, and progress. Together we are advancing the University to a position of preeminence in the approaching century. I look forward to continuing the journey with you.

FOCUS: Safe and sound?

(02/05/96 10:00am)

W. Philly High School confronts violence and Brett Levinson Photos by Evelyn Hockstein Looming over 47th and Walnut streets, West Philadelphia High School's gothic structure dominates this portion of the Philadelphia skyline, occupying an entire block of urban landscape. Arched windows and stylized friezes create a somber and gloomy presence -- and random security checks by the Philadelphia Police do not help to ease the school's imposing image. Officials have tightened general security at the school in direct response to the non-fatal shooting of a 16-year-old West Philly High student three weeks ago, according to Assistant Principal Thomas Dougherty. And for University students who tutor and work with West Philly High students, the shooting provided reason to feel apprehensive, although the programs will continue to operate. "There have been four instances of serious violence in the Philadelphia school system in the last quarter of a century," Dougherty said. "The recent incident is the first of its kind at West Philadelphia High School and I'm going to make sure it is the last." In the wake of the incident, seven additional security officers were assigned to the building, bringing the total number of officers to 10, Dougherty said. Students are required to carry identification cards with them throughout the day. Those found without their cards are sent home, or must pay $3 for the purchase of a replacement, students said. Visitors have restricted access to the building and can enter the school only through the Walnut Street entrance where they must sign in and present identification to a security guard. "We are going to be more cognizant of large groups of people coming in from the city," Dougherty said. He explained that the two suspects involved in the January 16 incident -- identified as teenagers not enrolled in the school -- entered the building during lunch time. The suspects, who had accosted other students in the school, then fled the building, police said. Omar was rushed to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia where he underwent surgery for a gunshot wound to his stomach. He is now recuperating at home, Dougherty said. Many students said they did not know about the shooting until Principal Florence Cambell made an announcement over the school's public address system. "It came as a total surprise," West Philly High senior Tiffany Carmichael said. "I saw [Omar] lying on the ground and then everything started happening." "[It's unfortunate that] it takes someone to get hurt for [the school] to beef-up security like it is supposed to be," Carmichael added. Dougherty noted that, prior to the incident, it was impossible for the normal complement of three security guards to patrol the entire school. Even now, he added, the 36 doors in the building must remain unlocked in order to comply with fire regulations, so there is really no way of preventing students from letting outsiders inside. According to Philadelphia School District Information Specialist Paul Hanson, West Philly High -- in conjunction with the Philadelphia Police department -- conducts random security checks with a hand-held metal detector. Students said that two such checks have been conducted since the shooting. Some of the students complained that the checks were ineffective because the police cars in front of the school forewarned those students carrying weapons. Carmichael said she thought the police should have conducted regular checks for an extended period of time after the shooting, in order to provide a real deterrent. But West Philly High Dean Sandra Bobroff explained that "it takes too long to do hand checks every day." "We would have to start running on a special bell schedule," Bobroff said, adding that if the students felt the checks were necessary, the school would attempt to meet their request. But she added that the school does not have a hostile environment. According to Bobroff, the school does not even have the funds to make the noted changes in security. Therefore, it is left to the school's administrators to establish order. Dougherty said many of the problems at West Philly High are typical of inner-city schools. He said the ratio of seniors to freshmen is one to four. The 75 percent difference can be attributed to both drop-outs and those students who go on to magnet-type programs throughout the city. Also, three percent of the school's population include students assigned to the school by correctional institutions. Despite these facts, Dougherty claims West Philly High "really is and was a safe environment." "Superintendent David Hornbeck has implemented a lot of proactive measures –– such as peer mediation and a system of pre-suspension, which involves the parents of a student before a student is officially suspended," Dougherty added. The staff is encouraged to keep in contact with parents by making phone calls. And a written profile of each student's progress is sent home monthly, Dougherty said. Blackwell said that she has gotten calls from concerned parents "every day." "We have a problem," she added. "I'm still concerned that people were able to get into the school." "The school is considered a safe haven for a large population of the students," Dougherty said. "For them, the main safety concern involves the transportation to and from school." This concern is often the justification given by students found in possession of weapons in the school, he added. "Many students are reluctant to participate in athletics or other extracurricular activities, because they don't want to take the risk involved with traveling home later," Dougherty explained. "Even a two-block walk can be dangerous." But some students disagreed. "This neighborhood is not dangerous," West Philly High freshman Marc Marshal said, adding that the press only shows the high school in a negative light. Several University students are involved with the school as participants in the West Philadelphia Tutoring Project. Tutors work with students who are planning to go to college on problems they might find on the Scholastic Assesment Test. Bea Fwedlow, assistant director of the Program for Student Community Involvement, said the coordinators of the West Philadelphia Tutoring Project started talking last week about steps they may want to take in response to the shooting. "This semester, I've witnessed more and more students expressing a preference to tutor on campus, rather than in the schools," Fwedlow said. "A number of them have raised safety concerns, with a few mentioning the shooting in particular," she added. But Fwedlow emphasized that the University students will not be sent into unsafe environments. "We will be making a site visit some time soon to make sure that the school environment is a place that is both safe and conducive to learning," she said. "If need be, we would be willing to pull our tutors out, but there are many steps that come before that. We have safety in mind, but we don't want to abandon the schools." "A lot of universities are pulling their tutors out of the school, but we disagree with that," said College junior Sam Wu, who leads the team of West Philly High tutors. Wu added that he believed the shooting itself was an isolated event within the school. College freshman John Stephens, who has tutored for a semester at the high school, said he has never felt threatened while at West Philly High. "Of course some of the kids are bad or loud, but that's natural," he said, adding that all the students involved in the tutoring program seemed enthusiastic about learning. Stephens pointed to the "crime present on the University's own campus every day." "If we feel safe enough to be on campus, there's no reason why we should be worried at West Philly," he added. But College senior Erica Johnson, who was a student at West Philly High, said the crime situation on Penn's campus is at a different level. "I am probably biased, because I became desensitized to the situation, but to hear some Penn students talk, it sounds like we are living in a war zone," she said. Johnson contrasted the sentiments at the University with those of her peers in high school. "I remember a time at West when a gun fell out of a guy's bag during class," she said. "People hardly noticed." Wharton junior Greg Passeri, who began working with students at West Philly High this semester, said he felt "somewhat apprehensive." He added that he was not concerned for his own safety, but rather "that it will be a difficult environment for learning." Nursing freshman Tara Nolan, who is also involved with the tutoring programs, expressed similar sentiments. "I come from a small town in Maine with a population of 9,000, so this is all very new to me," she said. "I am excited to be working with the kids, but I am also apprehensive. "But if we were all scared, nothing would get done," she added. "I feel that I am taking a risk, but in the end, the results will make it worth it –– people will get into college."

UMC criticizes Walk decision in letter to Hackney

(09/26/91 9:00am)

The United Minorities Council voted last night to send a letter to President Sheldon Hackney stating they are dissatisfied with his decision to accept the Committee to Diversify Locust Walk's report. A first draft of the letter stresses the UMC's disappointment with the committee's failure to recommend removal of fraternities from the Walk. It emphasizes, however, that it is not the fraternity's fault that they are in the center of campus. "The letter is not anti-fraternity," UMC chairperson You-Lee Kim said last night. "It's not fair to them. They did not plan to dominate." The preliminary letter, which was reviewed by representatives of all nine groups in the UMC, stresses that the UMC finds the report unacceptable because it does not create space for other groups. But it also says, "Both those currently on Locust Walk and those excluded from it are victims of circumstances." Kim, who wrote the first draft, said she expects a response from Hackney. In addition, Kim has met with Vice Provost for University Life Kim Morrisson about the report. "I met with her to express concerns of the lack of strength of the report," Kim said. "Morrisson said she will look into having more minorities on committees that address specific problems in the future." Kim also said she has already scheduled a meeting with Hackney. The preliminary letter also said ethnic minorities, as well as women, gays, lesbians and bisexuals, do not want to be asked to become part of the Walk, but rather have their right to be there asserted. "In other words, we do not want to be invited as guests by a benevolent host," the letter said. "We want to be recognized in our rightful place as full and equal members of the family." The UMC made no specific recommendations about how to reach this goal. The UMC voted not to change the basic content of the letter, but to revise it to clarify points. Representatives from each group in the UMC will sign the letter, which is to be printed on UMC letter-head stationary. But according to Penn Women's Alliance member Wai-Sum Lee, who was invited to last night's UMC meeting but did not attend, the alliance is not planning on signing the letter. "We decided this is not the appropriate time for us to make a statement," Lee said.

Student named Rhodes scholar

(12/10/90 10:00am)

College senior Theresa Simmonds this weekend joined a select group of Americans awarded the prestigious Rhodes scholarship -- a group that includes U.S. Senator Bill Bradley and Supreme Court Justice David Souter. As one of 32 undergraduates chosen for the award, Simmonds, a double major in Urban and Environmental Studies who is also working toward a teaching certificate, will spend two years doing graduate study at Oxford University in England. The College senior, who last year won the Truman scholarship for study leading to a career in government, said yesterday that she plans to study philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford. "At this point I'm still numb," Simmonds said yesterday of her award. "I don't think it's sunk in yet." School of Arts and Sciences Vice Dean Ira Harkavy -- who Simmonds credited along with her mother as being a mentor and role model -- said that the award was "well deserved." "I'm thrilled," Harkavy said. "She's an outstanding young woman. She exemplifies how students can do outstanding academic work while focusing on real problems." Harkavy said that Simmonds' work in the West Philadelphia community has made real improvements in the lives of people in the neighborhood, adding that her research into issues of volunteerism has "made a difference." Simmonds was active for five semesters in Harkavy's West Philadelphia Improvement Corps, during which she studied the feasiblity of a national youth service corps. In February of 1989, Simmonds joined Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy in Washington, D.C., to help announce legislation proposing a $500 million effort to promote volunteerism through education. Simmonds said that her packed schedule has sometimes meant that she has had to sacrifice sleep and her social life, but added, "I wouldn't be happy if my schedule weren't as crazy as it is." College Assistant Dean Eric Schneider, who works with many students applying for graduate scholarships, said Simmonds has a special combination of intelligence and commitment to working for the betterment of society. The Rhodes scholarships were established in 1902 by the estate of Cecil Rhodes, a British philanthropist and colonialist who hoped that the award winners would contribute to world understanding and peace. In order to win the award, Rhodes scholars have to submit five to eight recommendations from professors, write a thousand-word personal statement and go through a series of intensive interviews. In the past, the award had been tied to demonstrating intellectual and athletic prowess, but recently the selection committee has given less weight to athletics, Schneider said. In addition to Simmonds, there were 14 other Rhodes scholarship winners from the Ivy League this year -- five from Yale, five from Harvard and one each from Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth and Cornell. Simmonds said she hopes to go on to a career dealing with education and volunteerism, adding that one day she would like to be Superintendent of the Philadelphia School System. "Schools should be a hotbed of social revolution," said Simmonds, a native of South Philadelphia. "This is certainly a time when there need to be some changes made . . . for them to fulfill that function."

SPOTLIGHT: Marsalis headlines Nov. jazz festival

(09/27/90 9:00am)

Famed saxophonist Branford Marsalis will headline the Second Annual Celebration of jazz festival in November, as organizers hope to improve upon low turnout at last spring's festival. Organizers plan to captialize on Marsalis' popularity in order to draw a crowd to their weekend program of activities. "We're hoping students will take to it," festival Chairperson Alan Stern said earlier this week. The music of Marsalis, who has performed with rock musician Sting, was most recently featured in Spike Lee's Mo' Better Blues, released this summer. Stern said the festival needs to fill three quarters of the 1940-seat Irvine Auditorium in order to pay for Marsalis' performance fee of $12,500 on November 2. "We tried to figure out who would be attractive on that large a scale," said the College senior. Stern said that while Marsalis is a talented performer, his fame was an asset that made him one of the festival's top choices. "We don't want to get someone who we think is great, but who can't sell a single seat," he added. The festival began last year, when organizers attracted 1000 people to hear featured saxophonist Sonny Rollins, according to festival Vice Chairperson Sherry Riesner. The idea to bring jazz performers to the University began nearly two years ago when Stern and a friend decided to investigate the possibility. They organized a staff of student volunteers and gained recognition by the Student Activities Council. Since then, a core group of students have worked diligently to secure a top jazz performer and were rewarded with Rollins and now with Marsalis. The weekend's educational segment will include a panel discussion on the boundaries between improvisation and composition in jazz and an exhibit of photographs by Milt Hinton, a musician who photographed and performed with many jazz stars. History Professor Neil Leonard, who teaches a course at the University on the history of jazz and its impact on American society, said yesterday that the festival's presence on campus demonstrates positive interest in jazz music. "It's very encouraging," he said. "It's important American music. [The festival] represents an important reflection of the ethnic diversity that we seem to be achieving on this campus." The festival goes beyond big-name performers. "We want to combine the entertainment and educational aspect of jazz -- as entertainment and as part of history -- into one big weekend of activity," said Stern. Organizers said earlier this week that they are unsure if a jazz performer, even one as well known as Marsalis, will be able to draw sell-out crowds due to the waning popularity of jazz. And jazz critic Francis Davis, who will be a panelist at a festival discussion, added that public interest in jazz is low, both for performers and for writers. "If you're going through a period like we are now when jazz musicians are not much in demand, there's not much demand for articles on jazz, either," said Davis. The organizers say coordinating the festival was a learning experience. "Preparing for your classes is so abstract," said Vice Chairperson Stephen Lapointe, a College senior. "With this, we're actually making something happen."

CITY LIMITS: Dabbling in the Arts

(04/17/90 9:00am)

Ten years ago, Sally Hammerman's friends convinced her to take a pattern-making class at the Arts League, a small school two blocks from the University that offers courses in everything from pottery and jazz dance to tarot-card reading. The hobby soon became an occupation for Hammerman, who now works as a fashion designer and comes back to the school to teach her craft. But many who take her class at the Arts League do not intend to make a career out of dressmaking, she said. Most are just interested in making their own clothes. "Some clothes in stores cost thousands of dollars," she said. "If you make them yourself, you get exactly what you want and what fits you." For some of the 450 to 500 students who take classes there each term, the ceramics workshops, dance studios and darkrooms of the Arts League provide an outlet for hidden creative urges. For others, they are a springboard for a leap into a new career. Like the dresses that students make in Hammerman's classes, the building at 4226 Spruce Street that clothes the Arts League fits it well. Except for the signs in the windows, the Arts League looks just like the other old houses in the tree-lined block of Spruce Street. But inside, the wooden floors creak, and even the bathrooms look antique. Each stairway is narrower than the last, but the rooms on the fourth floor are as large as those on the second. The building is unique, very much like the school that occupies it. Gifts for Your Friends First-year University Medical School student Cindy Weinbaum, who takes pottery classes on Tuesday nights, is one of those students who uses the Arts League classes as a creative outlet. "It was very different from medical school," she said. "What I really like best is the opportunity to be creative." Weinbaum said that in addition to attending her course, she goes to the school on her own three times a week. She said that the course fee, about $100, includes paints, glazes, studio hours and 25 pounds of clay. "The great thing about pottery is that you end up with gifts for all your friends," Weinbaum said. Many of the Arts League teachers are professional artists who teach at the school in addition to their regular work in studios and darkrooms. Instructor Jennifer Hook, who got her graduate degree in painting from the University in 1989, said that she first became involved with the school during a fund-raising activity. Hook, an illustrator for the University Museum, said she helped a friend who worked in the ceramics department make commemorative mugs to raise money so that the Arts League would not have to sell its building. She said she decided soon after to teach a course at the school. "I wasn't thinking about teaching, I was just having some fun," she said of her original involvement with the Arts League. The school's teachers said they enjoy their classes immensely. Fran Scott, a full-time studio artist who started teaching pottery classes 20 years ago, said that the Arts League was "part of [her] neighborhood." Medical School student Weinbaum, who is one of Scott's students, described her teacher as "this hysterical woman who loves anything anybody makes." Commercial photographer John Mahoney manages the Arts League darkroom and teaches photography classes at the school. "Once people have the basic equipment, which is a camera, they can get started," he said. And University physics graduate student Kelly Ray, who serves on the Arts League's education board, shares his love of dance with students in his two swing dancing classes. Ray said he became involved with the school several years ago when he convinced a female friend who did not know how to dance to sign up for a class in ballroom dancing, which he took with her. When the class' teacher discovered that Ray "knew as much if not more than she did," she suggested that he teach a class. And when she left a year later, the school asked Ray to join the staff. Ray has taught courses in dancing to disco and rock music, and currently teaches ballroom and swing dancing, in which he said there is a "revival of interest." Ray helped organize the upcoming May Fair at Clark Park and an upcoming church auction, which will be held April 28. 'Publicity Saved It' The Arts League's status has not always been as stable as the old building in which it is housed. In January, the Arts League had to push its fundraising efforts beyond the usual pottery sales and donation solicitation, raising $20,000 in two months. According to Arts League President Tom Hutchinson, the school "came close to closing down, but the publicity saved it." Students and instructors said they believe that the Arts League is well worth the money that supports it, because it is a valuable asset to the community. "There is very much a need to accumulate and have available the various resources." Hammerman said, adding that people who have an interest in the arts "need to be in contact with each other." And dance instructor Ray said that the Arts League "provides a nice place for people in the community to get together and do things right in the community." Past Life Workshop In addition to the traditional creative arts, the Arts League will also sponsor several upcoming workshops. Among them are a "past life workshop" on April 22 in which students will "get the opportunity to explore three past lifetimes through the process of group regression" and examine "past hurts that block you from living to your full potential." A May 20 "crystals and colors" workshop will help students "create a mandala based on the crystals and colors which best attract and represent you."