Last summer, The Daily Pennsylvanian reported on how the Penn community adapted Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) courses for the fall semester. Now, with the spring 2021 semester fast approaching, we seek to reflect on the experiences of current ABCS students in order to consider a question for the future: Where do Netter Center activities — including ABCS courses and student programming — fit into the Penn student experience and long-term commitments to the community at large?
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Guest Column from Penn graduates and students | Penn employees deserve paid time off on Election Day
In 2018, when the Eagles won the Super Bowl, Penn decided to suspend operations for the parade. In 2017, 2018, and 2019, Penn canceled classes for snow days.
D ear Penn,
Guest Column by The Institute of Contemporary Art Student Board | Cementing the Artwork at Fisher's Footsteps
A large metallic sculpture surrounded by a wooden barrier currently stands between Meyerson Hall and Fisher Fine Arts Library. Perhaps you have learned about it in class or walked through it out of curiosity. This public sculpture, titled DS (3), is the work of Knut Äsdam, a noted Norwegian artist. Its presence on campus is due to the effort of Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award winner professor Kaja Silverman in conjunction with the Slought Foundation and Penn Design. That presence may be short-lived. The work is currently a temporary installation due to be dismantled or sold in the coming months — that is, unless the University decides to find the sculpture a permanent home on campus. As the Institute of Contemporary Art’s Student Board, we strongly hope the University will do so.
We applaud second-year Graduate School of Education student Dephanie Jao for sharing her story in the guest column, “Hunting for Asians.” No one should ever be made to feel like a mere item on a scavenger hunt list. No one should have to physically defend herself against strangers who singled her out based on race and gender.
To the Editor: Readers of these articles are accurately informed that Penn Political Science is understaffed and that it is engaged in a vigorous, long-term building effort. But readers will not understand that this kind of effort is a challenge that can only succeed in a time span longer than that during which any Penn undergraduate is actually here on campus. In the meantime, colleagues in the department are offering a first-class education to more Penn students than ever before. Enrollments are extraordinarily high in our courses. The number of Political Science majors is very high and rapidly rising. Our honors program produced 15 successful theses. Five of our graduating majors this year are Phi Beta Kappa -- an unprecedented achievement. Our professors and graduate students regularly win teaching awards. Our graduate students are so successful in national competition for fellowship support that one of the main problems I have as chair is to ensure that we will be able to staff our large courses. Professors in the department are publishing excellent books and articles, receiving prestigious research grants, presenting papers at scholarly conferences, etc. -- all the while immersed in the extremely difficult task of making a very good department truly excellent in all subfields of the discipline. The truth is that we have hired five new colleagues in the last three years and we will continue to expand at this rate. It is true, of course, that colleagues have left Penn for other institutions. The rate of turnover at the best institutions in the country is actually quite high these days, making efforts to build strength, especially at the senior level, a real challenge. And if the overall size of the department remains lower than it needs to be, and that it will be, that is due also to the natural result of a large cohort of senior colleagues who reached retirement age at roughly the same time. But this development is an opportunity, a tremendous opportunity, if also a short-term problem. Ian Lustick Chairman Political Science Department To the Editor: Thank you for your coverage ("Residents stumped by fallen trees," DP, 4/26/00) and the editorial ("Time to show a little respect," DP, 4/27/00) on the axing of two young trees on the 3900 block of Baltimore Avenue. Both speak eloquently to the importance of supporting the efforts of the University and the community. As you so effectively argue, this act of vandalism is an unfortunate counterforce to the sustained efforts from Penn's students and administration to join the local residential and business communities in building a better environment for us all. On greening project after greening project -- from reclaiming vacant lots and underused public spaces, planting trees to greening area schools -- we have been enriched and empowered by the energy, dedication and joy the Penn community has brought to these efforts. They have both advanced the vision of transforming University City into a "garden village" and demonstrated the power of gardening as a catalyst for community building. While the recent setback of irresponsible rogue behavior on Baltimore Avenue is infuriating and unnerving, it was the powerful response of the larger majorities of responsible students, landlords, staff and residents that has sent the more important message -- that we care -- and that by working together, can continue the momentum to construct that better environment. The immediate task is to see that the two trees are replaced. We have made arrangements for this, to be paid for by the landlord at 3953-55 Baltimore Avenue. Active in the replanting will be Gene Dempsey, the steward of the other tree, whose quick actions triggered the police and community response. We invite the larger community that support these projects to join in the replanting and in other, equally rewarding greening projects planned for the days ahead. Thank you for drawing the lesson and for resetting the agenda for us all. Esaul Sanchez Dir., Neighborhood Initiatives Office of the Executive Vice Pres.
Jeremy Reiss, you're lucky to be leaving. I'm one of the 300-plus students who was not assigned to a room on campus for next year. After a trip to the housing office on the first floor of Hamilton College House, it seems to me that the root of this problem lies in the Admissions Office, not with the Department of Housing Services. But more incoming freshmen accepted Penn's offer of admission to the Class of 2003 than expected, and the Assignments Office was left with a dilemma as to what to do with these homeless first-year students. To keep students out of the hotels next year, it seems that Penn has denied more "unprotected upperclassmen" the option of living on campus, offering these spots to the freshmen to whom they have been promised. Yet, doing this so late in the housing process has flooded the already saturated off-campus housing market with rising sophomores (mostly) who will take anything they can get -- at any price. For students with tight budgets, the prospect of renting the last available apartment in the barracks-and-barbed-wire of Hamilton Court may in fact be more expensive than the equivalent unit on campus. And with four weeks left of classes, the last thing any student wants to do is fight the mad rush to get an apartment. Time to shop around or deliberate has been eliminated from the equation. This market is a truly competitive one, priced at what the market will bear, however socially unjust it may seem. This price is paid in money, time and effort, not to mention the worries that will continue until one's senior year, as Mr. Reiss ("Good space is hard to find," The Daily Pennsylvanian, 3/28/00) explained. This has been brought about through the combined lack of coordination between two otherwise-unconnected branches of Penn's administration, and now it seems that a few percent of the students who wanted to live on campus have slipped through the cracks. There are many who have complained about Penn's housing system in the past, myself included. On the other hand, many complain about the disreputable landlords, high rents and non-existent services associated with off-campus living. Others marvel at the lack of a viable alternative to the alienating pseudo-community of the high rises, such as dormitory-style living for upperclassmen. From what I have heard and read, I understand that Penn is trying to realize our dreams over the next decade, all for the modest price of $300 million. Right now, I just want a place with a roof. Otherwise, I'm going to take my sleeping bag and pillow, and set up shop in Rosengarten. It has a bathroom and climate control. It is quiet, and a better choice than Wawa for 24-hour accommodations. I may be there a while, I'm told, but if I get hungry, lonely or bored, I'll call 300 fellow classmates and we'll bring in TVs and fridges. This issue may not be as morally uplifting as sweatshop reform, but let's face it -- "the alcohol policy sucks!" bit has gotten tired, and this is something that just might be worth protesting.
I've witnessed grand theater these last couple of days, drama on a campus-wide scale, actors playing roles for all the usual reasons -- passion, a need to identify, a lack of anything better to do. I've seen a set constructed piece by piece, and taken down nine days later, piece by piece. And on that set, I've seen actors recite their lines, conflicts develop and resolutions surely and inevitably follow. There were tangential plot lines and a cast of hundreds of walk-ons and bit actors, to be sure. But at its core, the production featured 13 protagonists pitted against bureaucracy personified by one woman -- University President Judith Rodin. There was no doubt as to who was stronger and who was weaker. There was no doubt as to who was in charge and who was begging for action from the powers that be. And there was no doubt that the underdog's cause would be taken up by the audience; no doubt that the sheer specter of 13 hunger-striking students would elicit public sympathy. But then again, what was in doubt about this whole process? Know this: A cause capable of generating this measure of commitment from this many students is an eminently winnable one. Certainly, there is much to be written about the problems with such a reality. At a minimum, it leaves us to cross our fingers and hope that the activists have indeed taken the right side. But in this particular case, I cross my fingers without much conviction that there is a right and a wrong side to this debate. After two weeks of information overload regarding the relative merits of the Fair Labor Association and the Worker Rights Consortium, I remain certain only that there are profound and valid reservations about each. And I have a sneaking suspicion that no monitoring organization will ever succeed in securing the reality that the student activists want. Put simply, the problem of poorly treated Third World workers has nothing to do with who is watching whom. It has everything to do with the fact that Third World economies have repeatedly proven incapable of footing the bill to ensure First World-style human rights for their citizens. That, of course, doesn't mean it's not worth trying. Doing what you can is sound policy even when you can't do everything you want. But even if Penn ends up employing the activist-backed WRC to monitor the production of its logo apparel -- even, that is, if the protesters emerge victorious on the central point of their agenda -- it won't be their most important victory. Their greatest achievement is this: The word sweatshop is now a part of virtually every Penn student's vocabulary. The protesters have won a place in the average student's mind, right in among thoughts of school, shopping and Saturday night plans. Sure, some of them think that sweatshops are places where sweatshirts, and sweatshirts only, are made. But most of them also carry with them an increased awareness of one central fact: that elsewhere in this fine world of ours, people's lives are not as good as they are here. That may sound like small potatoes compared to the Penn Students Against Sweatshops activists' ostensible goal of ensuring that individuals involved in the production of Penn-logo apparel are not mistreated. It is. But then again, who ever said that 13 kids could change the world? Most of the time, the best we get a chance to do is influence the minds of those around us. And most of the time, we don't use that opportunity in constructive ways. The sweatshop protesters did. They added a new dimension to our understanding of the world, a new category of awareness. I remember talking to one of the protesters about his boots days before the sit-in started. They aren't made by Nike, he said. That was what was important to him. But don't you worry that these boots, too, were made by someone who is being mistreated? Sure, he said. But I can't know everything. I do what I can. I know that what Nike does is wrong, and therefore it matters to me that I don't wear the clothes and shoes they make. At the time, I remember thinking that Nike would never have the slightest idea that this student refused to wear their shoes. Now, nine days later, they may just have heard.
A new escort program will provide students with a safe way to walk home from Van Pelt Library late at night. The escorts, who will leave from Rosengarten Reserve Room on the half-hour, are part of the University's latest effort to build castles in the sand on the successes of the last couple of years in making the campus a safer place. And while finals period keeps students at the library until later-than-usual hours, we applaud the University for extending the program to the entirety of the school year, as well. During non-finals periods, the escort service will be provided from midnight until 3 a.m. There is safety in numbers, and the program promises to increase the volume of students walking about campus at night. We also applaud the administration and the Undergraduate Assembly for working closely together to bring the program to fruition. Dana Hork, the UA member responsible for the program, is correct in her belief that walking escorts will be more effectively utilized if they are tailored to students' needs and schedules. And the Division of Public Safety is to be commended for responding to the suggestion and working with Hork and the UA to make the program a reality. We hope that the UA and the Division of Public Safety will continue to look for opportunities to make the campus safer by ensuring that students can walk where they will, when they will. In this type of proactive solution, everyone benefits.
Pay-for-use nonsensePay-for-use nonsenseTo the Editor: I realize Penn has other motivations behind the decision. The University probably hopes that by adding costs to off-campus living, there is a better chance that the college house system will not fail. This is flawed logic. If Penn wants the college house system to be successful, it needs to make the dormitories livable. Trying to make off campus housing look worse will not accomplish the goal. Lastly, the University's argument that it is unfair to charge all students higher tuition to support the modem pool is completely ridiculous. My tuition money goes to many different areas of the University and I certainly do not utilize all of them. I am not in every club the University supports and I do not use every building it maintains, but my tuition money is used nonetheless. If Penn wants to start charging students on a pay-for-use basis for everything it provides, that is fine. Until then, leave the modem pool alone. Steven Fechheimer Wharton '00 Crime stat follies To the Editor: In regards to your article about Penn's dismal ranking in the safety survey ("Study ranks Penn as least safe Ivy school," DP, 11/10/99): It seems to me that Penn administrators would be justified in complaining about the methodology of the survey only if they themselves were willing to provide an accurate picture of safety at the University. David Bergeron Graduate Student Dept. of Physics and Astronomy Enough disrespect To the Editor: I worked 9 to 5 while I was a CGS student, then went to class at night dog-tired. It took me 8 1/2 years to earn a B.A. -- and I did it with honors. Unfortunately, Wise's appreciation for older students who, unlike traditional Penn students, did not have the opportunity (financial or social) to go to college at 18, is the exception. I and other CGS students have experienced an astonishing amount of discrimination from both students and faculty -- discrimination that would not be tolerated by another other "under-represented" group on campus. Every time I see an article about how the University should find a proper "home" for specific groups, I am angered once again that CGS has still not been given a home on campus since it was moved out of Logan Hall and up to 34th and Market streets in 1991. A prominent faculty member here once proclaimed to his entire daytime class: "I didn't know they let CGS students in day classes!" It is unthinkable that any other minority students would be addressed in this way. But CGS students rarely complain because they are simply grateful to be at such a challenging and resource-rich university as Penn. Yes, CGS classes are filled with experienced, smart people who've been through many of life's most humbling moments. They deserve the respect of the University, its faculty and administration, and most of all, its most privileged students. Sue Smith CGS '94
The Athletic Department was not concerned with the students' best interest. Once again the basketball ticket line has come and gone. The Line was first established over 20 years ago by students who wanted to show support for the team and receive the best seats in the student section. As the years progressed, The Line got longer and students started waiting over a week outside in the cold to get tickets. When Penn Athletic Director Steve Bilsky was hired in 1995, he started a new system. In taking control over of The Line, the administration changed the focus of the line to promote it to the entire student body. When targeting an audience, the best way to find out what the audience wants is to ask them. Unfortunately, the athletic administration has seldom ever sought student input. This year was a prime example. This past weekend, the administration alienated a large portion of students by changing the termination of The Line to Monday morning at 6 a.m. Those who wished to get a good night's sleep for any midterms or seniors with job interviews scheduled for Monday could not participate. It does not seem fair to ask seniors looking forward to supporting their team for the last time to sacrifice a possible job offer. "I had an interview scheduled for Monday," Wharton senior Aaron Fidler said. "My idea for preparation is not an all-nighter the day before. I am really excited about this season but was very disappointed not to be able to participate in The Line." If the Athletic Department wants what is best for the fans, wouldn't it make sense to ask these fans? In planning the weekend event, the Athletic Department consulted just two undergraduate students. Nothing against them, but I doubt that two students with little experience can speak for the entire student body. Alanna Wren, Bilsky's executive assistant, said the event was moved back one day to allow those in the line the option of attending the football game at Yale. Oddly, no one I talked to in line said they had even thought of attending the game. Athletic Department Marketing Director Bill Richter felt the students should be willing to make the sacrifice of staying until Monday morning. If they are trying to get everyone in the Penn community involved, why are they asking for extreme sacrifices? Another result of the lack of student input to the event was its lack of programming. While the main idea for The Line is to give students an opportunity to purchase season tickets, it would be a great opportunity for the University to enact some of its non-alcoholic programming -- something President Rodin would love. Strangely, with hundreds of basketball fanatics packed inside the Palestra, there was not one organized game of basketball to be found. While Fran Dunphy and a few members of the basketball team showed up to give away prizes Sunday evening, would it not make sense to give the team's die-hard fans a little taste of what they are going to see this season? Although all six Philadelphia college teams practiced at the Palestra on Saturday for Coaches versus Cancer, this was not a major part of the programming. Only one member of each group was required to be there at the time, so most members of The Line went all weekend without seeing any real basketball. The blame, however, cannot be placed solely on the administration. Students need to show they are interested in making it an exciting event and that their interests are being served. Without any criticism or new ideas, the Athletic Department will continue to think that it is fair to make decisions without consulting the students. They will not know what the fans know -- that it is inconvenient to make students wait until Monday morning. Show some initiative and contact them. When students are not involved, it is hard to justify that their best interests come first. With over 50 applicants for the line leader position, there is obviously a great supply of students wanting to take a leadership position. Please take the time to contact Bill Richter and Alanna Wren to tell them you what you think. Only then will The Line be in the best interests of the students.
When Ed Rendell became mayor of Philadelphia in 1992, he compared the city to a patient dying from both a gunshot wound and cancer. The gunshot wound was a budget crisis that threatened to plunge the city into bankruptcy. The cancer was comprised of terrible schools, high crime and enormous taxes. The gunshot wound has healed, but the cancer lingers. If you don't believe that, consider the following: In the 1990s, Philadelphia lost a higher percentage of its population than any other large city in the country. Now, Philadelphia is faced with choosing a new mayor to fight that cancer and make the city healthy again. The right choice is Sam Katz. Katz is a Republican, but thousands of Democrats are planning to vote for him because they realize that this election isn't about parties. It's about which candidate -- Katz or his opponent, John Street -- has a better plan for Philadelphia's recovery. Former Democratic mayoral candidates Happy Fernandez and John White think that Katz's plan is better, as does The Philadelphia Inquirer. In large part, those endorsements are a tribute to Katz's experience. As co-founder of the nation's largest municipal-government consulting firm, Katz has spent his career assisting city governments. That's why Mayor Rendell turned to Katz for help in writing the financial plan that rescued Philadelphia from near-bankruptcy. Katz also sat on Philadelphia's school board for four years, so he understands the school district's problems. Street has tried to mischaracterize Katz's aggressive plan to turn around Philadelphia's public schools by portraying Katz's support for tuition vouchers as its central theme. Don't let Street fool you. Yes, Katz supports experimenting with tuition vouchers, charter schools and other options to help kids learn, just as Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley does. But Katz's primary commitment is to a public school system with smaller classes, alternative schools for disruptive students and more rigorous standards for academic performance. And Katz realizes that state legislators won't pay for those improvements until the mayor has reduced mismanagement and waste in the schools. In contrast, Street would keep asking the state legislature for more money without implementing the reforms that legislators have repeatedly said must happen first. Taxes are the third cause of the city's cancer. Philadelphia has the highest taxes of any big city in the country, discouraging businesses and residents from moving here. To reduce taxes, Katz will make the city government more efficient and apply the saved money to tax relief. Lower taxes will draw more businesses to the city and those new businesses will create new jobs. Street has tried to scare voters by saying that Katz's tax relief plan would cut into city services. But Katz knows that by subjecting government functions to competition, changing union work rules and eliminating unnecessary patronage jobs, it's possible to maintain city services while making them cheaper. In contrast to Katz's fresh ideas, Street offers the kind of thinking that hurt Philadelphia in the first place. On schools, he offers no new solutions. On taxes, he would implement "a modest reduction," not the major tax cut that's necessary in a city which lost 65,000 jobs in the 1990s. On crime, his lukewarm support of Commissioner Timoney would send the police department a message of no-confidence. And in 1998, Street led the fight against domestic partnership benefits for gay city workers, demonstrating that he's not the inclusive leader the city needs. In contrast, Katz supports partnership benefits and has received the endorsement of several Philadelphia gay and lesbian groups. So, when you help choose the city's next leader on Tuesday, ask yourself what you want the Philadelphia of the future to be. Do you want a city whose downtown is thriving but whose residential areas are suffering under crippling taxes, bad schools and high crime? That's John Street's legacy after 19 years in power. Or do you want a safer Philadelphia, a Philadelphia with enough jobs to go around and with good schools for the city's children? I'm voting for the healthy Philadelphia. I'm voting for Sam Katz for mayor.
A proposed parental notification policy wojld leave the status quo substantially unaffected. Instead, the recommended policy calls for parental notification only in two cases: · Where the drug or alcohol abuse led to misconduct involving personal injury to the student or other people, or serious damage to property. · Where the student's drug or alcohol violation has triggered serious consequences, such as eviction from a University dormitory. Only a very few students would be affected by such a policy. And for students who have so completely exceeded the bounds of responsible behavior, parental notification is both appropriate and potentially beneficial. We also applaud the committee's recommendation that the ultimate notification decision be left in the hands of the Office of Student Conduct, allowing for a case by case review of the benefits of notification. Although the recommendations are relatively limited in scope, any new policy stands to break new ground -- until now, parental notification was allowed only when students were seriously ill or injured. Now, for the first time, there will be other circumstances under which parents can be notified of their children's conduct at college. That is a change, and even if it seems a wise one, its details are worthy of close scrutiny and student input. For that reason, we would encourage students to take advantage of the comment period extending until October 15 -- the Undergraduate Assembly is hosting an open forum at 6 p.m. tonight in Logan Hall and, as always, students should feel free to call or write the provost's office with their comments and concerns.
Career Services' problems are instructive for other penn departments looking to implement new technology. Career Services' problems are instructive for other penn departments looking to implement new technology.If there is one certainty in this electronic age, it is that new systems crash, early and often. Unfortunately, Career Services seems to have been ill-prepared for the possibility of a crash. Instead, because no back-up system was in place, Career Services has been forced to rely series of extensions and a return to dropping resumes off the old-fashioned way -- by hand at the office -- to ensure that students are not punished in the long term for the system's failures. But over the summer, vendor Crimson Solutions made several changes to the program -- changes Patricia Rose, the director of Career Services, believes have caused the current spate of problems. At the very least, the possibility that such problems could arise should have been apparent. Career Services' own history should also have served as a warning beacon: the 1998 roll-out of Fortune -- the in-house system used by students to schedule interviews and get career information -- was also plagued in early use by a host of bugs and crashes. The lesson here is simple: even the most beneficial of technologies will not work perfectly from day one. That is no reason to shy away from new technologies, but it is more than ample reason to ensure that a system works before becoming totally reliant on its services. It is a lesson we hope both Career Services and other Penn departments will heed in the future.
From Josh Callahan's, "Under Construction," Fall '99 From Josh Callahan's, "Under Construction," Fall '99The University of Buenos Aires, Argentina's largest university with over 200,000 students in undergraduate and graduate programs, has a finals period that is slightly longer than Penn's. Two years. Unlike at Penn, where students doing research papers much chose and work on a topic long before the end of class, students in Argentina can wait until the course is over and all the course material has been presented before picking a topic. Most importantly, Argentine students have more time to prepare for both their tests and papers because the two do not overlap. There is time to study for exams, take exams and then begin meaningful work on papers. While a window of two years seems excessive as well as impractical for Penn students -- Argentine students often graduate in six years at the least -- their system does have valuable advantages. Therefore, I would propose opening a one-month window for papers to be submitted following the end of the semester. For example, in the fall semester, students would be allowed to turn in work until the end of the first week of the spring semester, roughly the second or third week in January. An equivalent amount of time would be given in the spring semester. The exceptions, of course, are students who want to walk down the graduation aisle in May and need the credit to graduate. Tests, meanwhile, would continue to be given in the same fashion. The system employed by Princeton and Harvard where students return following a winter break to take exams is of no value to students, as they are generally better off sitting in front of a test while some semblance of the information from the lectures might still be hanging around in their brains. Students who don't want to be bothered by papers and projects during their vacations would of course have the right to hand them in earlier. This new system simply creates more options for students who want to space out their work and thereby have some hope of keeping up with professor's expectations. University administrators must recognize that at present, it is hard to do anything but cram for tests and quickly punch out papers. Defending Penn's current system is at best unfaithful to the mission of furthering knowledge and educating young minds. Cramming has been proven again and again in studies to be a completely ineffective way of storing information in our long-term memories. It serves its purpose -- scoring well on exams -- but that should not be the goal of a Penn education. Professors would no longer have winter break to grade papers as they do now, but they would gain the advantage of having papers flow in over a greater time period. Thus, rather than facing a stack of 30 papers to be read all at once, professors could pay more attention to each student's work. This is not about procrastinating -- Argentine students rarely use the full two years to do their work. Most students turn in papers within two to six months of the end of a class. But those few months allow students to find the most opportune time to do their best work. Right now, University rules are getting in the way of what Penn should want most -- more knowledgeable and happier students. By giving students those few months, the University could accomplish both goals.
The role of student governments in campus decision-making is always a difficult one -- administrators are often reluctant to entrust responsibility for truly important decisions to students, leaving the student body's elected representatives to serve either as consultants with little leverage or as pointmen on projects of limited significance. Last year's UA set an admirable example in this respect on several occasions, particularly through its role in encouraging the renovation of Rosengarten Reserve Library and the funding of subsidized legal counsel for students enmeshed in disputes with their landlords. Again this year, a number of issues seem ripe for student involvement. Perhaps most importantly, we hope the UA stands by its pledge to work with the administration on the implementation of last spring's Final Report of the Working Group on Alcohol Abuse, including bringing a full-service video store to campus and increasing the number of social and recreational options available to students of all ages. The UA's ongoing work with SEPTA also has the potential to produce beneficial results, including an increase in the number of token machines on campus. Unfortunately, last year's example is not an entirely positive one. One area which needs to be improved is the UA's sensitivity to the surrounding community, which hit a low point with the distribution of "Am I a Target?" stickers in the wake of last fall's Steinberg-Dietrich assault. Also, it seems unlikely that efforts to involve the UA in increasing financial aid packages will prove productive. While Michael Silver, this year's chairperson, is absolutely correct to note that Penn must prop up its aid packages, the UA is not in a position to substantially contribute to the discussion. Finally, we fully expect that the attendance problems of previous years will not repeat themselves this year. The crippling absence levels of years past -- notably, not a problem for last year's UA -- damage both the credibility of the UA and the ability of its members to do their jobs properly.
Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School '97 Plymouth Meeting, Pa. Speakers brought to campus this year through Connaissance -- part of the student-run Social Planning and Events Committee -- included noted feminist Gloria Steinem, MTV Loveline hosts Dr. Drew Pinsky and Adam Corolla and actress and comedienne Ellen DeGeneres. And billionaire Warren Buffett graced the stage of the Annenberg Center's Zellerbach Theater as well, as part of the Wharton School's Musser-Schoemaker and Zweig Executive Lecture series. Connaissance sponsors two major speeches annually featuring speakers of national prominence, as well as numerous other entertainment events. In past years, speakers have included actor James Earl Jones, talk show Conan O'Brien, singer Billy Joel and sportscaster Dick Vitale. Last fall's speaking engagement was a November 4 appearance by Steinem, one of the World Almanac's 25 most influential women in America. The 64-year-old Steinem, a writer and consulting editor for Ms. magazine -- which she co-founded in 1972 -- followed her 45-minute speech with an interactive question-and-answer session. During these last 40 minutes of her appearance, several of the 900 audience members in attendance at the sold-out show in Zellerbach stepped up to the microphone to ask the feminist pioneer about issues addressed in her lecture, "Acting Globally and Thinking Globally." But in February, the atmosphere at the Zellerbach shifted to the rowdy tone consistent with MTV's hit show Loveline when hosts Pinsky and Corolla brought their mix of sound medical advice and gleeful wise-cracks to Penn for another sold-out engagement early in the spring semester. The show, scheduled to coincide with Valentine's Day weekend as a part of the campus-wide Lovefest '99, provided an outlet for all manner of outrageous romantic concerns. In between Corolla's jokes and anecdotes -- which detailed everything from his own sexual experiences to the tale of a high school friend capable of expelling water from his rear end -- Pinsky advised curious students on problems including the repercussions of a coed roommate "threesome" and female orgasmic incontinence. The following month featured DeGeneres in a two-hour-plus event that received mixed student reviews. The Emmy Award-winning comedienne kicked off her time on stage with her characteristic dry humor, but soon got down to the topic which her speech's theme, "Ellen DeGeneres: Speaking Honestly," suggested. DeGeneres focused on homosexuality, both as it related to her own personal experiences and to her larger desire to change American society's perception and treatment of gays and lesbians. She especially expressed her dismay with the actions of many groups in what she referred to as America's "religious wrong," causing heated controversy within the audience. While many audience members appreciated DeGeneres' openness during the evening, some who had come expecting more material akin to her stand-up comedy were annoyed with the overall somber quality of the event. "I was disappointed because I wish that she had made us laugh," then-Nursing senior Zena Lobell said. In a turnaround representative of the diverse nature of Annenberg Center events, Buffett's April 21 lecture in Zellerbach catered to young, zealous Whartonites seeking the type of success that have earned the renowned chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. his enviable position as America's second wealthiest man.
Graduation weekend was a time of celebration and joy for many graduating seniors. Bright futures lie ahead and vivid memories will be left behind. The Baccalaureate Service -- which took place the Sunday before Commencement -- traditionally separates itself from the normal graduation weekend ceremonies as a celebration aimed at the entire Penn community. While many of the other Commencement events glorify the academic and extracurricular achievements of the seniors, Baccalaureate tries to celebrate the diversity of culture and religion that exists at Penn. With performances by two a capella groups, speeches by University administrators and readings of varied religious texts, the service offered a taste of the cultural diversity that can be said to define institutions like Penn. But you have to wonder: For how many seniors was this the first taste of that diversity? All too often, students wander through four years of school without exploring the cultural diversity that our school offers. And it may be the single greatest resource a student can choose to ignore. It is possible to go back later and read the historical or scientific lessons that we may have neglected in our college careers. But the unique setting that college provides will never again be available. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to find the same sheer diversity in a small accessible area like the Penn campus. University President Judith Rodin said these "life lessons" are often as important as scholarly pursuits of classroom and laboratories. But we have to try and utilize the experiences available at Penn. For example, how many of the 1000 people in attendance at the service, who were not Muslim, had ever heard a reading from the Koran? Gerald Wolpe, who was the event's featured speaker and the senior rabbi of Har Zion Congregation in Philadelphia since 1969, relayed the importance of open-minded thinking to his audience. He told the crowd that he sees the quest for "self-identification" occupying society's thoughts. He believes this causes people to undervalue their heritage and ancestry, focusing solely on themselves. More importantly, Wolpe added, there is a failure to consider the heritage and history of others. It is equally important to understand different cultures because they have affected the development of all groups occupying this globe. The ability to interact with and tolerate all types of groups may be the best lesson we can learn at such a diverse university. The Glee Club and Counterparts represent a valuable contingency of the performing arts sector of the University -- a large part of the cultural experience at Penn. However, performing arts groups are certainly more visible in the Penn community than many other culturally diverse activities. Students need to expand their horizons and venture into other religious and cultural experiences. This is not to say that religious communities have a lack of participation -- but more importantly a lack of cross-participation. Why can't someone who isn't religious take the time to visit Chaplain William Gibson and learn about his faith and beliefs? Or, why shouldn't a devout Catholic speak with Rabbi Levine and try to comprehend the differences between Catholicism and Judaism? Regardless of how you mold your beliefs, your interaction with others will inevitably change after experiencing the cultural diversity that Penn has to offer. These may be the most important lessons people teach themselves at Penn and it would be a shame if you didn't open the text book until the weekend before you leave.
Three areas should be the focus of changes to Penn's existing alcohol policy. We do so with some measure of apprehension. As we have often noted, alcohol abuse is fundamentally not an issue that regulations can address -- there is no way to prevent students from drinking to excess, and even attempting to do so invariably risks grave infringements on civil liberties. But we continue to believe that Penn has a role to play in constructing an environment where students can consume alcohol in a responsible fashion. And so, there are three areas that must be at the heart of any revised alcohol policy: education, the sale of alcohol and the appropriate enforcement of existing policies. We strongly urge the addition of a truly mandatory alcohol education component to freshman orientation. Such a program should begin from the premise that students will drink. Upperclassmen should talk with freshmen about their personal experiences, providing practical advice on responsible drinking. Speakers whose lives have been touched by alcohol-related tragedies are also particularly effective apostles of the dangers of excessive consumption. Such a class stands to benefit all students, even those who don't consider themselves drinkers: all it takes is an extraordinary evening or a friend who drinks more than you do. The second area where existing measures could be improved upon is in ensuring that underage students cannot purchase alcohol on or around campus. Penn already has some ammunition for this campaign in the form of a $360,000 grant from the state's Combatting Underage Drinking Program. And providing area establishments with scanners capable of establishing ID authenticity is also worthwhile. The third area is the most nuanced -- the enforcement of existing laws and University regulations. The simplest of these is the law against carrying open containers. Police are well within their rights to cite individuals seen doing so. Furthermore, it is appropriate for police to be citing obviously inebriated individuals walking on or around campus. However, when students are behind the doors of their residences, they ought to have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Police should not enter residences merely on the suspicion that alcohol is being consumed within. Furthermore, we are disturbed by any suggestion that police might wait for possible underage drinkers to emerge from a residence. If they don't have another reason for being there, they shouldn't be there at all. However, when police have some other reason for entering a private residence -- for example, excessive noise levels -- it is appropriate for them to cite underage drinkers while there. The committee will also be addressing specific events on the spring calendar, chief among them Spring Fling. Here, we would hope that police act with the health and safety of students as their only concern. Attempts to overenforce regulations are unlikely to further this goal. We encourage police to act with past years as their model, ensuring that a good and safe time is had by all. In the final analysis, the report should reflect the overriding importance of personal responsibility.
Students have a chance to show support for victims of sexual violence at Penn. And only by turning out, only by listening to speeches until the consequences of rape are imprinted on the communal consciousness, can we hope to eradicate the social disease of sexual violence. There should be no doubt that the problem warrants such a description. We live in a country where one in five college women are the victims of rape or attempted rape and where 84 percent of victims know their attackers. Too often, individuals involved in relationships do not demonstrate sufficient respect for the rights of their partner. Too often, the word "no" has not received the respect it ought to command. It is in this context that we are particularly disturbed by the decision of organizers to bar men from the march around campus. Rape is not a female issue; it is a human issue. No statistics can justify either the victimization of women or the criminalization of men. Simply put, men are part of the solution and any "solution" created in a vacuum where men are absent is a solution that does not converse with reality. By excluding men from the march rather than encouraging them to participate -- men are, however, encouraged to attend the speak-out -- organizers will only precipitate yet another adversarial dialogue, detracting once again from an evening that should be about unity and appropriate intergender relationships. No concerns with the organizers or rules for the evening, however, should stand as an acceptable excuse for absence tomorrow night. The overriding message, and the support each student's presence will lend, are both too important to justify such a response. We hope to see you there.