The student-faculty task force on alcohol issues met yesterday. Provost Robert Barchi met with students and faculty yesterday for the first meeting of the newly created task force to examine the University's alcohol policy. The task force -- chaired by Barchi and appointed by University President Judith Rodin -- spent over two hours yesterday afternoon developing a list of the alcohol abuse problems at Penn and evaluating more permanent changes to the temporary alcohol policy which now bans alcohol at all registered undergraduate events. The committee -- composed of five administrators and professors and 14 student leaders representing organizations such as the Undergraduate Assembly, the InterFraternity and Panhellenic councils and the Drug and Alcohol Resource Team -- will continue to meet once or twice a week throughout the semester to discuss the existing alcohol policies and find alternate solutions to the suspension of alcohol at registered undergraduate parties. The committee will make its recommendations to Rodin as it comes up with them. The meeting marks the first occasion that students have spoken face-to-face with the administration about the recent decision. Students have spent the past several days criticizing Rodin and Barchi for not consulting them in developing the new and controversial policy. On Monday, Rodin responded to that concern by saying administrators have spent the past two years consulting with students on alcohol issues. The students on the committee stressed yesterday that while the consultation meeting came later than they had hoped for, it facilitated open and frank discussion between students and the administration. At yesterday's meeting, Undergraduate Assembly Chairperson Bill Conway said he listed several of his own as well as other student's concerns regarding the alcohol ban, including the increased use of alcohol in off-campus locations, the increase in unregistered and unsupervised downtown parties and more underground use of alcohol. The Wharton junior added that other committee members were concerned about the increased use of illegal drugs on campus as a reaction to the new alcohol policy. College freshman Elizabeth Gesas, also on the committee, agreed that the discussion was "completely honest and completely forward," adding that Barchi "was extremely receptive. He wanted our input." And InterFraternity Council President Mark Metzl, a College junior, said Barchi acknowledged the significant student interest in the issue. "It is clear that the provost and president see this as a window of opportunity for students to make effective changes in campus culture and policies," Metzl said. Ultimately, the committee wants to examine ways to combat alcohol abuse -- not alcohol use -- on campus, according to Undergraduate Assembly Vice Chairperson Michael Bassik, a College sophomore. "The policy is not about drinking itself," Bassik said. "It's about excessive drinking and abusive drinking." Though Barchi refused to comment for this article, Director of External Affairs for the provost's office Nancy Nowicki said Barchi and Rodin "were very encouraged by the conversation" at the meeting. She added that "it was healthy, open and candid." According to committee members, Barchi was interested in listening to the student concerns throughout the meeting and will continue to do so as the task force meets regularly over the next few weeks. Several members of the task force agreed that the goal of the meetings is to find a long-term alcohol policy for the University in as timely a fashion as possible. But while Barchi was receptive to the student ideas and comments on alcohol abuse, the committee members noted that he never commented on the student outrage over the lack of consultation that culminated in a rally yesterday afternoon. The rally -- attended by approximately 1,000 students -- protested the administration's lack of consultation with students over the recent decision to ban alcohol at all undergraduate registered parties. "The word 'rally' was never said by the administrators," said Conway, pointing out that administrators did not comment on the protest which had happened just a couple of hours earlier on College Hall's front lawn.
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University President Judith Rodin countered charges that her administration has not sought input on alcohol policy. With hundreds of students expected at a rally today to protest the University's failure to discuss with students the temporary ban on alcohol at registered undergraduate parties before imposing it, University President Judith Rodin defended her administration's actions and said yesterday that "there was a great deal of consultation? over the past two years." In a letter to the University community yesterday, Rodin and Provost Robert Barchi explained that although the administration did not specifically consult the students over the decision announced last Thursday, there have been other initiatives and projects in place giving students a voice in the discussion on alcohol abuse at Penn. "My question in fact is why more students didn't choose to involve themselves seriously at the many occasions in which we asked for consultation and input with regard to these issues," Rodin said in an interview yesterday. Rodin and Barchi listed the various programs and discussions on alcohol abuse held over the past two years that invited student participation, including a special committee which reviewed student alcohol abuse throughout 1998 and student sessions held by Rodin to discuss alcohol use. Rodin stressed that there have been "constant efforts" from the Vice Provost for University Life, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, the Division of Public Safety and the Office of Student Health Education to engage students in consultation about alcohol use and abuse. "I think these conversations yielded some noteworthy results but I have to say that after two years of consultation, we are deeply troubled that they haven't changed sufficiently the culture of our community," Rodin said, adding that it was up to the provost's task force to make this consultative effort different from previous ones. She also stressed that the administration's decision was made as an intentionally temporary one but that she didn't think the University could afford to wait. "We as a community need to take a deep breath and really ask ourselves what we're doing here and whether we're doing it well enough," she said. "If we had developed then a deep and lengthy deliberative process, yet another weekend would have gone by and we didn't know what that weekend would bring." Both Rodin and Barchi noted that the 18-member task force chaired by Barchi to examine alcohol problems on campus is comprised of an apt combination of administrators, faculty members and students. The group meets for the first time today. Barchi, who stressed the importance of student input within the task force, said it would be a valuable part of the upcoming evaluation of alcohol policy, calling it "a venue in which we can make progress by working together with students and faculty." But many students noted that while they value the undergraduate representation on the committee, they still feel slighted by the action taken by the administration throughout the past week. Undergraduate Assembly Vice Chairperson Michael Bassik, a College sophomore, noted that Rodin cannot excuse the exclusion of students from the recent decision by citing the lack of student participation in past alcohol programming and initiatives. "I feel the administration has vastly improved student involvement on committees that do not create University policy," Bassik said, adding that "when it comes to policy formation at Penn, the voice of the students is all too often muffled by the administration." InterFraternity Council President Mark Metzl, a College junior, said he believes the task force will effectively enable the administration and students to discuss the issues surrounding alcohol abuse on campus. But he added that "students would have liked to be part of this decision from the onset." Rodin maintained that student input will be key in the upcoming discussions. She noted that in order to determine effective measures to combat alcohol abuse, students must work "collectively" with the administration. "This has to go hand in hand if there are to be changes that are transformative in terms of how people think about the use of alcohol and their own health and safety," Rodin said. And Barchi asked students not to let the controversy over consultation obscure the true issue. "We have a window of opportunity," he said. "We should not allow [it] to be closed by having concerns deflected for things that are not really on the main track." Several alcohol-related incidents occurred over the weekend following Thursday's announcement to ban alcohol at registered undergraduate parties and strictly enforce the alcohol policy and drinking laws. University Police cited three students for alcohol offenses while several others were stopped by officers investigating possible alcohol-related offenses. The Liquor Control Enforcement bureau cited two students last Thursday but LCE officials said that there were no Penn-affiliated citations over the weekend. One University Police officer said that they were told by their superiors to be less lenient with regards to liquor law violations.
Less than two months after assuming the office of provost, Robert Barchi has been thrust into the limelight as he handles an issue that impacts the entire Penn community -- the efficacy of the University's alcohol policies. Over the past week Barchi has been the voice of the administration -- announcing the temporary ban on alcohol at registered undergraduate parties and the stricter enforcement of existing policies -- while University President Judith Rodin spent last weekend away from campus on a long-planned fundraising trip. Barchi will continue to be a major player in the evaluation of alcohol abuse as chairperson of the newly formed task force examining the University's alcohol policies. And his actions over the remainder of the semester could play a large role in how students view Barchi over the rest of his provostial career. Although he has been the figure speaking with the students, faculty and media, Barchi stressed that he has been in "constant communication" with Rodin and all decisions made were a collective effort. "Nothing that I said was without prior consultation with the president," Barchi said. And Rodin said, "The provost and I speak with one voice." But even though Barchi and Rodin consult on administrative decisions, Barchi will be more directly involved in the development of any new rules or regulations as he discusses the issues with the students and faculty members on the committee. Recommendations from the committee will then be sent to Rodin. And students say that the decisions made by Barchi -- who is still defining his role as the chief academic officer of the University -- and his committee will impact his image on campus. Barchi's success handling the complex issues of alcohol abuse and use at Penn may mark a pivotal point in his administrative career. Though students are aware of the new provost, few know anything about his position on University issues and policies. Student leaders agreed that the results of the task force meetings are important to both the University community and the students' relationship with the provost. Tangible Change Committee Chairperson Samara Barend, a College senior, said students will judge Barchi and his administrative attitudes after hearing the results of the alcohol policy committee discussions. "His true judgment call will be in a few weeks when the decisions of the committee are rendered," Barend noted. Despite student discontent over recent administrative actions, Barchi said he wants students to understand that he wants to work both for them and with them. He added that he is optimistic he can ultimately create stronger ties with the undergraduates as he works with them to evaluate alcohol policies. "I certainly hope that the students appreciate my level of concern for their well-being and the intention that both the president and I have in taking the actions that we've taken," Barchi said. But Barchi should not lose sight of the lessons of his predecessor: In 1994, then-Provost Stanley Chodorow made a controversial remark just three months into his tenure that colored the rest of his 3 1/2-year term. "The problem with student participation is that many of them don't have much time," Chodorow said at the time on whether students should have input over undergraduate education issues. "It's not as if students are the most organized people in the world." Students remembered that off-the-cuff remark, and Chodorow failed to ever earn the trust of the undergraduate population. Indeed, InterFraternity Council Executive Vice President and Daily Pennsylvanian columnist Andrew Exum said that the recent administrative decisions have begun to breed "a growing mistrust between students and administration in general." The College junior added that "whether the [mistrust] will carry to Barchi is unclear, but it is definitely something I would worry about if I were in his position."
Officials are temporarily prohibiting undergraduate parties from serving alcohol and plan to strictly enforce policies. Officials are temporarily prohibiting undergraduate parties from serving alcohol and plan to strictly enforce policies.The suspension will remain in effect while officials and students enter discussions. Four days following the alcohol-related death of a Penn alumnus at a closed fraternity event, the University announced that it is suspending indefinitely the policy allowing alcohol to be served at registered undergraduate parties. Penn President Judith Rodin and Provost Robert Barchi released the policy in an open letter along with several other measures designed to crack down on alcohol abuse. The other steps announced by officials include the cancellation of the post-Spring Fling block party on Sansom Street; increased police enforcement at Fling and Skimmer; a request for the cooperation of area bars, restaurants and alcohol suppliers regarding Penn's alcohol policies; and a promise to sanction those who breach the alcohol and drug regulations. The steps put into place yesterday prohibit any registered undergraduate party -- including on- and off-campus fraternity parties, downtown sorority parties, senior class screamers and any other registered function held at bars or restaurants that serve alcohol -- from serving alcohol, effective immediately. Officials said the suspension will be in effect while administrators consult with students in an effort to develop effective means of combatting alcohol abuse. Student leaders and top Penn officials will begin meeting to discuss possible options as early as today. Barchi said the involvement of students -- including members of the Undergraduate Assembly and Greek umbrella organizations -- will be key to discussions. He added that the overall effectiveness of any policy depends on student attitudes toward alcohol abuse rather than on rules and regulations. Barchi noted that the immediate administrative goal is not to create a new alcohol policy but instead to ensure that the existing policy is being effectively enforced. "Clearly the rules, as they are being interpreted now, aren't doing the job," Barchi said. In the future, Barchi noted, students will be aware that Penn is "a community committed to having no tolerance of alcohol abuse on campus." And he stressed that the University's steps "are not intended to be punitive" against the Greek system. Drug and Alcohol Resource Team Advisor Kate Ward-Gaus described the alcohol ban as a "heavy-duty external control" by the administration against student alcohol abuse but added that in light of recent events, the University had to take action. "A death is a big deal," Ward-Gaus said. Michael Tobin, a FIJI brother who graduated in 1994, was found dead early Sunday morning at the bottom of an outdoor stairwell behind the FIJI house. Police say Tobin had a blood alcohol content of at least .20 -- twice the legal limit -- at the time of his death. Last weekend also saw the hospitalization of a female freshman for an alcohol-related illness and state police raids of two downtown sorority parties hosted by Chi Omega and Pi Beta Phi. "We cannot allow alcohol abuse to threaten the life and health of our students, our friends and our colleagues," Barchi said, adding that administrative action must be taken because "we cannot tolerate alcohol abuse in our community." In addition to the suspension of alcohol-serving privileges at all registered undergraduate parties, administrators said they are increasing safety and security measures in an effort to prevent alcohol-related incidents at Skimmer on April 10 and Spring Fling on April 16 and 17. The administration's letter noted that the University will support the presence of the Penn Division of Public Safety and state Liquor Control Enforcement agents at Fling, as well as the Philadelphia Police at Skimmer. Officials also declared that they will notify local bars, restaurants and alcohol suppliers about the University's alcohol and drug policy -- which prohibits the possession or consumption of alcohol by minors and the selling of alcohol to minors on University property or at a University event -- and seek their cooperation in enforcing it. Alcohol policy offenders can face both state and University sanctions. University sanctions range from mandatory educational programs to expulsion from school, while state sanctions include fines and the suspension of driving privileges. Barchi said that as the administration evaluates the alcohol policy, it will also review the recommendations made last fall by a special committee charged by Rodin to evaluate binge drinking at Penn. While University administrators have adopted several initiatives like the creation of more alcohol education and non-alcoholic social programming to combat alcohol abuse, they have not yet hired the recommended alcohol programming coordinator to oversee Penn's academic, disciplinary and medical responses to students with drinking problems. Additionally, officials have not implemented an initiative to notify parents about alcohol-related incidents, but Barchi said that a committee reviewing the recommendation -- chaired by College of Arts and Sciences Dean Richard Beeman -- will "accelerate" its efforts to reach a decision. Beeman said he has promised to present recommendations on the parental notification issue to the provost by the end of the academic year. Barchi stressed that the administration would actively look at the committee's recommendations to move more aggressively in fulfilling them. "We will be more active on following these steps," he noted.
Moody's Investor Service announced yesterday that it would downgrade $350 million in outstanding University debt because of the Penn Health System's ongoing financial difficulties. The move dropped the debt's rating -- a measure of the likelihood that a bond issue will be repaid in a timely fashion -- from Aa2 to Aa3, and maintained a negative outlook on the debt, indicating Moody's belief that further downgrades may be made in the future. A lower bond rating makes it harder for an institution to raise capital by signaling an increased risk to investors. Higher interest rates result, also making it more expensive for the institution to pay back the money it borrows. While an Aa3 rating remains "high grade," a reflection of Penn's overall financial stability, Moody's --Ea New York-based bond-rating firm -- said its action reflected growing concern about the impact of the Health System's recent budget deficit on the University as a whole. "Moody's believes that pressures on the University's clinical enterprise are likely to result in strains on the University's overall operating performance at least for the next several years," the rating service said in a press release. The move came despite Penn's overall fiscal health, Moody's said, citing strong demand among prospective students and a growing endowment. University Vice President for Finance Kathy Engebretson emphasized the same point, noting that "the only reason" for the downgrade in the debt rating is Health System's continued financial difficulties. She noted that the Health System -- which encompasses over 50 percent of the University's revenue base -- is currently working in "arguably the most competitive" healthcare market in the country. "Moody's has a negative outlook on every health system in Philadelphia," Engebretson said. The current financial difficulties at area health systems stem from the complicated nature of Philadelphia's healthcare market. Two insurers control 80 percent of the market, allowing them to dictate levels of payment to area hospitals. Recent cutbacks in Medicare and Medicaid have also placed area systems under severe financial pressure. As a result of these and other pressures, the Health System ran up a nearly $90 million operating deficit for Fiscal Year 1998. And according to Moody's, over the next several years the Health System is "likely to achieve at best break even operations, and possibly moderate operating losses." But Health System officials continue to maintain that they will return to profitability by fiscal year 2000. And Engebretson said that despite Moody's unfavorable evaluation, the goal may still be achieved. "In [Health System Chief Executive Officer William] Kelley's 10-year history, he has never exceeded his budget," she said, adding that she has "confidence in the management of the [Health System]." In addition to the Pennsylvania Hospital and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, the $2 billion Health System includes the Presbyterian Hospital at 39th and Market streets and the Phoenixville Hospital in Phoenixville, Pa. The system, which employs 18,000 people,Eis also affiliated with 12 other hospitals and controls 20 percent of the Philadelphia health care market. Despite the challenges faced by the Health System, the University continues to grow stronger financially with increases in applications and growth in research awards. Moody's predicted that "academic operations will remain strong due to ongoing growth in tuition and gift revenues, favorable expense management and close integration of the University's operating and capital projects with its long term plan." The downgrade specifically affected $350 million in debt issued through the Pennsylvania Higher Education Facilities Authority. Last summer, Moody's downgraded the status of the Health System's own bonds from Aa3 to A1 in the midst of a regional crisis in the healthcare market heralded by the bankruptcy of the Allegheny Health System, one of Penn's main competitors.
Six months after a University-wide task force released a report outlining recommendations to combat binge drinking at Penn, recent events have led the campus to once again focus its attention toward alcohol abuse.
Including room and board, the total price tag for Penn will go up 3.7 percent next year, the lowest increase in 31 years. The University Board of Trustees approved a 3.7 percent increase in total student charges for the upcoming academic year yesterday -- meaning that at $31,592, Penn will offer the Ivy League's least expensive education. The cost increases at Penn fall well within the range of increases among its peer institutions and is the University's smallest in 31 years. At an Executive Committee meeting yesterday, the Trustees approved a 4.2 percent increase in undergraduate tuition, raising rates from $23,524 to $24,230. Additionally, room and board costs will increase 2.2 percent, from $7,206 to $7,362. "This maintains our commitment to limit the rate of increase for both tuition and total charges for our undergraduates at Penn," University President Judith Rodin said. Across the Ivy League, undergraduate charge increases range from a 2.9 percent increase at Yale University to a 4 percent increase at Cornell University. Columbia University is the only Ivy that has not announced next year's charges. Rodin noted that the 3.7 percent increase in total charges -- slightly lower than last year's 3.9 percent increase -- reflects Penn's desire to increase student costs at the lowest possible rate. Although the 3.7 percent increase is higher than the current 1.6 percent inflation rate, officials explained that the increases relate directly to the rise in operating costs at the University. Budget Director Mike Masch explained that "as the campus becomes bigger and more complex, the operating costs of running it goes up." Additionally, Executive Vice President John Fry said the University is "focused on trying to keep [tuition] increases at a minimum amount." He added that the administration must budget carefully due to the many financial demands of the institution. "There's a huge amount of pressure on the University to be as cost-effective as possible," Fry said. Masch explained that tuition and fees make up 69 percent of Penn's "core academic budget," which funds academic planning and programming such as ongoing capital projects, technology development and faculty recruiting and retention. Tuition revenue is an important source of funding for the University because Penn does not annually spend a large proportion of its $3.04 billion endowment. "We spend out of endowment at a justifiable rate based on long term trends," said Masch. Over the past year, several of Penn's peer institutions have increased endowment contributions toward their operating budgets, benefitting programs such as undergraduate financial aid. But Penn, with the lowest endowment in the Ivy League on a per student basis, has not taken similar steps. "For any student that meets admission requirements, we will offer a financial aid package that will make it possible to attend here," Masch said. Though the cost continues to increase, students noted that a Penn education is a valuable asset for the future. "The reason my parents pay the money they do is because they believe it is an investment," Wharton freshman Amin Nafeez said.
At an Executive Committee meeting today, members of the University Board of Trustees will vote on tuition, room and board rates for the upcoming academic year. Trustee meetings of the Investment Board, Budget and Finance and Executive committees will be held today in the Steinberg Conference Center at 38th and Spruce streets. The Trustees will discuss other University policies and financial initiatives as well, but the major issue up for approval today remains the announcement of the 1999-2000 tuition rate. Last year's tuition increase of 4.5 percent was the lowest in over 30 years. Budget Director Mike Masch said he cannot reveal the proposed increases until today's meeting, at which point he will give a detailed presentation of the tuition proposals. "[The presentation] lays out tuition in comparison with peer institutions," University Secretary Rosemary McManus explained. Several Ivy League schools have already announced their upcoming tuition rates. Harvard, Princeton and Brown universities all announced the lowest tuition and fee increases in 30 years. Harvard raised tuition by 3.3 percent, Princeton by 3.5 percent and Brown by 3.9 percent. McManus said the Executive Committee will vote on several other resolutions today in addition to tuition increases. Resolutions up for approval include the authorization of the upcoming Quadrangle renovations and the acquisition and remediation of the Civic Center for the construction of a state-of-the-art cancer center. Additionally, the Trustees will vote on a resolution regarding the planned construction of a baseball stadium on Murphy Field and the proposed renovation of Bower Field to improve the state of recreation space for athletic teams. Along with the approximately 25 Trustees in attendance, University President Judith Rodin, Provost Robert Barchi, Executive Vice President John Fry and Medical School Dean Michael Kelley will be present to discuss the resolutions. The next full meeting of the University Board of Trustees will be held June 17 and 18.
Rubin has served in President Clinton's cabinet for the last four years. He will receive an honorary degree after his address. U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin will address graduates of the University's 12 schools during Penn's 243rd Commencement exercises, University officials announced yesterday. Rubin -- who was sworn in as the 70th Treasury secretary on January 10, 1995 -- serves as the United States' chief financial officer, overseeing domestic and international financial, economic and tax policy. Following his Commencement speech on May 17 at Franklin Field, Rubin, 60, will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. University President Judith Rodin said the University is honored to have Rubin speak at Commencement. "Secretary Rubin has been one of the most active and productive Treasury secretaries in our country's history," Rodin said. She added that Rubin "has redefined the role of the [Secretary of the Treasury] post, effectively blending economics and diplomacy to effect change in world markets." Before becoming Secretary of the Treasury in 1995, Rubin served in the White House as the assistant to the president for economic policy between 1993 and 1995. In this role he directed the National Economic Council, which oversees domestic and international policymaking processes. Prior to joining the Clinton administration, Rubin spent 26 years at Goldman Sachs and Co. in New York City. He served as co-senior partner and co-chairperson of that firm from 1990 to 1992. Rubin's past activities have also included membership on numerous economic boards and committees, including the Board of Directors for the New York Stock Exchange and the President's Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations. Rubin received a bachelor's degree and graduated summa cum laude form Harvard University in 1960, a law degree from Yale Law School in 1964 and attended the London School of Economics. Finance Professor Jeremy Siegel said that Rubin was an "excellent choice" for speaker. "He's in the middle of what's going on in the rest of the world," noted Siegel, adding that "he's very prestigious." This is the second year that the University has obtained a prominent political speaker for Commencement, following last year's address by former President Jimmy Carter. Senior Class President Sarah Gleit -- a member of the advisory committee that conducts the search for a speaker -- said she was thrilled to have an "accomplished, exemplary figure" speaking at this year's Commencement. "We expect he'll be inspiring," the College senior said, adding that Rubin is a "leader in the financial world and the political world." Fellow committee member and United Minorities Council Chairperson Chaz Howard agreed that Rubin would be a good speaker but noted that the financial expert might not be a top choice of many students. "I think it would have been nice to have someone who could appeal to everyone," the College junior said. But he added, "I'm sure the speech will be applicable [to all the students]." Commencement speakers in previous years have included figures from a broad range of occupations, spanning the political spectrum and the entertainment industry. Bill Cosby spoke at Commencement in 1997, broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw gave the address in 1996 and former National Endowment for the Arts Chairperson Jane Alexander appeared in 1995.
As part of an ongoing effort to identify the professional concerns of Penn employees, University President Judith Rodin yesterday conducted the sixth in a series of seven meetings designed to evaluate employee interests. At the meeting in College Hall, Rodin stressed that she is sensitive to the needs of the professional staff while voicing her gratitude to the approximately 100 employees in attendance for their hard work. "It's hard to be in an environment where each of us feel sufficiently appreciated all the time," Rodin noted. She explained that she chose to hold meetings with the managerial staff "because these are people who themselves supervise," adding that hopefully the positive communication at the meetings will have a "ripple effect" among all staff members. Over the past year and a half, Rodin, Executive Vice President John Fry and Managing Director of the Center for Professional Development Annie McKee have examined the professional development and organization at Penn, hoping to create a more personal environment for employees with increased interaction between faculty, administrators and staff. Through these efforts, the officials invited around 1,200 people in high management positions to the seven meetings to discuss University issues. Director of Law School Media Services Gates Rhodes said that the meeting yesterday injected him with the drive to work. "Overall I'm going back to my office with new energy," he said. Other employees reacted positively to Rodin's efforts as well, saying that they enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the University's goals. Regional Director of Undergraduate Admissions Gwynne Lynch said that "it was nice to hear straight from Dr. Rodin what she saw as University-wide challenges and priorities." Rodin opened the meeting with a brief description of University priorities and outlined the major goals of her Agenda for Excellence. After discussing the many pressures the University currently faces -- such as increasing the roughly $3.04 billion endowment to assist programs like undergraduate financial aid -- Rodin opened up the floor for questions from the audience. Employees posed questions and offered comments focusing on the success of community outreach efforts, staff and faculty retention, communication between the administration and staff and the status of research funding at the University. The employees said they appreciated the opportunity to meet with the president and voice their concerns. Associate Director of the Center for Community Partnerships Winnie Smart-Mapp said that "staff are more compelled to talk about issues" in such a setting. Upon completion of all the meetings, Rodin, Fry and McKee will try to target the "big themes" brought up by the staff, said McKee, adding that the officials will report back to staff on their progress.
Wharton School alumnus and noted financier Ronald Perelman -- who donated $20 million to Penn in 1995 to create the Perelman Quadrangle -- was elected a Charter Trustee February 19, officially making him a member of the University Board of Trustees until the age of 70. Worth a cool $6.2 billion, Perelman, a long-time University trustee, is the chairperson and chief executive officer of MacAndrews and Forbes Holdings Inc., whose extensive portfolio includes Revlon and First Nationwide Bank. The company is ranked as one of the richest in Forbes magazine's private 500 list, and Perelman himself has been ranked as high as fourth on the magazine's annual ranking of the 400 wealthiest Americans. But recent national media attention directed at the longtime donor since the end of last year has focused not on his relationship with Penn, but instead on his acrimonious divorce and child custody battles, lavish weddings and forays into politics. The billionaire's bitter child custody and child support battles with his ex-wife, Patricia Duff, have received intense media coverage in New York City since December. And aside from his current legal difficulties, Perelman has also played a role in the recent scandal in the White House. Washington lawyer and presidential friend Vernon Jordan called Perelman last January in an effort to land former White House intern Monica Lewinsky a job at Revlon. But despite his unflattering portrayal in the media, University officials say his personal life is unrelated to his achievements and generous donations to Penn. University President Judith Rodin praised Perelman's dedication to his alma mater, noting that he "has made a number of substantial contributions and is deeply committed to Penn." In his new role as a University Charter Trustee, Perelman, 55, will become one of the 10 members of the board accorded the special recognition, and will serve until the age of 70. According to Trustees Chairperson Roy Vagelos, who heads the Trustees nominating committee, Perelman was the only choice put forward by the committee to receive the honor. "[Charter Trustees] are the people who have made significant contributions to the University," said Vagelos, who cited Perelman's "critical" aid to the Perelman Quad project as a major reason for its evolution. Vagelos noted that the Trustees tried to keep "personal things" out of their appointment decisions and added that the press' attention toward Perelman's legal battles "certainly does not diminish his standing as a Trustee." Perelman, who received a bachelor's degree from Wharton in 1964 and an MBA two years later, noted that "to be designated a charter Trustee is a great honor because it allows me to remain an active participant in the life of this great, vital institution." For the past several months Perelman has been at the center of highly publicized legal battles with Duff, arguing over custody of their 4-year-old daughter and how many millions the megamogul must pay in support. Duff has demanded increased support on top of the $30 million divorce settlement and $1.5 million yearly alimony she received after the divorce in 1996. Over the course of the case, details have emerged about Perelman's extravagant lifestyle, which includes a Manhattan townhouse, a 60-acre East Hampton estate and a mansion in Palm Beach, Fla. Perelman often travels from one luxury home to the next by way of his private jets and yachts. Jim Conroy, the senior vice president and special counsel at MacAndrews and Forbes, said, "Mr Perelman's relationship with Penn is one of very long standing and the current litigation has nothing to do with his activities at Penn." Perelman's $20 million donation to Penn is being used to fund renovations in the Perelman Quadrangle -- consisting of Irvine Auditorium and Logan, Williams, Houston and College halls -- which will house student organizations, classrooms, administrative offices and several food service locations. The $82.5 million project will be complete in time for the graduation of the Class of 2000, according to University officials.
Filling a 10-month void, University officials have hired former National Basketball Association executive Leroy Nunery to assume the position of vice president for Business Services. The position has been vacant since Steve Murray, who had held the post since 1992, died of cancer last April. Associate Vice President for Business Services Marie Witt has served in an interim basis for the past year. Nunery, 43, will begin work on March 15, bringing to the post several years of administrative experience. Nunery comes to Penn from the Chicago-based NationsBank Montgomery Securities LLC, where he has served as managing director since 1997. Prior to that, he served as a vice president of the NBA, overseeing the league's business development operations, and as a top official in several departments of the Swiss Bank Corp. Nunery also previously served alongside Penn Executive Vice President John Fry on the board of trustees of Lafayette College, both of their alma maters. With Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum, Nunery will be one of the two highest-ranking African-American administrators at the University. Nunery said the campus atmosphere -- familiar to him through his work at Lafayette -- attracted him to the University. "Every time I step on campus I get charged up," Nunery said, adding that he will focus on providing "top-notch service" for his student clientele. The vice president for business services oversees the University's business ventures, including the University Bookstore, Dining Services, telecommunications and Penntrex. University President Judith Rodin said Nunery was the top choice for the job. She said he is a good appointment because he has "extraordinary business experience and excellent judgment and understands higher education from his role at Lafayette." The search for a new vice president -- which began last summer -- was spearheaded by Fry, who worked with the executive search firm Korn/Ferry International to compile a list of candidates. Fry, whose term as a Lafayette trustee intersected with Nunery's for five years, said he personally "handpicked" Nunery as a candidate. Fry explained that Nunery's combined business, financial and communication skills made him an obvious choice for the job. "He has a lot of background in human resources," Fry said, adding that Nunery also has "extremely strong financial skills." But Nunery does not plan to stick to his desk. He says he wants to reach out and work with the the West Philadelphia community. "I've never been shy about that. I've always been involved with the community," he said, adding that Philadelphia is an exciting city this year because of the upcoming mayoral elections. Nunery received his bachelor's degree in history from Lafayette College and his MBA from Washington University in St. Louis. He is also a past national president of the National Black MBA Association.
University administrators and faculty members convened at the University Museum's Harrison Auditorium yesterday to celebrate the life and legacy of former University Trustee and judge Leon Higginbotham. Higginbotham died December 14 at the age of 70. He would have been 71 today. A renowned jurist, Higginbotham served as judge, chief judge and senior judge on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Philadelphia, from 1977 to 1993. His tenure as a University Trustee began in 1968. Higginbotham was also an adjunct member of the Sociology Department faculty and a senior lecturer in the Law School. "Judge Higginbotham was one of the great minds of our time and we have been diminished by his loss," University President Judith Rodin said. Approximately 350 people attended the memorial service yesterday afternoon, where Higginbotham's colleagues and friends provided readings and remarks and the local Evelyn Graves Ministries Choir sang hymns, according to University spokesperson Ken Wildes. Speakers at the service included Rodin, Philadelphia Mayor Edward Rendell, United Negro College Fund President William Gray, Chief Judge Edward Becker of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and Penn Law School Dean Colin Diver. Sociology Professor Renee Fox said Higginbotham "touched everybody intellectually and morally." "[Students] were touched by his brilliance and his message," she added. In addition to his legal work and teaching, Higginbotham was a champion for civil rights and affirmative action. He wrote two influential books on race and the American legal process, In the Matter of Color and Shades of Freedom. He received the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1995 for his contributions to society. University Board of Trustees Chairperson Roy Vagelos said that Higginbotham was "one of the great people of the [United States] and one of the great citizens at Penn." Vagelos noted that Higginbotham chaired several Trustee committees, taught classes at Penn and was a strong supporter of affirmative action programs. His death marks a "tremendous loss," Vagelos said. A graduate of Antioch College and Yale Law School, Higginbotham received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University in 1975. At the time of his death, he was head of the United States Commission on Civil Rights and a Jurisprudence professor at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Penn's methods for investing its $3 billion endowment have kept the University from capitalizing on big gains in stocks. The market value of the University's total endowment dropped by $20 million over the first half of Fiscal Year 1999 -- dating from June 30, 1998, to December 31, 1998 -- due to consistently underperforming investments, Penn officials said. The losses -- reducing the value of the endowment only slightly from $3.06 billion to $3.04 billion -- are primarily the result of investments which Penn officials say are not performing at the same level as the overall market. The endowment, though, recovered from a drop of 10 percent -- or $300 million -- last summer, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell nearly 20 percent in a six-week period. Penn's domestic stock holdings increased 1.3 percent during the first six months of the current fiscal year, while the average national increase was 9.2 percent. Vice President for Finance Kathy Engebretson acknowledged that University investments "have lagged behind the general market." University officials attribute the weak performance of Penn's investments to prudent investment plans, which they say will prove beneficial for the University in the long run. Engebretson explained that Penn uses a "value approach" to investments -- a managing style that buys undervalued stocks at low prices, knowing that those stocks may take time to mature. This cautious investment approach prevents the University from capitalizing on currently hot Internet stocks, such as Yahoo!, America Online and eBay, which are benefitting other stock portfolios. However, it also prevents the University from investing in potentially risky stocks. The University's particular stock holdings, however, remain unknown. Penn began using external managers to oversee stock investments when University Trustee John Neff stepped down as chairperson of the Trustees' Investment Board last spring, and it has since instituted a new policy of refusing to disclose the University's stock holdings. Engebretson said it was unlikely that the Trustees would change the current "value approach" to investment policies, adding that the recent drop is "not surprising" and that "markets go up and down." And while the endowment has dropped slightly over the past six months, it has almost tripled in recent years. In 1993 the endowment stood at approximately $1.1 billion. Currently the endowment ranks 12th among universities and colleges nationwide -- larger than Cornell and Brown universities and Dartmouth College, but far smaller than Harvard's $13 billion endowment and Princeton's $5.6 billion. But Engebretson noted that comparisons between schools with different student endowment ratios can be unreliable, especially since Penn has more students to spend money on than do some of the other Ivies. Nationally, Penn ranks only 65th in the size of its endowment per student. As of June 30, the University invested 42 percent of the Associated Investment Fund -- the main portion of the endowment -- in domestic stocks, 10 percent in international stocks and 5 percent in stocks from emerging markets. According to Engebretson, one cause for the endowment drop was the investment losses in both emerging market stocks and international market stocks. The University experienced a 10.9 percent loss in emerging market equities -- from developing areas in Asia, South America and Russia which experienced severe economic downturns in the past year -- while the average loss was a smaller 8 percent. And Penn's international stocks decreased 1 percent, against an average national increase of 3.5 percent.
The University Board of Trustees discussed Penn's continuing academic and financial progress at its stated meeting Friday in the Faculty Club. Concluding the third day of the Trustees' tri-annual meetings, the stated meeting provided a forum for University officials and the 55 Trustees in attendance to report on Penn's initiatives and strategic planning. In her opening remarks, University President Judith Rodin formally introduced Provost Robert Barchi, who took office February 1. Rodin noted that Barchi "joins a long line of extraordinary academic leaders in the role of provost." She then spoke about early admissions for the Class of 2003 -- noting that applications are "once again at an all-time high" and that the diverse applicant pool has a "record number of minorities." Rodin also talked about the newly created Humanities Forum, adding that it will "serve as a pillar of our intellectual community." Finally, Rodin announced that the University has appointed Leroy Nunery as Penn's new vice president for business services. That post was held for six years by Steve Murray, until he died of cancer last April. Associate Vice President for Business Services Marie Witt has served in the position on an interim basis since that time. Nunery, who has been a managing director of Nations Bank Montgomery Securities since 1997 and previously served as the vice president of the National Basketball Association, will assume the position on March 15. Following Rodin's opening remarks, Barchi spoke to the Trustees briefly about his goals to enhance the academic advantages of Penn and to "reaffirm the office of provost as chief academic officer of the University." Executive Vice President John Fry then reviewed the current state of the University's finances. Fry explained that the net assets of the University since the beginning of fiscal year 1999 have increased by $80.9 million. This increase, however, is offset by a net loss on investments by $31.9 million this year. After the University administrators gave their reports, the nine chairpersons of Trustee committees reported on the discussions within the individual committee meetings. The Facilities and Campus Planning Committee focused on the ongoing campus development and retail projects on campus, citing the upcoming construction of the Sundance Cinemas on 40th Street in April. The Academic Policy and Student Life committees both praised several student projects, including undergraduate research programs and community service initiatives. Before the close of the meeting, the Trustees approved several appointments. Ronald Perelman was appointed to the position of Charter Trustee and Trustee Marjorie Rendell -- a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and wife of Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell -- was named to the Nursing School's Board of Overseers.
The Academic Policy and Student Life committees met on the second day of the Trustees' winter meetings. During the second day of the University Trustees' winter meetings, the 55 Trustees attending the conference met in small committees to discuss University initiatives and strategic planning. The Penn undergraduate experience is the theme of the tri-annual session and was the primary focus of yesterday's meetings of the Academic Policy and Student Life committees. Provost Robert Barchi chaired the Academic Policy Committee meeting at the Faculty Club yesterday morning. He told the 10 Trustees and the several students and faculty members in attendance that he wanted to talk about one of the strengths of the University -- undergraduate research opportunities Barchi -- who cited the topic as one of the four goals of his provostship, which officially began on February 1 -- said that he wanted to "focus on how we expand and enrich the academic experience with very strong research programs at Penn." After describing the grants and programs opportunities for research-oriented undergraduates -- such as the Undergraduate Research Resource Center and the diverse living-learning programs -- Barchi turned the meeting over to three students, who described their individual research experiences. The different projects included studying classical manuscripts and working in specialized genetic engineering labs with the help of Penn professors and resources. Engineering and Wharton senior Eugene Huang talked about how he helped design a futuristic television remote control. Under the guidance of Computer and Information Science Professor David Farber, Huang and 1998 Engineering and Wharton graduate Peter Daley designed the first software-controlled remote for his senior Engineering design project. Huang demonstrated the remote, which serves as a computerized TV Guide, filtering and organizing channel listings. Patents on the device were filed last September and the product should be on the market in two years. The Trustees raved over the student achievements. "When I was a student I don't know if these [opportunities] existed," Trustee Judy Berkowitz said. "It makes the educational experience so enriched." The Student Life Committee met at Civic House -- which opened last fall as the University's community service hub -- to listen to students and faculty describe the community service projects underway on campus. Civic House Faculty Chairperson Peter Conn told the committee that the mission of Civic House is to "nurture a culture of service." He stressed the hard work that the students do for the community and the program. "I have never worked with a more interested and interesting, dedicated and tenaciously idealistic group of students," the English professor noted. Students discussed their service experiences, which included tutoring programs with local schools and political campaigning, with the Trustees. The four students on the Civic House Steering Committee stressed that without the physical facilities of the house, their work would be impossible. "What's accomplished here on a day-to-day basis is amazing," said Civic House Treasurer and College junior Joshua Fink. The three-day winter meeting concludes today with meetings of the Budget and Finance Committee and a session with all of the Trustees to pass resolutions on University issues and faculty appointments.
The card sports a picture of Benjamin Franklin, offers an introductory rate of 5.9 percent on purchases and cash advances and charges no annual fee. And you might have recently received a letter about it in your mailbox. At the start of the semester, University officials sent out a promotional letter -- co-signed by Interim Vice President for Business Services Marie Witt and Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum -- encouraging students, faculty and alumni to purchase the "Penn Visa" card, a project which is helping fund University programming with its substantial profits. As of now there are around 12,000 carriers of Penn Visa -- the only credit card endorsed by the University -- and 4,000 of them are current students. Penn Visa is issued by the MBNA America Bank -- a national bank based in Wilmington, Del. -- in the fall of 1997 through the combined efforts of three University departments: Business Services, the Office of Development and Alumni Relations and the Office of the Vice Provost for University Life. Upon creation of the partnership in 1997, Penn received $4 million from MBNA and continues to take in approximately $200,000 annually from the program. The initial revenue from MBNA was used to fund the University's ongoing lighting project -- an attempt to improve campus safety through increased lighting in Hamilton Village, on Locust Walk and along smaller pathways on campus, according to Vice President for Facilities Services Omar Blaik. The $200,000 annual fee that the University receives from MBNA also goes to other programs that directly benefit students and alumni. The funding is divided between the Office of Development and Alumni Relations and the PennCard Center, according to Laurie Cousart, director of telecommunications and campus card services. Alumni Relations uses the funding to sponsor reunions and regional alumni events, said Director of Alumni Relations and Development Virginia Clark. When alumni invest in the Penn Visa, they reap the benefits of increased alumni programming, Clark said. Other fractions of the revenue are used toward the operating budget at the PennCard Center, according to Joy Williams, manager of campus card services. Cousart said one of the reasons the University decided to create the Penn Visa was because it could have "editorial control over all the marketing," which includes an annual mailing to encourage purchasing the card, a couple of telemarketing campaigns and promotions on Locust Walk. Frank explained that marketing the cards is successful because the prospective buyers are likely to be loyal to their institution and interested in supporting the project. MBNA has programs with approximately 500 universities and colleges in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland, including Penn State University and Georgetown University, according to Peter Frank, MBNA director of media relations.
University President Judith Rodin talked with students and watched TV in two college houses last night. After a full day at College Hall, University President Judith Rodin spent some time hanging around the dorm -- attending a discussion group at Kings Court/English College House and watching Dawson's Creek with students at Stouffer College House. As part of her ongoing plan to spend time with students from all 12 college houses, Rodin participated in an informal current affairs discussion group called "Headlines" at KC/EH from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The topic of the discussion focused on body image and eating disorders -- which are areas the president has researched and studied extensively throughout her academic career. College sophomore Kristen La Mont said that she was happy to talk to "such an authority on eating disorders." "I think that it's important that she meets with small groups of students," La Mont added. After the discussion, KC/EH House Dean Krimo Bokreta and several students gave Rodin a brief tour of the second floor of English House. "It's just so much fun to be able to come and see students where they live," said Rodin, adding that she enjoyed being able to "pop into people's rooms." Second on the agenda for the president was a trip to Stouffer, where she sat sucking on a lollipop, surrounded by students watching the popular teen television show Dawson's Creek in Faculty Master Philip Nichols' living room. Students said that the informal setting made them comfortable interacting with Rodin. "This is definitely an element where we really are ourselves," College sophomore Carrie Rieger said. Rodin admitted she was a "novice" at watching the show. But she noted that, "If this is what it's like to be in high school, I shudder to think what my 11th grader is doing." Stouffer House Dean Anne Mickle said the event was a valuable opportunity for students to spend time with the president. "For many students this will be the first, if not only, opportunity to see [the president] close up," she noted. After the show ended, the president chatted casually with students over coffee and dessert. The highlight of that discussion was Penn's stunning 50-49 loss to Princeton at yesterday's men's basketball game. Stouffer graduate associate and fourth-year Medical student Ramin Ipakchi said he thought the event was "a good idea, symbolic of people higher up spending time with people they usually don't have contact with." Last semester, Rodin made similar visits to Hill, Hamilton, Harrison, Harnwell, Gregory and DuBois college houses. Sue Smith, a spokesperson for the college house system, said the visits have been "tremendously interesting and fun." The president plans to visit all 12 of the college houses by the end of the semester, according to Jennifer Baldino, the director of external affairs for the president's office. The only residences she has left to tour are the four houses in the Quadrangle.
For the second time in four months, a Council session was cancelled. For just the third time since 1993 -- and the second time within the last four months -- officials have cancelled a University Council meeting due to an insufficient agenda. This month's meeting -- originally scheduled for Wednesday -- will not be held due to a lack of "issues ready for discussion," according to Faculty Senate Chairperson John Keene, University Council's steering committee chairperson. The November Council meeting was canceled for similar reasons. Keene, a City and Regional Planning professor, said that two cancellations in a four-month period "has been unusual" but also that "[this] February has been a slow period." And Council member Vivian Seltzer reaffirmed Keene's assertion, adding that "we certainly have not had something like this happen in the past few years." But the Social Work professor and former chairperson of the Faculty Senate explained that the Council committees -- which prepare reports to Council on a number of University issues -- sometimes have difficulty finishing their reports in time for the scheduled Council meetings due to personal time constraints. "All the people on the committees are very busy and they are all volunteers," said Seltzer, who added that preparing the reports takes "a ton of work." While there are currently 12 Council committees charged with examining University issues, none have had enough time to prepare presentations for Council, Keene added. Undergraduate Assembly Chairperson Bill Conway attributed the cancellations to a shortened agenda. "If there's nothing on the agenda, there's nothing on the agenda," the Wharton junior said. "[Council] took care of a lot at the last meeting." At its January 27 meeting, Council passed three resolutions relating to consultation policies between the faculty and administrators, closed-circuit television monitoring and the University's charitable giving program. After "the very successful meeting in January," Keene said that the Council had "cleared the table of pending issues" and the Steering Committee voted to cancel this month's meeting. And Conway said, "After we were done deciding what to put on the agenda, there wasn't enough for the meeting." But one of Council's Graduate and Professional Student Assembly representatives, Kenneth Kolaczyk, noted that the cancellation of the two meetings deprives students of the chance to discuss issues with University officials. "[The cancellation] denies a forum for students to express their concerns," the second-year Fels Center of Government student said. At the next meeting, scheduled for March 24, University President Judith Rodin will report to Council on budgetary issues, Keene said. The University Council, composed of about 92 Penn faculty, staff and students, meets monthly to advise the president and provost about issues that affect the University.
Universities across the country may soon see changes in how financial aid is calculated, as the College Board is considering modifying its institutional methodology -- the formula used to determine student financial need. College Board spokesperson Jack Joyce said that an advisory committee is reviewing the current formula used by the College Board's financial aid division to assess student need. The group has developed several modifications which will primarily benefit middle-class families, he added. Hundreds of institutions -- including Harvard, Yale and Princeton universities -- currently use information collected by the College Board's financial aid division to evaluate student need. Those schools will be directly affected by the changes. Penn, however, does not currently use the College Board's formula to establish the amount of student need and will not directly be affected by the possible changes. Instead, Penn's Student Financial Services has its "own institutional methodology" to evaluate student need, according to SFS Director William Schilling. Schilling explained that if the College Board's institutional methodology changes are implemented, Penn will review its own formula and decide if it needs to make similar changes. "[Changes are] not imminent," Schilling said, noting that the possible changes in the College Board would not take effect until the 2000-2001 school year. These proposed modifications follow a series of sweeping financial aid changes at Ivy League institutions over the past year. Both Princeton and Harvard -- along with Stanford University, Dartmouth College and a slew of other top schools -- recently overhauled their financial aid programs to attract low- and middle-income students, most frequently by replacing the loan portion of aid packages with additional grants. Penn is currently fundraising to improve the percentage of the school's endowment it can give to student aid. University officials have said their goal is to make the financial aid packages comparable to those offered by peer institutions. Joyce explained that the College Board has been examining the financial issues that middle class families face when they pay for college. "The expected family contribution from middle-income families had become unrealistic," said Joyce. He explained that adjustments could include a reevaluation of the amount a family can afford to pay to a respective institution. In the future, the formula may be "a little more sensitive" Joyce said. Joyce also explained that the new methodology would acknowledge that a family with more than one child must retain savings in order to afford a college education for additional children. "Protection would be made on assets for future children," he said. Joyce said that the recommended changes to the institutional methodology will be discussed at regional College Board meetings throughout February before being recommended to the Board of Trustees for approval.