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PenNetWorks is alive and sound

(11/29/00 10:00am)

To the Editor: I'd like to take a moment to address the issues raised by Alex Hurst ("P2B not a high-tech utopia," The Daily Pennsylvanian, 10/20/00). I appreciate Alex's opinion, but in the interest of fairness and accuracy, I'd like to comment on some of his points. * Alex is correct that the University "is already rich in entrepreneurial resources," However, P2B and PenNetWorks in particular will serve as an additional outlet for entrepreneurs. It is well documented that successful entrepreneurial hotbeds throughout the country have a critical mass of new companies and support organizations that contribute to the viability of the technology community. * The incubator model has taken some lumps recently, but a number are thriving despite current market conditions. PenNetWorks is well positioned for success, not because we have a "shiny building," but due to the network in place to support entrepreneurs. We have access to the entire University infrastructure, Redleaf's substantial network and support from world-renowned sponsors. * Alex discusses the University's motivation behind this initiative. He states that Penn will "cash in on the technology boom with little downside" and that "the entrepreneur assumes all the real risk." The University has already invested in putting together the PenNetWorks facility. Redleaf has devoted almost $1 million to the facility. In fact, if an entrepreneur is admitted, Redleaf provides pre-seed capital as a loan to the entrepreneur. The loan converts into equity upon successful graduation. If the entrepreneur does not graduate, the loan disappears. The entrepreneur is never obligated to pay it back. * The University's primary motivations behind this initiative are economic development and the provision of resources to students, faculty and staff in order to prevent "brain drain." The administration wants to keep the entrepreneurial talent in our area. Penn will hold no position in, and reap no benefit from, any student-related business. * Finally, Alex is right: P2B does not guarantee success. Entrepreneurs should explore all options carefully and assess the risks and rewards. However, we feel that our help will maximize an entrepreneur's chance for success and that we can all benefit. Obviously Alex thinks we're doing something right. He's co-CEO of a company that has recently applied for admission to PenNetWorks.

Dividers, not uniters

(11/28/00 10:00am)

If anyone had any doubts that our politicians are dysfunctional, the rhetorical tone of the current election controversy in the state of Florida should put those thoughts to rest. For the last three weeks, we've watched and waited as the votes were counted and recounted and counted again. All the while, it has become increasingly apparent that no one representing either major party is interested in a fair and accurate count indicative of the people's will. Rather, party leaders have focused on getting their man in the White House by hook or by crook, regardless of who actually won more votes. Both Al Gore and George W. Bush are supremely confident that they won the Florida vote and hence the election, and both have solid foundations for their beliefs. But no degree of certainty merits rhetoric that distorts reality or attempts to delegitimize the electoral process. Who doubts, that should their roles be reversed, Bush supporters would fight tooth and nail for every dimpled chad? And that Gore voters would argue that the integrity of the initial vote should be respected in the face of attempts to steal the election through endless hand recounts? Members of the two major parties fight and argue; that is to be expected. What saddens us, though, is that they have ceased to argue over matters of principle or policy, but instead bicker over an electoral process in which partisan concerns have no place. No one is trying to hammer out a sensible, nonpartisan solution to the current impasse. The elder statesmen of both parties -- Robert Dole and James Baker for the Republicans, George Mitchell and Warren Christopher for the Democrats -- have abandoned their statesman-like postures for the low road of sound bite politics. These diplomats are behaving quite undiplomatically. If nothing else, this election evidences an electorate more divided than at any point in decades. The divisive tone of both parties during the recount process only pours salt into these wounds, squandering an opportunity for national healing.

School is on schedule

(11/22/00 10:00am)

To the Editor: I am happy to report that construction of the Penn-assisted pre-K-8 school in University City is not "plagued by delays," contrary to the story that ran yesterday ("Delays plague pre-K-8 school," The Daily Pennsylvanian, 11/21/00). The project is moving steadily ahead, and groundbreaking is not far off. There is no change in the plan to enroll several initial sections of kindergarten and first grade next fall, and we eagerly look forward to the school opening its doors.

No shortcuts to success

(11/21/00 10:00am)

To the Editor: On behalf of the University Honor Council, I would like to commend Ariel Horn for her column ("No bang for the buck," Daily Pennsylvanian, 11/15/00) exposing the inadequacies of term-paper mills. She makes a good case these papers offer superficial analysis, if any, and are generally substantively void. A rational thinker would be led to the conclusion that it's probably not a great idea to turn in one of these papers and expect to do well in a class. So, from a consumer's standpoint, that information is appreciated. Ms. Horn makes another good point: the danger of plagiarism. And plagiarism is one of the six or seven deadly sins of an academic institution. She also notes that professors are taking academic integrity quite seriously these days; I agree. In my few years serving the UHC, I have seen an increase in faculty engagement in these issues, as well as a growing reliance on technology to detect cheating. This goes to show that these term-paper mills are a prime example of why these short cuts can leave you with a higher price to pay than $5 to $14.95 per page.

Congrats to the champs

(11/20/00 10:00am)

Congratulations to the Pennsylvania Quakers football team for securing its second Ivy League title in three seasons. Saturday's 45-15 championship victory over Cornell was decisive, a welcome relief for Quakers fans who had grown accustomed to the team's frequent last-minute heroics. We thought a win couldn't get any sweeter after the come-from-behind victory at Princeton. We remember thinking that the stunning Parents' Weekend defeat of Brown was insurmountable, too. And despite the resilience of one stubborn goal post, last week's 36-35 Homecoming squeaker over Harvard forced all fans of the Red and Blue to rethink how amazing a single victory could be. But on all those occasions, we were wrong. Those wins were tremendous, but they weren't for the title. And so today, even as two goal posts stand intact on the turf at Franklin Field, we salute the champions who made the 2000 season truly one for the books. We recognize Kris Ryan, whose 243-yard, four-touchdown performance made Saturday's win possible. We congratulate Rob Milanese, whose nine catches and 117 receiving yards against the Big Red put him into the Penn record books with new single-season marks in both categories. And we salute quarterback Gavin Hoffman, who shook off a shaky 1999 campaign to lead this team to the title, shattering every major team passing mark in the process. Most importantly, we thank all the Quakers football players who gave evertything they had every Saturday this fall, who helped leave that unique taste of victory with yet another generation of Penn students. Thanks for giving us a season to remember.

The rule of law prevails

(11/17/00 10:00am)

To the Editor: I am not embarrassed by the way our country is handling the close presidential election, in a relative sense at least. It may be ironically typical of our country that the situation has resulted in a legal battle. But compare this with the recent opposition in Egypt to the results of their election. There were several murders there as a result of displeasure with the results. The worst we have here is at most a few months of waiting and a lot of arguing and debating.

Sun sets on Sundance

(11/17/00 10:00am)

The University staked its revitalization strategy for the 40th Street corridor on the premise that once its anchor tenants -- a movie theater and a supermarket -- were in place, the retail floodgates would open. But the Sundance Cinemas project at 40th and Walnut streets, after months of delays, is finally dead. And the viability of Penn's vision for the area where campus meets community is now seriously in doubt. We still believe that a movie theater represents an attractive, student-friendly option for the site. However, finding a new operating partner may well be impossible. In a saturated national market, chains are closing theaters, not opening them. Ritz, the major local chain, has expressed zero interest. And with Cinemagic 3 down the street, operators offering mainstream fare may be reluctant to enter the market. Penn should give due diligence to its search for a new movie partner. But it also has to consider alternative uses for the location. Neither campus sentiment nor business interests will tolerate a dormant construction site for long. And the University will have to settle the site's status soon if it wants to attract new tenants to the area, even if it means that it has to settle for someone less photogenic than Robert Redford to sell its vision. In a broader sense, the demise of Sundance Cinemas reflects the risk inherent in the University's development strategy. By replacing indigenous retail with national chains, Penn faces the prospect of stores fleeing a community in which they have little invested in the event of an industry-specific downturn, of which this is the case, or a general recession. The University's plans for 40th Street were grand in scope and steeped in the optimism that a single coup, like Sundance, could spark a virtuous cycle of business growth. That dream is now largely in shambles. We hope that the University can pick up the pieces -- and quickly -- to see at least some measure of its vision realized.

Women in the sciences

(11/16/00 10:00am)

Female professors in the University's hard-sciences departments -- Physics, Biology and Chemistry -- are few and far between. Such a problem should clearly be addressed. The solutions here are not easy ones. At major research universities across the nation, where publishing is the main determinant of scholarly prestige, women comprise only a small minority of tenured science faculty, thanks largely to the dearth of women enrolled in graduate programs decades ago. In the recruitment and retention of female professors, Penn is no better and no worse than its peers. Focusing our efforts on trying to hire away the small number of professors teaching elsewhere would only spark a bidding war the University can't win. What the University can and should do, however, is work to increase the number of women entering the hard sciences and better support those already on the faculty, lest they follow the beaten path to less-research-oriented liberal arts colleges. To the first end, professors of all stripes should encourage young women to pursue graduate work in the traditionally male-dominated hard sciences. Female professors who have successfully navigated this course should serve as able mentors to the next generation of academics. And to support those who have already courageously chosen to enter the ivory tower, the University should encourage the formation and expansion of support networks among female professors and graduate students at Penn and other research universities. Many such groups have been successful in letting women know that while they may be the minority in their departments, they are definitely not alone. Opening up once-limited academic disciplines to young women should be among the University's goals. Let's hope it pays dividends down the road with increased female representation in the science faculty.

A swing and amiss?

(11/15/00 10:00am)

Bowing to pressure from City Council and local residents, Mayor Street finally abandoned his quixotic quest for a new downtown baseball stadium on Monday. We frankly could not be more disappointed that no side -- not the city, not the state, not the teams -- has taken the initiative to get this deal done. No side has presented a vision of how the city's sports teams should fit into the larger landscape. And thanks to the utter lack of constructive dialogue on this issue, we're right back where we started. With every other conceivable location less than an hour away from City Hall having been rejected, it appears that new stadiums for the Phillies and Eagles will, some day, be built in the vast concrete oceans of South Philadelphia. But these facilities, as much of an improvement as they will be over the eyesore that is Veterans Stadium, will not revitalize one square block of the city. They will not increase pedestrian traffic in the city. They will not spur one iota of new business growth in the city. And for those reasons, the city should minimize its share of the costs. Under its current agreement with the teams, Philadelphia will pay one third of the construction costs for two single-sport stadiums. But before the first brick is laid, the Street administration should fix what the contribution will be with the teams. When the cost overruns come -- and if the last decade's national ball park bonanza serves as any guide, they will -- the city should not pay a dime more. Ball parks are not a spending priority for any city. Things like public schools and crime fighting are, and the city should not be concentrating its funds on projects, like stadiums, from which few stand to benefit.

Far from a bold choice

(11/13/00 10:00am)

On Thursday, the University's Committee on Manufacturer Responsibility recommended that Penn join both rival sweatshop-monitoring organizations, the Fair Labor Association and the Worker Rights Consortium. If accepted by President Rodin, the decision would represent a choice of practicality over ideological boldness. Unfortunately, that is a decision that University had to make. By straddling the fence -- just as 13 other schools, including Columbia and Brown, have done -- Penn would ensure membership in whichever organization proves most capable of monitoring Third World factory conditions, which is important. But the move would also underscore Penn's continued unwillingness to be a leader in the anti-sweatshop movement. On a practical level, we endorse this recommendation. Joining both organizations provides the best chance that labor conditions at factories producing Penn apparel will be monitored at some point in the near future. But on an ideological level, however, we continue to support the WRC. We have long supported the organization because of its foundation in human rights groups and its support for a living wage, a feature of Penn's own Code of Conduct but not the FLA charter. While the University is obviously following the most expedient route, we are troubled by its inability to explain itself. In explaining the body's recommendation, Committee Chairman Gregory Possehl cited the "complementarity" of the two organizations. This, too, is puzzling. The FLA and the WRC do not support each other, and neither feels the other has a need to exist. The whole equals no more than the sum of its parts. We hope that President Rodin will be able to communicate a convincing rationale for her decision to accept or reject the committee's recommendation. Ultimately, whatever Rodin decides, this issue has most definitely not been put to rest. Effective monitoring will come from the one organization that gets business, labor, human rights groups and universities to sit down at the same table, which they are not doing currently. But as long as that table belongs to the FLA or the WRC, at least Penn -- even if it refuses to abide by an ideological stand -- will have a seat.

The endowment blues

(11/10/00 10:00am)

Last year was a banner year for college endowments. Harvard increased 32.3 percent. Yale soared 41 percent. Princeton went up 35.5 percent. Duke skyrocketed 58.8 percent. The combined value of these four endowments increased $10.75 billion. And the University of Pennsylvania? In the best year in history for institutions of higher education, in the midst of a booming economy, it lost 1.8 percent, or about $60 million, continuing a recent pattern of underperformance. Over the last year, it fell from the 12th to 18th largest endowment in the country, and on a per-student basis, it isn't even in the same league as its peers. The University dropped the ball, and it did so in a big way. In 1979, former Investment Board Chairman John Neff inherited a woefully small endowment. Following a "value" philosophy, which emphasizes stocks undervalued by the market, he gave Penn one of the best-performing portfolios of the 1980s and early '90s. The salad days of value investing ended in the mid-1990s, replaced by the emergence of growth stocks, which as their name implies, augment shareholder value through continued earnings growth. The big-name media and technology stocks of our generation -- Time Warner, Intel, America Online -- all fall into this category and have rewarded other schools quite handsomely. Many schools also entered the venture capital markets early, yielding impressive results. Twelve of the top 20 schools for which data is known returned more than 30 percent on their endowments last year, largely on the strength of their VC holdings. Certainly, none lost money. All the while, the managers of Penn's portfolio were stuck in the past. Like Galileo's inquisitors, who insisted the earth stood at the center of the universe, they have clung to their trusted -- but fundamentally obsolete -- model of the investment universe. Recognizing its folly, Penn now plans to move aggressively into growth stocks and alternative investments, but the fact is it may be too late. Penn missed out on unprecedented growth in the stock market and will suffer as a latecomer to a sated VC market. And as a result of this short-sightedness, future generations of Penn students and faculty will suffer. We recognize that the men and women who manage Penn's endowment work for -- or in some cases, run -- some of the largest investment banks and brokerages in the country. But if they produced these returns for their clients in the midst of the greatest prosperity this country's investors have ever known, there's no doubt they'd be out on the street in no time. In a recent memo to his fellow Trustees, current Investment Board Chairman Howard Marks wrote "We wish we'd invested in venture capital.... We wish we'd invested more in growth stocks." Us, too.

An election for the ages

(11/09/00 10:00am)

With the current uncertainty over who will become the next president of the United States, we are engaged in a moment in history that will not soon be forgotten. While emotions are running high, we would encourage all sides to remain calm as the electoral process runs its course. The recount of more than six million Florida votes should be completed this afternoon. Overseas absentee ballots should be tabulated over the next 10 days, and a hand count may then be held. Then, and only then, will we know for sure which candidate has won the state's popular vote and its 25 electors. We hope that both candidates and their partisans accept the result of this process and that concerns over the fairness and accuracy of Florida's electoral procedures are resolved in an expeditious manner. It is important that whoever wins, we acknowledge the legitimacy of the election and America's rule of law. Furthermore, the new president must recognize that while he has won the election, he has not captured a mandate to impose his will on a divided electorate. We would encourage whoever should win to make bipartisanship the hallmark of his administration, bringing members of the opposing party into his Cabinet and working constructively with congressional leaders of all stripes. The closeness of the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush nationally and in many key states is proof of the fact that every vote really does matter. We hope whoever emerges as the new president recognizes that fact, and makes our votes count for something.

Unionizing grad students

(11/06/00 10:00am)

Last week's ruling from the National Labor Relations Board paves the way for graduate student teaching assistants at private colleges across the country to unionize for the purposes of collective bargaining. Fortunately, this ruling is unlikely to have an immediate impact here, where TAs have expressed general satisfaction with their compensation and working conditions. But it should nevertheless send a message to Penn and other universities around the country that they now have less leverage in talks with their graduate students. In denying their collective bargaining rights, college administrators have said graduate students attend an institution primarily to prepare for academic careers and that their TA duties are secondary. Students counter that they often bear the same teaching burdens as faculty members but lack any of the same rights. Still, the important thing administrators should take from this ruling is that graduate students should be accommodated, within reason, to the point where union formation and action is not necessary. No one -- nor any institution's academic mission -- is well served by conflicts such as those which afflicted Yale University in the early and mid-1990s. There, more than 1,400 graduate students went on strike at any one time over issues ranging from pay and health benefits to collective bargaining rights and the impartiality of grievance procedures. Classes were cancelled, professors were divided over whether they should cross picket lines and the general educational climate of the university suffered. These lessons should certainly not be lost on University President Judith Rodin, who was dean of Yale's graduate school during strikes in 1991 and 1992. We hope that her office and those of the individual school deans remain responsive to the needs and grievances of graduate students to head off conflicts in the future.

The end of a nightmare

(11/06/00 10:00am)

As expected, the University settled out of court last week the lawsuit filed six weeks ago by the family of Jesse Gelsinger, the Arizona teenager who died last year during the course of a Penn gene therapy trial. We hope that the settlement brings to an end the Gelsinger family's long nightmare. We cannot imagine how difficult it was to endure not only Jesse's premature and tragic death, but the great uncertainty that followed as Penn officials and federal regulators traded shots over alleged violations of research protocol in the University's gene therapy program. But even as the University coarsely refuses to apologize for its role in your son's death, our heartfelt sympathy goes out to you. We also hope that the University has learned its lesson from this whole sordid affair. Researchers should know that they cannot ignore matters of protocol, no matter how minor or seemingly inconsequential. They carry the lives of the innocent in their hands. They should know that they must always be honest and forthright about their mistakes. The University's months of bickering with the Food and Drug Administration only tainted its image further as it provided weak, incomplete responses to serious federal charges. And they should know that financial considerations should never supersede their primary responsibility to patient care. As the settlement demonstrates, disregard for human life will only have negative consequences at the end of the day. Ultimately, with the case of Gelsinger v. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania never going to trial, researchers and those with the responsibility for oversight of their work will never have to answer to charges in a public forum. It is perhaps a fitting, though unsatisfying conclusion for a long nightmare that began as Jesse Gelsinger, his lungs failing him, passed away in similar silence.

Al Gore for president

(11/02/00 10:00am)

By virtue of his experience, leadership, fiscal responsibility and concern for the welfare of the American people, we encourage you to vote for Al Gore as president of the United States on November 7. Over the last eight years, Gore has proven himself a capable deputy to President Clinton, redefining the role of the vice president in the process. For all his flaws, he has ably emerged from Clinton's shadow and outlined a plan for the American people that will best perpetuate this period of prosperity and provide for those left behind by the currents of the new economy. Votes for Gore are particularly crucial in Pennsylvania, a swing state where Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush are running neck-and-neck in the polls. Its 23 electoral votes may determine who inherits the Oval Office. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader is popular in Pennsylvania and on college campuses nationwide, but if you're thinking about voting for Nader, don't. Consider if you want to jeopardize the environment, consumer safety and abortion rights by tipping the electoral vote to Governor Bush. Voters may respect Nader's integrity and be wooed by Bush's charm, but Gore is the only candidate to bring to the table a socially and fiscally responsible vision for America in the 21st century. Economists are predicting budget surpluses above $4 trillion over the next decade, and each candidate has promised a combination of tax relief, increased spending and entitlement support. But while Bush would spend a hefty $1.3 trillion on a tax cut favoring the wealthiest Americans, Gore intends to put our fiscal house in order -- to see that this bounty benefits future generations -- by retiring the $3.6 trillion national debt. Eight years ago, our staggering debt threatened to overwhelm the national treasury as interest payments came to consume one out of every 10 federal budget dollars. Today, we have the chance to relieve ourselves and future generations of this burden, and it is an opportunity we must not squander. Gore also presents the more responsible stance on social policy. He would continue the fight to keep guns off the street. He stands in opposition to school prayer and in support of affirmative action and a woman's right to choose. And with his emphasis on ecologically friendly development, Gore may successfully bridge the competing imperatives of economic growth and environmental protection. Bush does deserve credit for his recognition that in our nation's deteriorating public schools, desperate times call for desperate measures. While the government's emphasis on local control may only exacerbate the inequality between rich and poor, his willingness to experiment with bold and innovative solutions should be embraced by the next administration. But in the realm of foreign affairs, Bush has not proven himself worthy of the highest elected office in the land. He plans to compensate for his utter lack of knowledge by taking on wise advisers, but we need a commander-in-chief who leads, not follows. Gore, who has taken the lead on national security issues over the last eight years and represented our interests abroad, has the necessary experience and judgment to handle the uncertainties and opportunities of this era of globalization. Al Gore is not a perfect man, nor a perfect candidate. His tendency to stretch the truth and his involvement in recent fundraising scandals are troubling. But Gore has demonstrated a willingness to transcend the mistakes of the past; what is important is not that he improperly raised funds in 1996, but that campaign finance reform would be his top legislative priority in 2001. Bush, on the other hand, has a history of glibly neglecting the details of his own proposals and deferring to the judgment of his subordinates. In his six years as governor of Texas, health care and the environment have suffered terribly. What's worse, Bush's idea of governance is to focus on a handful of issues to the detriment of other concerns; the president does not have that luxury. History will judge this period by how well we capitalize on unprecedented prosperity at home and confront an increasingly interdependent but volatile world. In this campaign, Gore has most clearly and articulately defined a vision of how America will face these twin challenges. For that, he deserves your vote.

Managing prosperity

(10/31/00 10:00am)

If the Congressional Budget Office is correct, the federal government will realize a whopping $4.3 trillion in budget surpluses over the next decade. This presents the United States with an unprecedented opportunity to put its fiscal house in order. Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush believes that this is the people's money, and that the surplus should be returned to them. The Democratic nominee, Al Gore, insists that the government can do a better job spending this money, and where it gives money back to the people, it should do so to further its policy goals. Bush's plan is to give much of the surplus -- essentially, the difference between what people and corporations pay in taxes and what the government spends -- back to the American people. His $1.3 trillion across-the-board tax cut, as Gore has repeatedly said, would go overwhelmingly to the richest Americans, who also now pay the heaviest share of taxes and would continue to do so; the plan would also remove many poorer Americans from the tax rolls. His spending plans are modest in comparison to the vice president's, focusing on pet issues like education and military preparedness. Gore plans to use the surplus as a tool of social policy. Tax breaks, instead of being across the board, would be targeted to those bearing the costs of health insurance, long-term care and college tuition. Money would help create retirement accounts for poor people, also furthering Gore's social policy goals, and domestic social spending in areas like the environment and education would receive substantial boosts. Gore has also pledged to use much of the surplus to pay down the government's $3.6 trillion in publicly held debt, the interest on which currently consumes more than a dime of every federal budget dollar. Gore would then invest those savings in Social Security and other programs. Bush has made no pledge to make substantial debt repayment a priority. Of course, the good times may not last forever. Congress is already eating into future surpluses, and should the economy falter, the projections may never materialize. Should that be the case, a commitment to tax cuts today may actually increase the national debt down the road. For voters, the issue comes down to whether they want the government to give its surplus back to them or to spend it on programs and pay down the national debt.

Time to name names

(10/26/00 9:00am)

It has been one year since the University set out to decide whether Penn should release the names of students convicted by the University judicial system of violent offenses or non-violent sexual offenses. The process was triggered by a change in the federal law that had once prohibited such disclosure on the grounds that it violated student privacy. Now that federal law no longer stands in the way, it is Penn's moral and ethical obligation to release the names of convicted student offenders. All Americans have a right to privacy. All Americans have a responsibility to obey the law. And all Americans -- except college students -- forfeit their right to privacy when they break the law. The logical reason for this is that rights and responsibilities are part and parcel. You can't have one without the other. The common sense reasons include: public humiliation as a deterrent to breaking the law in the first place; society's right to know who among us might break the law again; and the open courts as a guarantor of due process. Committee Chair Richard Beeman, dean of the College, has said early and often that the judicial system at Penn should not be considered equivalent to the American judicial system, where defendants names are always made public, because "we do have an obligation... to protect the privacy of our students." But Beeman has failed to explain why the rationale underlying the American legal system should not apply to Penn's legal system, too. Perhaps he thinks that mistakes made in college should not follow a person through life. When it comes to some mistakes, so does Congress. That is why Penn is legally barred from releasing the names of students convicted of a whole range of offenses ranging from cheating to damaging property. We'll not take issue with Congress in this space, though some might find it disturbing that this legal loophole shields only those who can afford to attend college. But we challenge Dean Beeman to explain why Penn students convicted of violent offenses or non-violent sexual offenses should not be held to the same standard as everyone else.

Standing up for Penn

(10/25/00 9:00am)

Few displays of student body unity are more visceral than when the Red and Blue faithful, standing at rapt attention, rattle the Palestra rafters with their eardrum-pounding chants during Penn men's basketball games. And few University policies last year were more ludicrous than the Athletic Department's decision to force those die-hard fannies back into their seats. In that light, the department's decision to reapportion seats in the coveted chairback section represents a necessary compromise. Under the plan, the three dozen adult season-ticket holders in Section 115 will be moved courtside, creating lines of sight for those seated in Sections 114 and 214 to see the action on the court without having to join the students on their feet. And the students, having sacrificed some of the best seats in the house, will now all be allowed to stand for the entirety of the contest. The perennial discord between the students and the adults -- whose views of the court are often blocked by standing students -- put Athletic Director Steve Bilsky in an uncomfortable position. On one side are the adult ticket buyers, many of whom have held their seats for decades, whose wallets help keep Penn's sports teams afloat. And on the other are the students, whose vocal support has propelled the Quakers to many a home victory. While we regret that many of the best seats once reserved for students are no longer available to undergraduates, this compromise was necessary. The optimal solution -- a Duke Blue Devils-style arrangement with students on one side of the court and adults on the other -- would have displaced hundreds of current season-ticket holders from their seats. We are happy that students will again be allowed to cheer for the Quakers in a way they only know how and that this matter has been finally put to rest.

American federalism

(10/24/00 9:00am)

During this presidential election season, you probably haven't given too much thought to the issue of federalism, the relationship between the states and the federal government. But no issue divides Al Gore and George W. Bush more than on which levels of government power should lie. The question before voters, while complicated, is whether the federal government should retain the vast powers it has today or if more should be left to the states and the free market. The issue permeates most facets of American life, from who determines educational standards for our schools to whether the federal government is allowed to prosecute certain crimes. At its heart, this is a constitutional matter. The nation's founding document enumerates certain rights for the federal government, such as waging war and regulating interstate commerce, while reserving the remainder to the individual states. It wasn't until the 1930s that the federal government first assumed its current activist role in American life. Gore, the Democratic nominee, is in many ways the heir to Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson and his current boss as a supporter of the modern regulatory state. Relying on a loose interpretation of the Constitution, the current administration has legislated vast new federal protections in areas once reserved for the states, such as gun control and domestic violence. Gore endorses federal regulatory powers over the environment and products like tobacco, and his Supreme Court would protect personal privacy rights -- including that to an abortion -- even though no such rights are mentioned in the Constitution. By his constant reminders that he trusts "the people," not Washington, GOP hopeful Bush would devolve much federal authority to states, individuals, faith-based organizations and the private sector. Should Bush win and the Republicans retain control of Congress, the legislature and the courts would be empowered to undertake the first major rollback of federal regulatory legislation in areas like the environment and consumer protection. This process has been underway in the judiciary since 1995, as strict constructionalists have overturned federal legislation like the Gun-Free School Zones and Violence Against Women acts, ruling that those issue areas belonged to the states. Bush has said he favors strict constructionalist justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and his new appointees would only speed up this trend. In essence, Gore would maintain active regulation at the federal level, while Bush would have the federal government dissolve many of its laws and give the states and local governments the option to reconstitute them individually.