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Women launch petition protest for peace

(03/04/03 10:00am)

Offering a uniquely female voice to the anti-war campaign, the 20-member group Penn Women for Peace has teamed up with Penn for Peace as well as Penn Students Against War in Iraq. "As you can tell from the gender gap in war supporters, women are more inclined toward peace," said Christian Association Executive Director and Penn Women for Peace organizer Reverend Beverly Dale. So the group, who formed about five weeks ago through Sister Circle meetings with the Christian Association, is out to promote its understanding of peace, according to Christian Association spokesman Gary Bronson. For the past week and a half, Penn Women for Peace has set up camp daily in Houston Hall, offering anti-war petitions to sign, pamphlets to collect and artistic avenues to pursue -- visitors to the table are encouraged to pin thoughts and reflections to a large poster board, which will remain on display with the organizers through the end of the week. "They're getting a really good response," Bronson said. However, he acknowledged that the anti-war petition, which has over 80 signatures attached, has been more successful than the poster. "I think people are more likely to sign a petition than to create what they think of as art," Bronson said. Yet, the messages that have been left nevertheless resonate with the Penn Women for Peace philosophy -- "We must be the change we want to see in the world," reads one of the various Gandhi quotes an anonymous student left behind. Bronson depicted the group as "very peace-oriented and civil rights-oriented." Seeing herself in this light as well, College senior Beandrea Davis, a Penn Women for Peace member and table organizer, placed importance on voicing resistance. And while Davis was unsure of whether Penn Women for Peace would directly impact the possibility of war in Iraq, she saw the group's actions as important nonetheless. "Ultimately, Bush probably won't pay attention," she said. "But I don't think people should stand by and do nothing." Thus, the members distributed materials and hoped to provoke discussion. "People aren't given a chance to interact with" the war, Christian Association Minister on Interfaith and Interracial Relations Victoria Pearson said. "We want to bring it on home." Included among the group's pamphlets are pages that propose "10 Reasons to Oppose War with Iraq" as well as another list of "10 Ways Women Will Be Affected by a War in Iraq." "Most of [the Penn Women for Peace] are against war of all kinds as part of the domination system," Dale said. "But we're not addressing that, we're addressing this war." Penn Women For Peace plans to participate in Wednesday's anti-war walk-out with a 20-foot banner to promote its message. And while the group may have a gender-specific focus, with messages left on its poster reading thoughts such as "War is excessive testosterone," it also offers a more universal message in the anti-war effort. As one student left behind in his message, "War just sucks."

New Muslim group has political focus

(02/26/03 10:00am)

According to Islamic beliefs, the prophet Muhammad would stop a wrong by speaking out against it, said Feraz Rahman. So under Rahman's initiative, a new politically-driven organization under the Muslim Students Association has formed with just that objective in mind. "We have to stop all oppression," the first-year neuroscience doctoral graduate student urged an audience of approximately 20 last night. "Not just oppression against Muslims." The group assembled for the first time last night to outline specific goals and objectives. "First, we have to establish an identity," Rahman told the group, whose name was decided upon at the meeting. Knowing the importance of a title, the group questioned its future scope and membership in order to come up with a name. "The name reflects your philosophy and what it's geared toward," Engineering junior Amin Venjara said. Concurring on "Penn Muslims for Justice" as an apt name, the group set about establishing specific proactive measures. "It's not good enough for us to kind of just feel it in our hearts," Muslim Students Association President and Wharton sophomore Muhammed Mekki said of the group's political leanings. "This is going to be an action group." Mekki also extolled the benefits of being a separate organization that is still under the MSA. While giving support, the board plans "to give the freedom and free reign to let this group get things done without the red tape," Mekki said. One of the first things the newly formed group hopes to establish is a voice on campus -- a united front that speaks against injustice, especially against Muslims. "The glaring thing that jumps out right now is the war on Iraq," Rahman said. Certainly glaring to College senior Yasmine El-Shamayleh, the potential war with Iraq poses both a threat and an opportunity to publicize the new organization. The group agreed and supported El-Shamayleh's proposal to endorse the anti-war national student walk-out "Books Not Bombs!" Scheduled for Wednesday, March 5, the walk-out poses an opportunity for the organization to have a presence on campus. "It's not a Muslim initiative -- it's a very American, white initiative," El-Shamayleh said of the event, although it is endorsed by the national MSA group. "We'll have signs with the name of our group" at the march, Rahman said. "People can see that we're here." And although for the time being Penn Muslims for Justice plans to focus on establishing coalitions and working with other campus groups, the association has high expectations for sponsoring its own projects. "We've accomplished the goal of being active from the start," Venjara said. "We will probably kick off serious events beginning next semester." And while the new group is quickly gaining ground, this political branch of the MSA "took a while to come to fruition," Mekki said. Traditionally, the MSA has maintained a religious and less controversial focus. Yet Mekki applauded the political subgroup's formation. "Islam is a complete way of life, and one cannot separate politics from religion," he said. El-Shamayleh, too, welcomed the addition of a political Muslim organization to campus. "This is something I've been waiting for since I got here."

Teaching conditions concern undergrads

(02/25/03 10:00am)

Although this Wednesday's and Thursday's union election results will have to wait on the University appeal before possibly going into effect, the implications for Penn's undergraduate community are already being contested. "Unionization will enable graduate students to obtain the necessary tools to teach effectively," Graduate Employees Together-University of Pennsylvania spokesperson Joanna Kempner said. Unionization "translates into a better environment for undergraduates to learn," Kempner added. But administrators and department heads question the problems which could befall undergraduates in the event of unionization. "My fear is that the collective bargaining model would erode and damage relationships that our graduate students have with their faculty mentors and undergraduate students," Deputy Provost Peter Conn said. Nevertheless, this fear is not a widespread one within the graduate student community. "I feel the administration is making speculations and claims that a lot of our issues could be dealt with without a union," said Julia Rabig, a third-year graduate student in the History Department. "But they don't say how." Rabig emphasized that a union would allow for better teaching conditions and more attention to undergraduates. "I anticipate that the relationship with undergraduates would improve," Rabig said. "Graduate students would have resources they need like desks and phones." Yet other graduate students saw the unionization issue as distinct from undergraduate concerns. "I don't think there's any way undergraduate and [teaching assistant] relationships should change," said fourth-year chemistry graduate student Kevin Jude. These relationships "are important, but not as important as some of the other stuff -- namely healthcare," philosophy graduate student and teaching assistant Nathan Jun said. "TAs are responsible for cultivating their own relationships with students," Jun said. "Those are not going to sink or swim based on unionization." Yet Jun did cite limited resources as an impairment to a professional relationship with students. "We're often stuck in these situations where two or three of us are competing for one closet-sized office space," Jun said. Students, too, are aware of these limitations and their impacts. College junior Luke Mazur, who considers himself "probably more pro-union," cited problems he has noticed within the History Department. "I know a lot of the history TAs hold office hours in Starbucks," Mazur said. And this problem of limited space is not unique to the History Department. Similar situations are also evident in the Chemistry Department, according to Jude, who mentioned a lack of office space and resources for first-year chemistry graduate students. However, administrators said that in any case, space on campus is limited, with or without a union. "The numbers of grad students... who do not have space are relatively small... and [the issue is] better solved by working on the specific problem," Conn said. "Some of [these problems] will never be ameliorated" by a union, he added, noting that even faculty members face limited office space. University President Judith Rodin echoed this argument, noting that "life isn't perfect." Sympathetic to these types of problems, many undergraduates are siding in favor of unionization. Yet these opinions seems to be more linked to the plight of the graduate students than out of any real concerns for how a union could impact the undergraduate community. While admitting that he was not familiar with all of the issues, College sophomore David Johnson favors unionization. Graduate students "have to have a voice," he said. "I've seen nothing hard core like graduate students working in the halls," Johnson said. But in walking through the Statistics Department, he noted, "It was like a sweatshop in there. They were all hounding for one room." GET-UP and many teaching assistants are aware of this student sympathy for their need for resources. "I know that we have a lot of supporters in the undergraduate community," Kempner said. Jude also referred to the fact that "all the undergraduates [he knows] are supportive of the union." While few undergraduates have acted on their support, several, including College senior Lincoln Ellis, have become involved directly in the efforts made by GET-UP. "It seems like a union would negotiate for improved working... and learning... conditions," Ellis wrote in an e-mail. Administrators still maintain that unionization of graduate students could pose a legitimate impediment to undergraduate learning. "The threat of a strike is a very serious threat of disruption," Conn said. "Some [undergraduates] have a concern that their own education could be interrupted" because teaching assistants would be responsible to their union. In reference to both undergraduate and graduate hopes concerning improved resources, Conn urged internal solutions, saying, "Unions can promise anything, they can guarantee nothing."

Perspective: Research at Penn

(02/18/03 10:00am)

The library is talking about a pizza box advertising campaign. They're half kidding, but touting self-promotion and stretching for solutions is exactly the idea. It's the battle between Google and the library -- and Google just might be winning. "I had a senior history major in the other day asking how to use [library] research databases," Assistant Director for Research and Instructional Services at Van Pelt Library, Marjorie Hassen says. With four years of Ivy League college under his belt, not to mention a reading and writing intensive history major, "you'd think he would have done a lot of research before." Yet, throughout campus, students are capitalizing on what many believe to be the advantages of simple Internet searches. Google, Yahoo, Excite and the whole gang of user-friendly search engines offer immediate results, constant accessibility and, often, a substitute for a library visit. "I'll either do a Yahoo or a Google search" to begin researching, College sophomore Eva Harris explains. And while Harris packs off to the library when her searches prove unfruitful, she is not sure about others on campus. "I think most people use the Internet... and just cite Web pages," she says. "It's a hassle to look stuff up [at the library] and make photocopies." Professors and teaching assistants, for their part, are often aware of this student aversion. And some, like Robert Natalini -- a graduate student who is teaching History 168, The History of American Law -- construct assignments with just that student reluctance in mind. "All of these journals are in the library," Natalini explains of the readings needed to complete the papers for his class. And sometimes, this seemingly simple lesson -- go to the library -- is actually somewhat baffling to Internet-savvy students. "I've had students that it never occurred to them to go to the library," Natalini says. "They're short-changing themselves of the great resource there." And this phenomenon is not unique to Penn. Library research at universities nationwide has declined as the popularity of the Internet has risen. An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education points to similar trends at Cornell University. Specifically, Cornell students are reported to have used a declining number of scholarly materials for the past six years. Yet, the Penn library is not succumbing to these Internet trends without putting up a fight. They have a new brochure out -- complete with catchy graphics, fun font headlines and eye-grabbing colors -- entitled "Where's the Library?" as part of their campaign to entice student awareness. "We're trying to get people's attention," explains Sandra Kerbel, director of Library Public Services. She says attention-grabbing is necessary because Google and other standard Internet search engines often comprise a student's typical "comfort zone." But perhaps they should not feel so comfortable -- after all, the Internet abounds with pornography and, perhaps worse, unreliable sources. And although individual students all profess a proficiency in distinguishing the legitimate from the not, standard Internet searching can lead to trouble. "I definitely use Google a lot," College freshman Tim Howett says. "I think it's pretty easy to judge what's what." But "that's the thing we're always fighting," Kerbel laments of the perceived reliability of the Internet. Yet, slacking students are not alone in this debacle. Being able to distinguish the what's what of reliable information on the Internet "is a problem we all have in this age of online information," History Professor Kathleen Brown says. "It all kind of looks the same when it comes up on the screen." Thus, the library has undertaken the goal of easing students into the realm of academic research. Offering term paper help sessions, one-on-one appointments and how-to seminars, the library is teaching students how to take advantage of what they have to offer. Hassen tells of well-received trips to various Greek houses on campus, where library staff clarified the mysteries of research among the stacks. "We're pretty much open to anything," Hassen says of the library's varied attempts to expand student usage of the offered resources. However, they have a substantial task still ahead. "There are a lot of brilliant and energetic students who aren't fluent with these resources," English Professor Max Cavitch explains.

Social Work aids child welfare cases

(02/14/03 10:00am)

As stories of child abuse, neglect, racial discrimination and mismanagement in New Jersey start to sink in, the School of Social Work has stepped in. Ordered to release their records by a federal court judge last July, New Jersey's Department of Human Services Division of Youth and Family Services now has to contend with newly-appointed Social Work Dean Richard Gelles, who has been in the trenches with a hand-picked team of Penn researchers to provide scientific analysis and expert testimony since the case began. Children "were abused and neglected physically, emotionally and sexually while they were being cared for in the state's custody," Gelles said, noting that "secondary trauma" has been a problem as researchers examine the sometimes horrific reports. "Some of the atrocities in the child welfare system make you want to stand on a mountain and scream," said Robin Mekonnen, a first-year Social Work doctoral candidate and a researcher on the case. "And no one hears you." The court's decision to allow access to 500 children's case files, a strong random sampling of the state's over 9,000 wards, stems from a lawsuit filed three years ago that brought child abuse and deaths within the child welfare system to the forefront. "It's sad it takes a death to warrant that much attention," second-year Social Work doctoral student Staci Peckham noted. "The judge agreed that, to prove the case, one would need scientific evidence," Gelles explained. "It's a pretty horrible picture," he continued, describing the case. "But you can't generalize from that about the treatment of 9,000 children." A second lawsuit, filed under the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act of 1996, alleges that DYFS practiced "race-matching," pairing children with those adoptive parents who appeared to match their race or ethnicity. "One of the cases keeps standing out in my mind," Gelles said. "Not because it was so terrible, but because it was so ludicrous." Finding a home for "two children with Hispanic surnames," the state placed its wards, who spoke only English, with a "family [that] spoke only Spanish," according to Gelles. "If you're going to make that kind of mistake," Gelles said, "one can only imagine what you would do with more serious" cases. While researchers are often "treated to anecdotes" according to Gelles, since comprehensive data information systems are rare in government departments, the opening of New Jersey's files provides a rare academic opportunity as well as a chance to work for concrete change. Unlike typical social work programs, which tend to turn out "clinical social workers [who perform] a sort of retail social change," Gelles sees this project as an opportunity to begin "to use the academic and research expertise of the school and the University to bring about wholesale social change." Melissa Coleman, associate director of development and alumni relations at the school, agreed that this is "not your father's social work." "It's not typical of what social workers do -- that's why it's so exciting," she said. "This is the school's niche," Gelles said. "We will continue to turn out clinicians, but they will be clinicians who understand evidence," Gelles said, noting that "Penn students... have a tendency to rise into management positions rather quickly." Meanwhile, this case may well serve as a "template for the other 49 states and the District of Columbia." "And we are beginning to gear up for another state and another lawsuit," Gelles announced, demonstrating the School of Social Work's continuing commitment to sweeping social change.

Grad students table Iraq peace motion

(02/06/03 10:00am)

The Philadelphia City Council, as well as student governments at schools such as Cornell University, the University of Texas at Austin and Swarthmore College, have all passed peace resolutions against a unilateral attack on Iraq. And last night, a motion was made for the Graduate and Professional Students Assembly at Penn to do the same. "The preservation of peace internationally and globally affects the entire Penn community," said the motion's author, Ph.D. candidate and graduate student in political science Michael Janson. The motion, entitled "Resolution Against Unlawful Aggression Demanding a New Resolution from the United Nations and Declaration of War by Congress Before Any Invasion," inspired heated discussion and critical engagement. Ultimately, the motion was placed aside for further debate, but GAPSA Chairman and Wharton graduate student Jeremy Korst said he was confident about its comeback. "I assume it will be taken off the table," Korst explained. He also anticipated a high turnout of graduate students ready to express their opinions at the next assembly meeting. Janson originally became interested in drafting the controversial resolution after visiting the Cities for Peace Web site and seeing the number of cities and college campuses that have passed similar resolutions. "I thought if the city of Philadelphia could express concern, so could graduate students of the University of Pennsylvania," Janson explained. Yet, while Janson considered the resolution to be a "pretty reasonable request," other members of GAPSA clearly did not agree. Calling himself "adamantly opposed" to the resolution, Wharton graduate student Boris Siperstein questioned the role of the representative assembly to decide on controversial political issues. "We are talking about people's political opinions," Siperstein said. "Things this serious we have no business deciding on. "You have the right in America to vote for yourself." Which brought others, including Annenberg School for Communication graduate student Frannie Wellings, to propose informing more of the graduate student population about the proposal. "I hope that we talk about polling and a possible vote that involves the student body," Wellings said. However, others saw the resolution as outside of the assembly's prerogative, regardless of possible support. "GAPSA, despite delusions of grandeur, is here to deal with campus issues," Wharton graduate student Rob Alvarez said. "This frankly isn't our purpose." Alvarez also warned against hasty decision-making. "If you do this, you have to do this seriously," he said at the meeting, to which he brought copies of the relevant United Nations resolutions in hopes of encouraging this level of seriousness. Now in limbo, GAPSA's stance on the possible war with Iraq remains a controversial issue. "It's problematic that GAPSA is overwhelmed by conservative graduate students," Wellings said, citing her opinion that Penn's graduate student body is generally more liberal than its representatives. Ultimately, the resolution remains open for consideration and further debate at future meetings. "Legitimate questions were raised," Korst explained of the meeting. "We pushed the envelope" in defining GAPSA's role on campus.

Students in shock, disbelief after Columbia tragedy

(02/03/03 10:00am)

Announced at sporting events, over listservs and by word of mouth, news of the space shuttle Columbia's destruction spread rapidly across campus Saturday. Students cited shock, disbelief and sadness among their initial reactions. "You don't even keep up with the launches or anything," Engineering sophomore Andre De Clercq said. "It's only when something tragic happens that you become aware of it again." De Clercq found himself "shocked and upset" by the space shuttle's demise, calling the news "absolutely tragic." He also expressed concern specifically for the loss felt by Israelis, who had sent up their first astronaut on the mission. "It's very sad for their country," De Clercq said. The space flight "was a nice distraction from the Middle East conflict." College junior and Hillel Treasurer Jason Auerbach said he felt much the same way, noting that "the fact that it was an Israeli astronaut" made it that much more of a tragedy. College junior and Hillel Vice President Rebecca Fishman was also "really proud to hear that an Israeli" was taking part in the space mission. It was a "valiant effort, and I was really saddened and disappointed," she said. "Seeing [the Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon's] son on TV was the most disheartening thing," Auerbach recalled. "Anyone who watches the news would be aware of the tragedy, but I don't know if they're aware of the significance of it." But whether they were concerned with the Columbia's geopolitical implications or not, many students said they would probably attend a memorial or commemorative service were one to be held on campus. "It seems like the right thing to do," College sophomore David Brooks said. College freshman Alexandra Sibley, who heard about the shuttle's fate through an e-mail from Campus Crusade for Christ, saw the event as upsetting and disheartening. "I would assume all the Christian groups at Penn will be keeping the catastrophe in their closest prayers," Sibley said. "I was particularly upset because living near Houston -- I grew up with NASA and the space center being right there," Sibley continued. "It was weird hearing the people on TV quoting the [astronauts'] loss of contact with Houston." Wharton senior Jeffrey Miller has always had an interest in space exploration, so he too felt particularly upset by the event and deaths of the "honorable astronauts." "They were really brave people," Miller said. "They knew the risks, but they still did it." Also aware of these risks, Education graduate student Kirsten Engelhardt found the Columbia's destruction "scary to see" because she still remembers the explosion of the Challenger shuttle. "I was just staring at the TV in silence," she recalled. "You just wonder what could have been wrong," De Clercq said. De Clercq had heard that the space shuttle "just evaporated," and as an engineer, found himself wondering about the heat tiles and other theories of the Columbia's destruction which have already been made public, he explained. "I'm so intrigued by what could have happened," De Clercq said. "I really wonder how they're going to figure out what actually happened. "I was joking around the other day that I would like to be an astronaut," De Clercq added, "but they only take the best of the best."

U. works to attract Latino students

(01/30/03 10:00am)

While recent U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that at 13 percent of the population, Latinos have surpassed blacks to become the largest minority in the country, the group currently makes up only 6.4 percent of Penn undergraduate students. "The numbers are not equal," pointed out Maritza Santiago-Torres, an administration assistant at Penn's Latino resource center La Casa Latina. Latinos "are the top minority so the University should be more sensitive," Santiago-Torres said. "The place to start is with admissions." And the Undergraduate Admissions Office seems to know it. Through vigorous recruitment, a Multicultural Open House program in the fall and a three-day Minority Scholars Weekend in the spring, there is an "emphasis that Penn is putting on attracting Latino candidates," Canh Oxelson, director of Multicultural Recruitment Programs in Undergraduate Admissions wrote in an e-mail. Each of these programs continues to be revised in order to better entice minority students, including Latinos. Last fall, the Open House program was held earlier in the year to encourage students to apply for early decision, and the upcoming Minority Scholars Weekend was changed to allow students to meet with minority faculty. Yet for some, including Latino Coalition Spokesman and College junior Nico Rodriguez, there is still an uphill battle left to be fought. Although Rodriguez said, "It's tough to say" why the percentage of Latinos at Penn is half that of the nation as a whole, he considers insufficient recruitment measures to be a significant part of the problem. Penn ranks consistently with other Ivies in terms of Latino populations -- the Class of 2006 at Penn is 6.7 percent Latino while the numbers at Yale and Brown universities and Dartmouth College all range from 6 to 7 percent. "Penn has done well in recruiting Latino students," Oxelson wrote in the e-mail. "We are competing with other Ivy League institutions, well-known state universities and Hispanic-Serving Institutions for these great candidates, and yet the number of Hispanic students who applied and were accepted through early decision continued to rise this year." Admissions credits this increase to perseverance and the implementation of its new programs. "The Undergraduate Office of Admissions is very aggressive in its recruitment of Latino students," Oxelson wrote. Upon locating individuals who Oxelson described as "Latino candidates who are especially strong," Penn officials say they do their best to entice them. "We began wooing those students in November and will continue to stay in contact with them throughout the application process to May 1," Oxelson continued. Acknowledging these efforts, Director La Casa Latina, Anamaria Cobo was confident about prospects for the future. "As Latinos at Penn, we are fortunate to have a president, provost and vice provost for University Life who are committed to seeing the Latino/Hispanic population grow," Cobo wrote in an e-mail statement. Many see the national trends as an indication of how the issue of racial diversity is changing. According to Rodriguez, the "way of the future [for diversity] is no longer just a two-way street."

The poet behind the controversy

(01/24/03 10:00am)

College junior Carlos Gomez may have publicly called University President Judith Rodin a Nazi, but he says he isn't angry. His accusation, which was incorporated into a poem he performed at a commemorative breakfast on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, has elicited much response from the Penn community. "Rodin said to me as she stood up before she left, 'If you're that angry, why don't you come and make an appointment with me sometime'.... It was an interesting dynamic that was created in this whole idea that that type of passion is conceived of as anger," Gomez says. "That wasn't anger," he continues. "It wasn't an outburst. It was very deliberate. I planned it in advance, I knew what I was doing and it wasn't shocking to me as I was reading it." In Gomez's mind, what he did "in many ways mimicked the type of thing Dr. King would have done." In his time, King was "rowdy... very radical and very militant," Gomez adds. While many people may hesitate to draw parallels between him and King, radicalism certainly isn't foreign to Gomez. He has twice toured nationally, even performing at prisons and juvenile detention centers. He has performed with poets who appear on Broadway. He has encountered audiences of as many as 7,000 people. He has been threatened with arrest for performing on a street corner in New York City. He has also self-published a book. "I'm passionate about a lot of issues, whether it's homophobia, heterosexism, racism, classism or any of these things," Gomez explains. "I don't need a reason -- these things are reasons in themselves, because they are oppressive and because there are people being marginalized and destroyed by them." To counter these issues about which he feels so passionately, Gomez does more than simply perform. "Every cent we got" from one of the tours went to the international organization Doctors Without Borders, Gomez recounts. He also tries to involve others and invoke passion. He worked as the emcee for the rally the day Vice President Dick Cheney visited campus last fall. "I sort of got ideas out there and kept up the emotion and the excitement," he remembers. "I'm a contentious individual, and I'm one person that believes that one person can make a difference," he says of his life philosophy. "I don't want to change people, I don't want to make people how I am, but what I want people to do is to care, and if I can do that, then I did something with my life." And he makes no effort to "justify... or apologize" for his performance on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. "I think we need to start pushing each other outside of our comfort zones because the only way we're going to start realizing the dream that Dr. King was talking about is when we have courage... and say, 'Listen, I want to talk about this.'" Yet even his friends think Monday's performance may have been somewhat inappropriate. "The message he got out Monday is definitely important," College senior Robeson Frazier says, "but it was not the best time or venue." However, Frazier recognizes the passion Gomez feels. "He's not just showing off -- I know that he's involved personally and emotionally," Frazier says. "Every time I've seen Carlos perform, he ups the ante." Black Student League President and Wharton sophomore Yewande Fapohunda also agrees that Gomez had "valid points that should be addressed." "Not everyone of us can be that bold -- but at the same time, boldness can get in the way," Fapohunda says. "Some people can't overlook the sensationalism." But one of Gomez's major sentiments, which appeared as a line within the poem he performed Monday, is, "I don't care whether you like what I'm saying or not." Gomez criticizes the University as a whole and Rodin as an individual, saying that the "failure to outwardly oppose government policies indicates submission and endorsement. "We need to be critical of those who claim to lead us." Thus Gomez began his performance Monday with a quote by King from when he came forward as a dissenter of the Vietnam War: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." "There comes a time.../When silence exists as compliance breeding violence/In places we've never been/Like Saipan in the Pacific or Bassara in Iraq or 43rd Street in Philadelphia," he continued in his poem. And on a day many saw as one celebrating diversity and commonality, not only did Gomez call Rodin a Nazi, but he also called many people hypocritical for their views on diversity. "Listing a seven-month pregnant African-American woman/ With a temp job at 1920 Commons, with no benefits, working overtime/But not getting paid it/Included as part of the 'black' population of 'faculty and staff'/So she can be another token gesture for your diversity," he said. "Martin Luther King was absent of hypocrisy," Fapohunda says. "And Carlos wanted for people to turn a mirror on themselves, their leaders and Rodin even, and look for hypocrisy."

U. celebrates King's life with day of events

(01/20/03 10:00am)

This month's Martin Luther King Jr. symposium, which includes more than 40 events planned in honor of King's birthday, extends beyond the one official holiday -- the University is sponsoring a two-and-a-half-week long commemorative symposium on social change entitled "Penn's Commitment to the Legacy: Justice, Peace and Service." For the third year, today is to be observed as an official University holiday. Machamma Quinichett, the chair of the symposium's Executive Planning Committee, hopes students will recognize the importance of the day and make it a "day on, not a day off." Quinichett, the associate director of the African American Resource Center, expects an attendance of 500 to 600 people for the holiday's events, which include a mentoring program for Upward Bound students and a food distribution route through North Philadelphia. Involvement options range from all-day commitments to short projects and events on and off campus. The program is aided by a $5,000 federal grant. About 200 Penn students are expected to board buses bound for either Wilson Middle School or Sayer Elementary School to paint, clean and generally spruce up the schools. Others will stay on campus supervising and reading to children who will be decorating commemorative banners, to be hung later over Locust Walk. Isabel Mapp, the co-chairwoman for all of the "Day of Service" events, noted that children were coming to Penn from not only nearby West Philadelphia neighborhoods but also surrounding suburbs to participate in the events. "We have a history now, so people are calling," Mapp, the associate director of Staff, Faculty and Alumni Volunteer Services, explained of the high volume community interest. Furthermore, according to Quinichett, Penn's celebration for King is now being looked upon as a model for other universities. This year's executive planning committee received the Models of Excellence award from University President Judith Rodin's office as a tribute to its production of the symposium. The award "speaks to the sacrifice and the commitment to the honor of Dr. King," Quinichett explained. Quinichett began work on "bits and pieces of the symposium" back in June, and all 24 members of the planning committee began meeting regularly at the beginning of the fall semester. The symposium was also organized by several other committees, including the Day of Service Committee and the Programs Committee, which are comprised of student as well as staff participants. College sophomore Julija Zubac was selected by staff and faculty participants to serve on the Programs Committee. "Every individual [on the committee] takes on different events," explained Zubac, who helped organize the Reality Tour of Northern Philadelphia. "The meaning behind this month is overlooked sometimes.... It's become mainstream," Zubac lamented. She therefore became involved "to be part of the dialogue" and to encourage campus participation. To reach its goal of widespread student participation, a main concern of the planning committee was advertising. "No one should be able to say they didn't know about it," Quinichett said. In an official statement, Rodin also encouraged student involvement in the symposium. "We face perilous times, but if we get right with the spirit of Dr. King's legacy, we will bring his vision of a 'beloved community' closer to reality and the world closer to peace," she said in the statement.

Latino umbrella student group elects new leaders

(01/15/03 10:00am)

Penn's Latino students may soon be in a position to get a whole lot more out of campus life. The newly-elected board of the Latino Coalition is expanding, enthusiastic and eager to get started. The coalition, which unites all of the Latino groups on campus, plans to hold the year's first meeting early next week. Already looking to the work that lies ahead, College junior Nico Rodriquez -- the board's new spokesman, who will lead the organization this year -- explained what it meant for the Latino population to only comprise about four percent of the Penn community as a whole. Far from being discouraged by that number, Rodriquez said the small size of the community motivates its members to unite. "Because we're small, we have to double our efforts to get to know each other and expand to the greater community as a whole," Rodriquez said. More than a dozen groups comprise the Latino Coalition, with currently has around 350 to 400 active student participants. Rodriquez hopes to expand these numbers and create a "stronger infrastructure for Latino underclassmen." Rodriquez added that improving retention of Latino students at Penn will also be a central goal for this year's board. Personally, Rodriquez said he hopes to "stimulate more sponsorship and coordination for dialogue" during his upcoming tenure on the board. Similarly, the coalition's returning secretary Celia Castellanos plans on increasing cooperation. "We want to bring the small Latino community closer together and also unite with other groups on campus," the Wharton sophomore said. Although the board has many broad goals this year, it will also focus on some smaller objectives, Rodriquez said. "In order to do the broad stuff, you have to get specific." The seven-member board Rodriquez optimistically praises includes Veronica Lara, a College junior and the new student government correspondent, who he described as a "dynamic leader." Wharton freshmen David Rodriguez and Mayra Hernandez with take on the role of special projects co-coordinators. "She's only a freshman, but she's actively involved," Rodriquez said of Hernandez. The incoming board also includes College sophomores Katherine Aguero and Efren Olivares, who will take over as admissions strategies and initiatives co-coordinators. So with extensive plans ranging from mentoring programs to pre-frosh recruitment projects, the new board of Penn's Latino Coalition has only one thing left to do -- get started.