Search Results

Below are your search results. You can also try a Basic Search.

3401 Walnut troubles won't hit Sansom shops, U. says

(09/23/97 9:00am)

The new project should be able to avoid the problems the Shoppes at Penn had. Although Mad 4 Mex has seen a boom in business since its recent opening in the 3401 Walnut Street complex, the three years it took for the University to bring a restaurant to the former Italian Bistro spot highlight what many area retailers see as a continuing inability to retain businesses within the Shoppes at Penn. But although several businesses -- including Tuscany Cafe, Sam Goody, Quantum Books, The Lodge, Perfect Pretzel and two movie theaters -- have left the complex in recent years, University officials are confident that they will be able to maintain a consistent level of retail in the new Sansom Common project. Managing Director of Real Estate Tom Lussenhop explained that the retail spaces in Sansom Common will be larger than those in the 3401 Walnut Street complex, allowing the University to attract new "larger and more upscale" businesses. Most of the complex's retail spaces are approximately 400 square feet, while the new Sansom Common spaces will be approximately 5,000 square feet each -- an increase of over 1,200 percent. Additionally, the University is in a "position of total control over the tenant mix, the economics and occupancy terms of the individual tenants [of Sansom Common]" because it is the equity owner of the entire project. Although the University obtained leasing rights over the 3401 Walnut Street complex last year, when the space was developed between eight and 10 years ago, a private company with a different set of "expectations" controlled its retail mix, Lussenhop said. "The University is in a position of control of Sansom Common to the extent that the broader objective of exciting retail in the University community can be pursued in a direct way rather than via the intermediary of a third party who has its own objectives," he added. Lussenhop said the University's control over the Sansom Common project will allow it to prevent the types of problems which have marred the Shoppes at Penn complex -- where many current retailers complain that business is often poor, particularly over vacation periods -- since its creation. "It's been very tough for me to stay in business at 3401, but I don't need a lot of money and I like working with the students so I stay here," said Chris Anastasiou, manager of Eyeglass Encounters. "Over the summer and over vacations business is slow, and in general, the rents are high," he added. Foot Locker Manager Terrell Stinson described his store's business at the 3401 Walnut Street complex location as "mediocre," adding that the location "is not necessarily a bust, but it will never be a booming retail area." But University City Realty General Manager John Greenwood -- who manages the complex --Esaid he "would not refer to the Shoppes at Penn as a bust," and stressed that it is not unusual for the original tenant group of an area to evolve into a more "appropriate tenant mix." Lussenhop agreed that the need to change stores is fairly common in retail complexes, and said that although some retailers do well in the 3401 Walnut Street complex, others "typically" do not. Although some 3401 Walnut Street complex retailers complained that vacancies in the space caused their rents to rise, Greenwood stressed that since every tenant has a different lease, not all rents increase as a result of vacancies. "In certain circumstances, some tenants will pay higher occupancy costs due to vacancy, but that is very typical to some retail areas and traditional shopping areas," he said. For now, the Shoppes at Penn still has a vacant storefront in the former Sam Goody home, but Greenwood said the University has "more prospects than it has space." Shoppes at Penn tenants said Sansom Common will not compete with the existing complex, but will help to create what Greenwood described as "bigger critical mass in retail, and a destination similar to a mall." University of Cards Manager Christine Kern, for example, said that although she fears the Barnes & Noble University Bookstore -- scheduled to open in July 1998 -- may compete with her store, the Sansom Common project will "provide an attraction, and it will be fun to have more people around."

S'mores and 'Mocha Martinis' due on campus with Xando

(09/18/97 9:00am)

The infamous s'mores and Mocha Kiss native only to one cafe are coming to a table near you in summer 1998, as Xando makes its way to University City. Although the company signed a letter of intent but has not yet executed a lease, Xando Chairperson Andy Stenzler said, "We're ready to go, and we're coming to Penn." Once signed, the popular coffeehouse/bar will become a main component of the Sansom Common project, which aims to create an upscale retail district on the 3600 and 3700 blocks of Sansom Street. "We're excited about the project," Stenzler added. "[University officials] have done a great job of creating a great retail project, and we're very excited to have been asked to be a part of it." The University's managing director of real estate, Tom Lussenhop, said the interest expressed by Xando and other retailers is a measure of the excitement building in University City as a result of the project. "Xando has expressed deep interest in being part of Sansom Common and the revitalization of attractive, late-night retailing in University City," Lussenhop said. "We look forward to realizing the great potential that Xando and similar kinds of retail have in University City," he added. Plans for the Sansom Common branch include a two-tiered cafe with a balcony and year-round outdoor seating, according to Stenzler. Xando hopes to become a "meeting place for students to interact outside the classrooms and dorms," Stenzler said, stressing that the cafe will add a "unique option and late-night safety" with its 2 a.m. closing time. The cafe also plans to hang student artwork and feature student performers, making it possible for customers who frequent the restaurant to find an evening scene differing from the traditional daytime cafe. The University City location will be Xando's fourth site in Philadelphia. The company also has two locations in Connecticut -- including branches at Yale University -- and establishments in New York City and Washington, D.C. Stenzler said the Yale location has taught the employees about "the seasonalities of college campuses." And he added his hopes that the University City site will be similar to Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass., where "people are sitting outside all year round." He said several Yale professors use Xando as a meeting place for small classes, suggesting that Penn professors could use the restaurant in a similar way. The store will feature a new interior color scheme designed specifically for the University, and will hire up to 50 employees, half of whom will be students. "The Penn students have been really nice to Xando -- they always come to our 15th Street location," Stenzler said. Wharton sophomore Brian Snyder praised the retail development as a "great idea," adding that "since it's staying open late, it will be a popular place for students to go at night." Stenzler -- a self-described "Penn-reject" -- launched the Xando company with friends from college and high school when he was 25, after graduating from the Stern School of Business at New York University. "I wanted to do something different in the business field and show people that entrepreneurship is a really good way to express yourself," he said. He added that he hopes to receive rights to the building site in March and have the store open between May and August.

Retailers must kick doldrums of summer

(09/17/97 9:00am)

Though the University's academic calendar keeps many students off campus for nearly a quarter of the year, retail officials say the new stores moving into the Sansom Common project will not see their bottom line suffer as a result. Most area retailers agree, however, that as campus empties out during the summer, as well as over Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks, business drops and stores are forced to compensate. If Sansom Common is going to jumpstart campus life the way University officials predict, merchants will need to keep business up despite the fact that the school empties out during the top two retail weekends of the year -- Thanksgiving and New Year's. University officials said that won't be a problem. Managing Director of Real Estate Tom Lussenhop said the vacation periods won't harm any of the new retail coming to the University, stressing that "the retailers we've talked to about coming to Penn are acutely atuned to the peaks and valleys of the student market -- we've only talked to people who know what they're getting into." "If our retailers do a quality job of merchandising, they will successfully attract consumers throughout the year -- the University is choosing its new retailers with an eye for success not just during the academic year," he added. Retail expert Kathy Sawin -- a top official in the retail development company working with the University to bring businesses to Sansom Common -- said that although the summer season is "dead, all across the boards," Penn has a "tremendous population from outside the University and is not a tomb during the summer." She said customers from other parts of the region are likely to come shop in the new stores during the University's off-seasons, noting that La Terrasse and the White Dog Cafe are both frequented by people who live outside University City. "It's our feeling that the new retail coming to Penn will prosper," she said, adding that retailers examine their sales over the course of the entire year, rather than just over a period of months. "You can't look at what you do each day, but you must look at what you do over the year," she said. But several area retailers emphasized the significant decrease in business during the summer months, and they predicted some hurdles for the new Sansom Common stores. "Summer is a difficult time and yes, it hurts our business," said Achilles Nickles, manager of the Penn Book Center at 38th and Walnut street. "Although there is a little flow during the summer sessions, it's difficult to compensate when the students and professors aren't here," he added. Terrell Stinson -- manager of the Foot Locker store in the 3401 Walnut Street complex -- agreed that "business probably drops 40 percent during the summer" because most of his store's customers are students. Some University officials said they recognize that business drops over the summer, and they have begun to implement new programs to help merchants stay afloat. Assistant Director of Houston Hall Retail Tom Hauber said he allows merchants to pay a full year's rent over the course of nine months, giving them the opportunity to pay rent when "things are good" -- rather than during the summer, when "business is slow." Houston Hall is completely closed during Thanksgiving weekend and the week between Christmas and New Year's Day because business is typically slow. Additionally, the building closes at 7 p.m. over the summer, as opposed to its normal 12:30 a.m. closing time. Hauber said he tries to draw people to Houston Hall during the summer by having special sales and barbeques on its back patio, but stressed that merchants are aware of the slow seasons when they rent the space.

Vending players discuss proposed open plazas

(09/12/97 9:00am)

An architectural firm looked to hammer out plans for a proposed fresh air food plaza behind Van Pelt Library. Representatives of the University City Vendors Alliance, the Penn Consumers Alliance, Van Pelt Library and the University City District met with an architectural site planning company yesterday afternoon to discuss plans for the creation of a fresh air food plaza behind Van Pelt Library, the first of several proposed sites. The fresh air food plazas are part of a proposed city ordinance that aims to move street vendors to specific locations on and around campus. Under the ordinance, some vendors would remain on the streets, but their choice of spots would be restricted. The others would move into plazas, which would provide electrical hook-ups, sewage and water lines and improved lighting for a cost of $1 a month for five years. The plazas would also contain outdoor seating for customers. University officials said some vendors have indicated they would expand their hours if they received such new amenities at low cost. Van Pelt officials stressed that if the firm, Synterra Ltd., "can meet our needs, we're all for [the building plan]," said John Keane, director of administrative services for the library. Keane explained the library is concerned about whether the proposed plaza will block the library's rear entrance, preventing fire and rescue squads -- as well as delivery vehicles -- from reaching the library. Van Pelt typically receives approximately 123 deliveries per week. He stressed that "when I came out of the meeting, I felt that [Synterra] really listened to us, so we have our fingers crossed that they can come up with something attractive that can provide value for us all." Vendors Alliance spokesperson Scott Goldstein said the group -- which had long been frustrated by what he described as the University's "lack of respect where communication is concerned" -- was "impressed that today's meeting was largely to get our input as far as what is needed in creating these fresh air food courts." "I was very impressed with Synterra -- myself, the two people from the [Penn Consumers Alliance] and some vendors all thought that if this group is empowered properly by the University, they will do the job well," he said, adding that he was "struck" by the company's credibility. Synterra Project Coordinator William Mellix said that "we are not designing plans in a closed room -- we want everybody's opinion" on the proposed plazas, but stressed that vendors have been "shifted around" in discussions about the proposed ordinance. And Goldstein noted that "the early process showed little respect for vendors, consumers, students, faculty and staff, and it's nice to see that the University has changed their tact." Mellix added that the company is trying to design fresh air food plazas that will look "acceptable and aesthetically pleasing" even when the vendors are closed. Yesterday's meeting will be followed by similar discussions as the other proposed sites come under consideration. The sites may include the area in front of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and a site on 40th Street, according to Jack Shannon, the University's top economic development official.

State wants more of UC Brite

(09/10/97 9:00am)

The lighting program may expand beyond its original focus on primarily student areas. "Block by block, street by street, house by house" is the motto of the University's UC Brite initiative, which has improved lighting on 56 of the 63 streets in University City's heavily populated student area since last December. But after a summer that Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman described as a crucial period of "exponential growth" for the lighting program, the future of the initiative is uncertain. Phase two of the project -- which has focused mainly on lighting the area extending from 40th to 45th streets between Baltimore Avenue and Chestnut Street -- is scheduled to conclude this month. Yet state energy officials have indicated they want to continue the program until all the streets between 40th and 49th streets and Woodland Avenue and Market Street have been adequately lit. "Since the lighting engenders such a convivial atmosphere, the 1,500 light fixtures we've installed just may not be enough," Pennsylvania Energy Company Consultant Roy David said. Scheman refused to comment on whether the program would continue, saying the University is waiting "to hear from students, faculty and staff in the neighborhood" on lighting conditions before deciding on the program's future. UC Brite aims to place new lights on every house in the area. Residents are required to pay for the replacement lights, but are reimbursed for half of the cost through a fund established by Penn, University City Housing, Campus Apartments, University Enterprises and Allen Klein Properties. Scheman -- who announced the program with University President Judith Rodin last December -- noted that "the initiative used up every single standard fixture in the United States of its kind" and added that the program required the hiring of five additional electric companies to work on installing new lights. She stressed that while the University is "engaged in a serious and comprehensive examination of how far we've gotten with UC Brite," it is "the people's comments that matter" in evaluating the program. While the program's cost has exceeded initial estimates, Scheman said it "has not yet hit six figures," and said the investment "is really worthwhile." University officials offered local landlords a special "March Blitz" deal last March to encourage them to participate in the UC Brite plan. It was previously open only to home-owners. Scheman said the "landlords were fabulous in helping the program," citing their insistence on paying the full cost of replacing lights on their properties, despite the University's offer of splitting the costs. In addition to the security and aesthetic benefits provided by the new lights, David said the lights are more economical to operate. He explained that while operating a 100-watt bulb normally costs $30 per year, the UC Brite fixtures cost only $15 for the same length of time. And he added that a neighborhood resident described her street a "landing strip, like a string of pearls" as a result of the replacement lights, and that the aesthetic pleasure of the lighting caused other residents to throw spontaneous block parties throughout the summer.

Effort to fight panhandling undeterred by Wawa theft

(09/09/97 9:00am)

One year ago, the University launched a widely publicized new program aimed at reducing the number of panhandlers near campus by placing change bins in the Wawa convenience stores at 38th and Spruce streets and 36th and Chestnut streets. But recently, the change bin in the Wawa on 36th and Chestnut streets was stolen and not replaced, reducing the program's effectiveness -- although not enough to prevent University officials from attempting to expand the "Don't Give Change, Help Penn Make a Change" program to other area stores. "We had a change bin adhered to the counter, but some kids tried to steal it -- we got it back but it was all cracked up and broken," said Al Madara, manager of the Wawa food market on 36th and Chestnut streets. The program is slated to be completed by the end of the month, when University officials hope to have change bins and posters advertising the campaign in the My Favorite Muffin store on 40th Street between Locust and Walnut streets, as well as in the 7-Eleven convenience store at 38th and Chestnut streets. The 7-Eleven's management have not yet agreed to take part in the program, but University officials said they were confident the store would participate. The program began in summer 1996, when the Office of Community Relations installed change bins in the Wawas to provide students a way to donate their spare change to charitable organizations directly --Eand not to individual panhandlers. Money collected in the bins is donated to the University City Hospitality Coalition and the Horizon House, a West Philadelphia-based human service organization. The program has raised approximately $700 thus far, according to University spokesperson Sandy Smith. And Wawa's Madara noted that "we were doing really well with [the program] and donated quite a bit of money to the Horizon House" until his store's bin was stolen. Director of Police Operations Maureen Rush said the "combination of the education to the community not to give money to people on the street, the money from the change bin going to the right place and the ongoing force from the police -- that totality is what has made all the difference" in reducing the number of panhandlers around campus. Rush added that the initiative to rid the campus of panhandlers this semester has been a "self-generated service," in which the police are addressing the issue before they receive phone calls, noting that there have been "very few" calls regarding this issue as of yet this year. And Office of Community Relations Director Glenn Bryan noted that "we have some roaming panhandlers this year but it was really out of control before -- you couldn't walk a minute without being asked for money." Rush stressed that "there is a big difference between panhandlers and homeless people, as panhandlers in the neighborhood are generally entrepreneurs who have put a stake in a generous area" who may not necessarily even be homeless. She added that panhandlers often "put the money toward drugs or alcohol." Bryan added that other universities -- such as the University of California at Berkeley -- have contacted Penn to request information about the program.

Students, area residents may 'Get to Know Their Neighbors'

(09/08/97 9:00am)

In the latest effort to help University students and West Philadelphia residents mesh together, several Penn and community organizations are working on a series of "Getting to Know Your Neighbor" receptions. The program is designed to examine student interaction with the surrounding area, under the assumption that as students and community residents get to know each other personally, they will be more likely to treat each other with respect. Representatives from the University's Program for Student-Community Involvement and the Undergraduate Assembly have been meeting with members of the Spruce Hill Community Association to plan the receptions. Office of Community Relations Director Glenn Bryan said residents often feel animosity toward students because of the excessive amounts of noise, partying and trash they bring to the neighborhood. "Residents have been annoyed, angered and insulted by students' parties, but the residents and students have never even met each other," Bryan said. UA Chairperson Noah Bilenker, a College junior, added that "if students had a better relationship with the residents, maybe they wouldn't throw beer cans all over the place." Bryan said the receptions "would benefit students by giving them an idea of what it's like living in West Philly and would also give residents an idea of what it's like to be a student living off campus." Bryan noted that if students and residents were to establish a friendly relationship at the onset of the academic year, students would be less likely to deface their neighbors' property during parties. "We're not going to be disciplinarians, but we're just trying to facilitate interaction between students and residents," he said. The project hopes to create such interaction while students are still settling into the neighborhood in order "to establish a welcoming committee for everyone living in the area," Bilenker said. He added that "there are target blocks which may be a little loud" -- such as Beige Block, Pine, Delancey, Spruce and Walnut streets. Bilenker and College junior Hillary Aisenstein worked closely with the Office of Community Relations to develop a brochure -- directed toward students living off campus -- featuring tips on how to be a responsible neighbor. Aisenstein said several West Philadelphia residents expressed interest in handing the brochures out to the students, as part of an effort to meet the students living in the area. She stressed the project was designed to take "the proactive approach" to alleviate hostility between students and area residents. "We're all ingrained with this 'Don't go past 40th Street' garbage," Aisenstein said. Bilenker added that several residents who had introduced themselves to their neighbors last year had succeeded in developing positive relationships. "[Residents] used to completely resent students, and now some of them have students house-sit for them, fix their computers or take in their mail while they're away," he said.

Mad 4 Mex celebrates opening with gala party

(09/04/97 9:00am)

Students and faculty said the restaurant's late-night hours make it a valuable addition to the area. Blue and white corn tortilla chips and a slew of on-the-house margaritas welcomed people to last night's official kick-off of Mad 4 Mex, a funky Mexican restaurant which opened this week behind the 3401 Walnut Street complex. With oiled, leather-bound menus featuring branded cacti waiting on each table, restaurant-goers said they were impressed with Mad 4 Mex's wide variety of burritos, enchiladas, soups, salads, appetizers and extensive vegetarian cuisine. And many said they were especially satisfied with the cost of the food, with nothing on the menu exceeding $9 and a special half-off deal offered between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. every night. The restaurant -- a branch of the Pittsburgh-based Big Burrito, Inc. -- opened for business Monday, filling a space which has remained vacant since the Italian Bistro closed due to financial difficulties in July 1994. Restaurant co-owners Tom Baron and Juno Yoon said they are excited to serve the University community and are not concerned with past crime problems in University City or the difficulties involved with filling the vacant space. "This particular area doesn't even make me think of crime -- being from New York City, [Juno and I] are not really fazed by it," Baron said. University officials explained that Mad 4 Mex's late night hours make it a valuable addition to University City. "I think the most important thing Mad 4 Mex can do for us is create vibrance on the streets and create the kind of atmosphere where people are not afraid to come out late at night with their friends," Executive Vice President John Fry said at the party last night. Administrators also heralded the restaurant opening's as a first step in their plan of attracting new business to the University City area, which will soon feature new retail and dining in Sansom Common, an upscale retail park. "I think it's another great restaurant choice which will complement La Terrasse, and it's a sign of what's yet to come," said Jack Shannon, the University's top economic development official. And Director of Management Development Annie McKee added that she'd "like to see us work to open up the boundaries of the University of Pennsylvania so the surrounding community becomes a part of us, and I love that the University is committing." Students -- who have long expressed displeasure over the area's lack of late-night retail -- said they were excited about having another restaurant open past midnight. Eat at Joe's, a 24-hour diner, will also open this fall. "I think it's a great idea to have a restaurant whose kitchen is going to stay open late -- I also think it's as good as bring the diner here, but the food [at Mad 4 Mex] is better," said Jen Shook, a College junior present at the kick-off celebration. Yoon and Baron opened their first Mad Mex restaurant near the University of Pittsburgh in 1993, and have opened six additional theme restaurants in the Pittsburgh area. The company's success received a front-page profile in The Wall Street Journal, which reported that Big Burrito recorded sales of $6.8 million in 1996, along with a net income of $200,000, and is expected to reach $10 million by the end of this year. "We were looking for another market, and we knew Penn and Drexel would provide it," Yoon said. The restaurant is open daily from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Services district starts cleanup, town watch

(09/03/97 9:00am)

About 60 yellow-and-black clad workers hit the streets of University City this summer in an effort to make the neighborhood cleaner and safer. Representatives of local universities, businesses, community organizations and government agencies joined together to create a long-awaited special services district in West Philadelphia, expanding efforts to clean up University City. The $4.5 million project is modeled on the 7-year-old Center City District, which is credited with improving the street paving, lighting and sidewalk cleaning in the area, as well as reducing crime downtown by hiring professional town-watchers to be visibly present on the streets. University City District employees started work Aug. 15, targeting a 120-block area west of the Schuylkill River, extending from 30th to 48th streets and from Spring Garden Street to Woodland Avenue. UCD officials say they are working to remove graffiti, clean sidewalks and lots, increase security, plant trees and hang banners in order to make the area "a destination to work and to play," UCD Chairperson and University Executive Vice President John Fry said in a June statement. "University City will be to Center City what Cambridge is to Boston," Fry added, mentioning that he began planning the UCD over six months ago in order to improve the quality of life in University City, an area which was the sight of the October murder of University researcher Vladimir Sled and the September shooting of then-College junior Patrick Leroy. Organizations affiliated with the UCD -- including Penn, Drexel, the Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania,the West Philadelphia Partnership and the United States Postal Service -- have already raised most of the necessary funds through voluntary contributions. The allotted funds are divided into four categories, ranging from cleaning public areas and providing security specialists to increasing lighting and hiring professionals to oversee UCD projects. Since the plans got off the ground, the workers have been visibly busy throughout the area. All of them are West Philadelphia residents who had been on welfare until recently. The University's role in the UCD will be one of both financial and community involvement. University President Judith Rodin said in June that she hopes the University will be "a good neighbor with the community" as it moves forward with its future plans for renovation and academic pursuit. Other participants in the UCD include Amtrak, the Children's Seashore House, the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, the University City Community Council, the University City Science Center, and the VA Medical Center.

U. seeks fresh start with public on vending law

(09/03/97 9:00am)

Officials hope to provide better information about their proposal to regulate street and sidewalk vending near campus. After a tumultuous summer of negotiations with local vendors and city officials, University administrators are trying a new tack with the public in their attempt to reorganize street and sidewalk food trucks. Administrators said their goal is to restrict vending to specific sites that would boost the image of the campus, allow vendors and retail shops to co-exist and improve traffic safety and parking conditions, especially near the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. For months, the University has been working with City Council members to draft a proposed ordinance governing vending. But after a huge groundswell of opposition to the plan this summer, administrators are trying a new spin on the plan, admitting that they failed to involve the public enough when the ordinance was first proposed. Brochures explaining the ordinance will be mailed to every student and employee, and City Council President John Street and Councilwoman Janie Blackwell will be on campus Thursday to discuss the proposal. The key to the ordinance is the creation of four on-campus "fresh air food plazas," which would house about half the vendors now scattered around campus, said Jack Shannon, the University's top economic development official. The plazas would assign vendors to specific locations, so they would no longer have to vie for spaces each morning. The vendors would receive electrical hook-ups to discourage gas-powered generators, proper sewage and water lines and better lighting for about $1 month, Shannon said. The food plazas would also contain outdoor seating. Since the University would run the plazas, some vendors would expand their operation to include evening and weekend hours. Though Shannon said the proposed ordinance would benefit both vendors and the Penn community, several food truck operators said they do not want to move. "I've been here for seven years, and if I move to another location, I would lose business," said Truont Tran, owner of a fruit truck at 36th and Walnut streets."People know me on this corner." The proposed ordinance would relocate the trucks, but not eliminate any of the approximately 90 vendors in the University City area, Shannon said. Some vendors would remain on the streets and sidewalks in designated areas. "We need to strike a series of balances -- a balance between the needs of the vendors and the dining public, and a balance between accessibility and public safety here in University City," Shannon said. "I think we've made progress in achieving these balances, and we will come up with something that's a win-win situation in the community," he added. But despite the new pitch, some vendors still have reservations about the plan, accusing the University of freezing them out. "The University has continually put roadblocks in the [negotiating] process, to where our level of suspicion demands that we move at an unfortunately careful pace," said Scott Goldstein, a representative of the University City Vendor's Alliance. And although Goldstein claimed to be "highly optimistic" about the turnout of this issue, he condemned the University for its "underhanded" operations and said University officials involved in the negotiations were "arrogant early on in the process."

Profs host students in W. Phila. homes

(09/03/97 9:00am)

Travelling in a telltale herd, but not headed to any of the weekend's fraternity parties, several groups of freshmen ventured into West Philadelphia neighborhoods Sunday afternoon as part of a new Penn Reading Project initiative. In an attempt to eradicate some of the negative stereotypes associated with West Philadelphia, faculty members hosted nine of the 141 reading project discussion sections in their area homes. The students from the fourth floor of the Quadrangle's Coxe building discussed Garry Wills' Lincoln at Gettysburg at History Professor Walter Licht's home on St. Mark's Square, just a few blocks away from campus boundaries. "We thought it was important for freshmen to see first-hand that there is a group of people who calls West Philly their home," Licht said. "And since students move into West Philly, they should help us keep it clean and safe. "We who live out here are very aware of the crime, but we don't feel it's a war zone," he added, noting that his 15-year old daughter has enjoyed growing up in the area. This new addition to the reading project allowed freshmen to gain an early sense of their surroundings, said Chris Dennis, director of Academic Programs in Residence. After leading a discussion of the novel, Licht brought the students on a brief tour of his neighborhood's tree-lined streets and Victorian-style homes, highlighting the ethnic mix of residents and a 19th century cemetery, similar to the one written about in Wills' novel. "I know that there are bad parts of West Philly, but I know now that there are beautiful parts like this one, and I'm glad [Licht] let us see that," College freshman Molly Selzer said. "I thought it was cool that [Licht] let us into his house -- it's a more intimate atmosphere than a classroom, and the area didn't seem bad at all," College freshman Kari Feinberg said.

COLUMN: Victimized, but not traumatized

(06/19/97 9:00am)

West Philadelphia has betrayed me. With the swipe of a baseball bat against my car window, I became a crime victim last week. I let my defenses down, and I joined the ranks of the helpless and frustrated. Helpless, yes; hopeless, no. Living in Philadelphia has been a learning experience. When Kathy Change set herself aflame before my eyes last fall, I thought I would never recover; when a month-long crime wave -- which culminated in the shooting of then-College senior Patrick Leroy -- marked my entrance to the University I dreamed of rural Swarthmore, where strings of crime are unheard of. Yet, for me, there has been plenty to celebrate in West Philadelphia. I wanted to come to a big city school and escape the narrow force field of my suburban home town. The unfortunate truth is that the University community in West Philadelphia is clearly divided into the "haves" and the "have nots." Falling into the jaded world of the "haves," I have strived to empower those who remain less fortunate. On the side, I have lauded myself for engaging in dialogues that explore ways to improve the town-gown relations of this community, rather than letting myself fall prisoner to my pre-assigned side of the fence, where all of the "haves" congregate. My recent victimization bothers me most not because my possessions were stolen, but because it stripped me of the ideals in which I used to take pride. The danger in becoming a victim lies in my own internal battle; I am tempted to rebuild the same fence that I had hoped to tear down. Angered by the destruction of my car and theft of my personal property, I am left to wonder whether or not I have allowed myself to become seduced by the idea that the inhabitants of West Philadelphia will ever find a commonality upon which to build a community. I don't want to believe that people will always be separated by socio-economic conditions; I don't want to surrender before I've had a real chance to engage in the battle. I came to this university to be a part of something different and now, disillusioned, I am not sure if things will ever be different. My anger won't let me sit back and listen to the gun shots anymore -- inspiration has descended, wrapping her effective claws around my neck and giving me no choice but to make the move toward improvement. If I continue to sit back, I will be strangled by a pervasive sense of worthlessness. I plan to closely with the West Philadelphia community this fall, and at the least, I will welcome any experience my role will bring. Although I have joined the team of those who have been victimized, I am hardly willing to sit on the bench and surrender to fright. If the game leaves me ridden by dilemma, so be it. I will try to plod onward as most survivors do -- my team's experience as victims should not make us feel like losers. But if I refuse to see myself as a victim, if my return to school is met with the perception of an exciting cultural opportunity, I may be able to recapture the joy, and I will once again celebrate education and opportunity in West Philadelphia. Either way, I win.

Minority students criticize plans for more permanence

(06/01/97 9:00am)

Tenafly, N.J. University administrators faced criticism throughout the year from minority students over the quality and pace of efforts to attract and retain more faculty and students of color. At a February meeting between minority student leaders and University President Judith Rodin, former Black Student League president Obinna Adibe, a 1997 College graduate, announced that the group would not participate in discussions regarding Rodin's plan for minority permanence, charging that the University hasn't addressed several important concerns for black students. Rodin's minority permanence plan, released last fall, lays out steps to improve minority student recruitment and retention by increasing the number of African American and Hispanic faculty on campus. "We feel that during this past year, we've been trying to get minority data and the administration has been giving us the run-around," said BSL Parliamentarian Jonathan Carroll, a College junior. "The University has not been cooperating as we would like them to," he added. But Rodin said she began the February meeting by "laying out all that we done since the November meeting and there were numerous initiatives, many of which Sean and Obinna had a hand in creating." In light of those initiatives, Rodin said she was surprised the BSL feels it has been ignored. "I find myself perplexed by the allegation that nothing has been done," she said. "The purpose of the initiatives is to continue efforts of the University toward recruitment and retaining outstanding students from underrepresented minorities," she added. The United Minorities Council did not take a formal position on the BSL's criticisms of Rodin's plan, but outgoing UMC Chairperson Susie Lee said her group fully supports the BSL's gripes. "The groups are going to do as much to support each other as possible, because we all share the same frustrations," Lee said. And Debralee Santos -- UMC representative for Asociacion Cultural de Estudiantes Latino Americanos, or ACELA -- said Latino students allow perceive that the administration has not accomplished much of many of its goals to increase the minority presence on campus. "The BSL is providing a forum for discussion and we appreciate their research and efforts," Santos said. In April, a crowd of about 100 black students, faculty, administrators and community members organized a public demonstration accusing the University of mistreating the black community. The demonstrators marched down Locust Walk from the W.E.B. DuBois College House to College Green, chanting their demands for greater minority recruitment and retention. Black Graduate and Professional Student Association President Vincena Allen, a graduate student in the School of Social Work, spoke to the demonstrators about the small number of black graduate students and the need for such students to mentor black undergraduates. She said she was shocked that there are only two black graduate students in the Annenberg School of Communication. "Do not tolerate us," she said. "Want us and respect us." Another issue plaguing the minority community is the question of whether to assign the United Minorities Council a permanent seat on University Council, and the issue -- which has been contested over a period of three years -- remains a tangled one. The UMC and its supporters have argued at Council that the student seats allocated to the Undergraduate Assembly do not adequately represent minority interests before Council, which serves as an advisory body to the president and provost on campus affairs. After being pushed under the rug several times, a vote on the issue was finally scheduled for the April 30 Council meeting. Council, however, failed to meet the quorum necessary for a binding vote -- with fewer than 46 of the 91 Council members present -- thereby precluding the vote and again delaying the decision. The UA unofficially gave the UMC one of its 10 Council seats -- complete with voting privileges -- until spring 1994. Any UA member may run for one of the body's seats on Council, with Council elections held at the same time as general UA elections in the spring and fall. When the UA received five additional seats in 1994, members proposed giving the UMC an official seat without holding an election. But Council ruled that the UA's request breached the body's bylaws. Only UA members may fill the group's seats, so the UA cannot allocate an automatic seat to the UMC. Outgoing UMC Vice Chairperson Olivia Troye, a College junior, said Council is delivering the message that minority affairs don't matter to the University.

With no quorum, UMC fails in bid to obtain Council seat

(05/16/97 9:00am)

The United Minorities Council's bid to obtain a seat on University Council was stalled yet again at the April 30 Council meeting as the body failed to meet the quorum required for a binding vote on the issue. Council needs 46 of its 91 members present to make in order to make a bylaw change, but Council Secretary Constance Goodman said there were only "30-something" members at the meeting. A motion for a straw poll to determine Council members' positions on the issue failed, leaving it unclear whether the vote would have succeeded. The low turnout at the meeting was not totally unexpected. Council experiences an ongoing attendance problem, with few of the 45 members of the faculty delegation attending meetings regularly. In a report to the few members who were present at last month's meeting, outgoing Council Steering Chairperson Peter Kuriloff criticized the body for its lack of participation and failure to generate productive dialogue this year. "University Council has been spotty in its successes this year," the Education professor said. "We didn't have the kind of interesting discussions that we could and should have at all times." Kuriloff, who also chairs the Faculty Senate, added that the lack of stimulating dialogue meant that Council has not been useful in its capacity as an advisory board to the president and provost. To end the difficulties involved with meeting quorum, Kuriloff has proposed a bylaw change for next year to reduce the number of members needed at meetings. "If we don't get our act together and get the quorum changed, this body is totally undermined in its capacity," he said. But Council members noted that a successful vote to lower quorum may be difficult to achieve, since the vote would also be subject to the current quorum guidelines. "The quorum rule is pretty ridiculous, since the people who always come to meetings are obviously the ones who care about the issues, so they should be able to vote," said Undergraduate Assembly Secretary and Olivia Troye, a College sophomore who served on the UMC last year. And former UA Vice Chairperson Larry Kamin, a College junior, said lowering quorum is not the underlying issue, and that the poor attendance needs to be addressed first. For the UMC, the failure to meet quorum means that the group will have to wait still longer before it may receive a seat on Council. The UA had granted the UMC one of its seats on Council until 1994, when a change in Council bylaws required that all members be elected by their constituent bodies. Since UMC members are not elected by the UA's entire constituency, they were unable to retain the UA seat. Much of the UA has opposed adding a UMC seat to Council, arguing that the UA serves as the representative body of undergraduates, and that groups seeking representation should run for a spot on UA. But persistent UMC members said they would not let the issue disappear. "The issue is not going to die -- minority students will continue to be a part of the University and will remain active," said UMC Chairperson Tope Koledoye, a College junior. "I'm very disappointed -- I wish for once something would come out of this issue and people would care enough to come out and vote," she added, noting that the failure to fill quorum is reflective of the University's lack of commitment toward minority issues.

Rasool Berry brings experience, leadership to BSL

(04/25/97 9:00am)

The new BSL president plans to foster a sense of community among black undergraduate groups. Though Rasool Berry dreams of a semester abroad in Cameroon -- where he will perform a cross-cultural study between West Africa and Philadelphia -- his immediate goals were just refocused on campus, with his election as the new president of the Black Student League. The College sophomore has been a member of the BSL since his freshman year, spending the last two semesters as both of its two corresponding secretaries. Berry took on those positions while also co-chairing the group's community outreach and advertising programs. "With my position on community outreach, I had really gotten to know a lot of people, and put myself in a position to carry the torch," Berry said. His major community outreach effort saw Berry organizing a program called "Reach One, Teach One," which matches students from Penn with students from West Philadelphia high schools. Now Berry says he has "big, big plans" for the BSL's future, as he is trying to reorganize the assorted black undergraduate groups to gain more of a sense of community among them. "The groups are very powerful groups, and if we were to organize together, it would be very efficient," he said. Berry mentioned his commitment to the black presence on campus, emphasizing his desire to "enhance dialogue between all kinds of students and to establish the BSL as a strong and vibrant organization." He mentioned his dedication to the black community because "one of the first things that's noticeable at Penn is that there are not enough black people here." "If we had more blacks here, that would be the first step to improving diversity," he added. College senior Obinna Adibe, the outgoing president, called Berry a valuable asset to the BSL and a capable leader. "I have all the faith in him in the world -- he knows what to do and how to do it," Adibe said. Berry praised the past BSL leadership, saying he wouldn't change anything -- since previous years saw the group make several changes to its constitution and organization -- but will only progress onward. "The BSL has laid the foundations for me to continue, but everyone is different, so we're all going to run things differently," he said. "They did a lot of hard work -- I just have to follow through with it," he added. Berry is attempting to individualize a major, combining the fields of sociology, psychology, cultural anthropology and education. Participating as a "non-singing member," he is loosely affiliated with the Penn gospel choir, and is active within his church community. And as a resident of the W.E.B. DuBois College House for the past two years, Berry served on the DuBois house council and was involved in a one-act festival for the African American Artists Alliance. Asked where he sees himself in 20 years, Berry quickly responded, confidently noting his desire to "have developed a style or theory of teaching that would be sensitive to students' needs, and to be aware of differences in how that plays out in terms of living and learning." And as if that weren't enough, "maybe I'll even come out with a ground-breaking book that changes the way people think," he added.

Minority presence low across Ivies

(04/24/97 9:00am)

Students around the Ivy League said their schools don't do enough to address minority issues. In a stark contrast to the glossy brochures of Ivy League admissions offices boasting diverse student bodies, minority student leaders at all eight schools criticized campus officials for not paying enough attention to their concerns -- including efforts to ensure minority representation. Statistics representing minority presence show that -- with the exception of Asian students -- the percentage of minorities at Ivy League schools is lower than their representation in the nation's population. For example, Yale University's current freshman class is comprised of 6 percent black students, while 12.7 percent of the nation is black, according to a 1994 U.S. Census Bureau current population survey. "The number of black students that Yale has admitted has gone steadily down for four years, meaning that once the senior class graduates, black students will make up less than 6 percent [of the undergraduate population], which is very disturbing to me," said Yale sophomore Brooke Richie, head of the Black Students Alliance. "The result of this problem makes for a less diverse environment and makes it less probable for blacks to apply in future years," she added. Richie added that the high costs of an Ivy education and relatively high average family income of Ivy students combine to prevent many students from even applying -- since they don't think they are financially capable. "Yale should be making more of an effort to retain this minority presence," Richie said. Yale's administration has cancelled its Minority Scholars Weekend for the last two years, making Yale the only Ivy school without such a program. "There is almost a disregard for cultural life at Yale," she said, adding that there is a "very deep sense of dissatisfaction" among the minority groups at Yale, and student activism and protest is on the rise. Richie's lament is echoed by students around the Ivy League. At Cornell University and at Penn, students charge recruiting efforts could be stepped up. But administrators at both schools defended their programs. According to Cornell University Student Assembly Minority-at-Large George Ortiz, Cornell lacks active outreach programs to attract minority applicants. "Each of our seven colleges has its own plan, but we don't have a centralized effort," he said. And although Cornell does have a minority hosting weekend, Ortiz labeled it as "nothing impressive." Penn Admissions Dean Lee Stetson said the University has always had a commitment to minority presence. "Enrollment tries to maximize the number of students from disadvantaged minority areas, especially Hispanic and African American students," Stetson said. "We are committed to students of all walks of life," he added. Black Student League President Rasool Berry, a College sophomore, said one of his first impressions, when he came to the University through a minority recruitment program, was that Penn lacked a strong black presence. Although Penn sponsors a Minority Scholars Weekend and other Native American, African American and Latino recruitment programs, Berry said the University could increase its efforts to encourage minority students. "The number of minority students is ridiculous, and the University can definitely do more recruitment," he added. Even at schools where students do not criticize minority recruiting programs, many minority student leaders said university administrators are not responsive enough to their specific concerns. "Although I think Harvard does a really good job with minority recruitment, once the minority students get here, Harvard appreciates us for statistics, but the administration continues to refuse to hear us," said Jessy Fernandez, co-chairperson of Harvard University's Minority Students Alliance. "To me, the most important thing is for Harvard to make it a priority to broaden its curriculum and make it more relevant, since the curriculum is currently stifling and prevents students from learning about other cultures," the sophomore added. Columbia University Student Council President Alejandra Montenegro described a similar situation at Columbia, which proved to be one of the most statistically diverse members of the Ivy League -- attracting minorities because of its reputation as a diverse campus in New York City. Despite that diversity, students have struggled to get ethnic studies institutionalized into the university's curriculum. Last spring, protesters took over an administrative building and conducted a hunger strike -- to no avail. "The president didn't want to speak to us," Montenegro said. In contrast, Brown University boasts an associate director of admissions in charge of recruiting minorities, minority alumni interviews and a Third World Weekend -- aimed at attracting minority students. But some Brown officials say even the existing programs are not enough. Mahdesian noted the difficulty of finding African American and Hispanic students who have high grades or the opportunity to get high grades because of societal factors working against them. Dartmouth College, which tops the Ivy League with 1.8 percent Native Americans, celebrates the 25th anniversary of its Native American Studies program this year. "Dartmouth College is a place where Native Americans can affirm their cultural heritage -- in the last 25 years, about 400 students from 25 tribes have attended," Director of Admissions and Minority Recruitment Christine Pina said. But Dartmouth has a fairly small percentage of black students compared to other Ivies. Princeton University junior Kevin Hudson, chairperson of the Third World Center Governance Board, agreed that "colored issues are peripheral at Princeton," forcing minorities to constantly explain the need for such places as the Third World Center, which promotes intercultural diversity. "There needs to be recognition that there is some kind of disparity in minorities' experiences" as compared to that of other students, he added. Cornell students also noted a lack of commitment on the part of their administration. "Cornell doesn't put its money where its mouth is," Ortiz said, "When you start out the next millennium with these unimpressive numbers, it forces you to question the priority of the university where minorities are concerned." Ortiz mentioned the "constant debate" over Cornell's North and West campuses, saying that minorities' practice of traditionally residing at North campus is seen by some as self-segregating. But Berry cautioned not to "mistake solidarity for segregation -- if people are alike, they are bound to coalesce and bond together."

Panel celebrates Afro-American Studies program

(04/18/97 9:00am)

On the occasion of the Afro-American Studies Program's 25th anniversary, a distinguished group of faculty and students conducted a panel discussion called "Afro-American Studies at Penn: Our Beginnings, Our Future" Tuesday at the Annenberg School for Communication. Director of Afro-American Studies Herman Beavers opened the event by providing historical background on African Diasporic Study at the University and the Development of the Afro-American Studies Program. Beavers spoke about contributors such as W.E.B. DuBois, who came to the Penn in 1896 holding a Harvard University doctorate, but was not granted rank of professor at the University. In 1949, "the University awarded [William] Fontaine what it had denied DuBois -- a regular professorship, thus making him the first fully affiliated African American faculty member of the University," Beavers said. Public Policy and History Professor Theodore Hershberg spoke of his teaching experience when he came to Penn in 1967 and the difficulties he faced while attempting to increase the number of courses in Afro-American Studies at the University. "The battle was a political battle to have Black Studies taught at Penn -- the battle was won, but the war was lost because African American Studies was not integrated into the mainstream curriculum," Hershberg said. "There was a time when simply being respected was a risk because of the color of your skin," he added, noting that during his lectures, a squad of students would stand behind him and loudly disagree with his points, simply because he was not African American. History Professor Robert Engs said the Afro-American Studies Program survived at the time largely because it was placed in the Provost's office, which was committed to keeping the program intact. Engs added that the students who desired a separate school of Afro- American Studies in the 1960s faced much opposition. "I understand that the student demands for a separate school of Black Studies at Penn had less to do with intellectual reasons, but everything to do with their distrust of Penn and the desire for autonomy," he said. "What I didn't understand, though, was the extent of opposition regarding the program." Other panelists at yesterday's discussion included Education Professor Vivian Gadsden, English Professor InZs Salazar, Human Relations Professor Houston Baker, Jr., College senior and Afro-American Studies Major Brennan Maier and Rhonda Frederick, a doctoral student in the English Department. The Afro-American Studies Program's ongoing success requires long-term University commitment, an improved African American retention and recruitment and a financial investment, according to Gadsden. "The struggle does continue, but I also think the possibilities are emerging? ," she said. After each of the speakers shared their personal stories, a discussion followed. The panelists agreed in their hope to see the Afro-American Studies Program flourish in the next few years and into the next century. "As the Afro-American Studies Program moves toward its 26th year at the University of Pennsylvania, we invite the University Community to celebrate the vision, commitment and dedication of those students and scholars who have made the program a reality," Beavers said.

Minority Weekend offers taste of Penn

(04/16/97 9:00am)

Students from across the country saw the social and academic side of Penn. Prospective students from across the country got a taste of Penn this week as part of the University's annual Minority Scholars Weekend. Unlike previous years, this year's program -- which overlapped with Penn Preview Days -- was held after the visiting students had already received letters of acceptance. But the late timing -- right before the end of classes and final exams -- made finding hosts for the visiting students somewhat difficult. "It's hard to host now because it's crunch time, so I can understand why we had trouble finding hosts at first," said Seung Lee, co-admissions liaison for the United Minorities Council. Despite the initial difficulties, however, the College sophomore said he was forced to turn down hosts by the end of the application process because too many had expressed interest. Many of the visiting students had attended Minority Scholars Weekends at other schools as well. "I definitely think that so many of the visiting students will choose Penn over other schools because of this weekend's success," said former UMC chairperson and College senior Susie Lee, who hosted a student this weekend. And Seung Lee said almost everyone he spoke to had listed Penn as his top choice after visiting this weekend. "I think the weekend has always been very successful because it's not only a time for the [prospective] students to see Penn, but a time for them to mingle with Penn students and ask questions which they might not feel comfortable asking admissions officers," said Karen Chance, co-admissions liaison for the UMC. Other hosts emphasized the necessity of Minority Scholars Weekend, marking it as an essential way of retaining a minority presence on campus. "The Admissions Office needs to do more recruiting -- this needs to be a continuous, ongoing, year-long process," said Chance, a College sophomore. The weekend started off on a bit of a rocky note, according to Susie Lee, who said "I think [the event] was a little frustrating in the beginning, because registration was disorganized -- the Admissions Office could have improved a lot on that." Despite the frustration, the prospective students received a comprehensive view of the University, as the students saw both the social and academic facets of the University. Although the students spent much time exploring independently, they met the UMC and other ethnic groups, received a tour of Philadelphia, went to a few parties and discussed the academic and financial support programs at the University throughout the duration of their stay. The hosts said their students spent much time on their own this weekend exploring the University's diversity. "I think Penn can be very segregated, but it is also what you make of it," said College junior Kiyana Bernardo, who served as a host. "Since there are so many programs that cater to different programs on campus, it is important for [the prospective students] to be individuals and meet as many different kinds of people as possible," she added. Although the prospective students are also looking at universities such as Harvard, Duke, Johns Hopkins and Virginia, the hosts of the weekend said the high schoolers seemed impressed with Penn. "I know the two students I hosted really enjoyed the performing arts night, meeting other ethnic and cultural organizations on campus, and just spending time with other scholars," Bernardo said.

Administration will not back Unity Center

(04/15/97 9:00am)

Officials agreed with the UMC position that the Greenfield Intervultural Center already fills the role. Administrators have agreed with the United Minorities Council in discussions about establishing a Unity Center on campus, saying that such a center would overlap with the goals of the Greenfield Intercultural Center. Members of the "Undergraduate Think Tank," which proposed the center last week, met again yesterday at the Christian Association to brainstorm ways to promote and achieve their goal. They envision "a central location on Penn's campus dedicated to the exploration and celebration of diversity in all its forms in an effort to foster community building, promote respect and expand our 'comfort zones'." But administrators supported UMC members who said those goals could be achieved through the already-established GIC, which is designed to achieve multi-racial integration. "I believe that the sentiments expressed by the students interested in a Unity Center would find terrific support for their important work through our already established Greenfield Intercultural Center, where diverse and talented students already come together to support programming welcoming all members of the community," Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum said. "I invite all members of the Penn community to join Greenfield's thoughtful and vibrantly diverse initiatives," she added. Think Tank members, however, expressed concern that since the GIC is home to the UMC -- which is comprised specifically of multiracial groups -- other groups which are not centered around ethnicity may not find the GIC to be a suitable haven. But former UMC Chairperson Susie Lee stressed that the GIC is open to all members of the University community and "is not meant to be exclusive, as its events and forums are open to anyone." She added that other resources on campus -- such as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Center and the Penn Women's Center -- are also open to anyone in the community, thereby precluding the need for a separate Unity Center. Taking administrator and UMC concerns into account, Think Tank members suggested the possibility of moving the GIC from 3708 Chestnut Street to the Christian Association, located at 36th Street and Locust Walk. Such a move would put the GIC in a central, rather than peripheral, location and might increase participation in GIC events. "We would like to expand on the GIC's goal of promoting interaction between cultural groups by promoting interaction between everyone," said Think Tank member Vesal Dini, an Engineering sophomore. UMC members were more receptive to that suggestion. "The facility at the Christian Association is really great," said Lee, a College senior. "I am totally in favor of [moving the GIC there]."

Students propose 'Unity Center' on the Walk

(04/10/97 9:00am)

Some UMC members believe the center would infringe on the Greenfield Intercultural Center. With the motto "Unity not Uniformity," a conglomeration of students known as the "Undergraduate Think Tank" presented plans for a campus-wide Unity Center last night in the Christian Association. But several members of the United Minorities Council raised concern that such a center would overlap with the Greenfield Intercultural Center, which is designed to bridge cultural gaps. The Think Tank members envision "a central location on Penn's campus dedicated to the exploration and celebration of diversity in all it forms in an effort to foster community building, promote respect, and expand our 'comfort zones'." The Rev. Beverly Dale of the Christian Association created the concept of the Unity Center, and encouraged the support of a select group of multicultural students interested in battling segregation. "This is a possible opportunity to impact and change the culture at Penn," Dale said. "If it is going to be your Center, you have to dream it and you have to strategize to make it happen," she added. The Unity Center, according to Dale, would be a place for students of all races, religions, sexual orientations and interests to socialize and feel at ease. At last night's panel discussion, Nathan Smith, coordinator for Programs for Awareness in Cultural Education, said that whether or not the Unity Center materializes, the dreams of the Think Tank should be brought towards tangible change. "Anyone who thinks diversity is worthless must be worthless themselves, because they are as much a part of it as anyone else," said the second-year Education doctoral student, who is also a Daily Pennsylvanian columnist. Student-generated ideas include the possibility of diversity workshops for incoming freshmen and a social coffeehouse "where we would learn about our differences and similarities in an informal setting," according to College freshman Ludmilah Zamah. Students could also use the Center for community service activities by providing food and shelter for the homeless or working with high school students in West Philadelphia. But the UMC members at last night's meeting said a Unity Center might detract from the GIC. "By forming the Unity Center, you are putting in danger programs such as the GIC, which already facilitate interculturalism," said former UMC Chairperson Susie Lee, a College senior. "[A Unity Center] creates duplicity on campus, and a good idea would be to better the existing areas now -- it is more important to raise the consciousness of students which is a personal matter and comes from within," UMC Chairperson and College junior Tope Koledoye said. UMC members added that locating the new center in the Christian Association on Locust Walk would not necessarily make it more popular than the existing GIC at 3708 Chestnut Street. "If people do not care about diversity, they will still walk on by," said GIC Assistant Director Karlene Burrell. And UMC members expressed anger that the organization was not contacted when original plans for the Unity Center were proposed and debated. Responding to the UMC's questions and concerns, Dale said she needed to "take the blame for this," adding that her intentions were not to exclude the UMC from the original plans. "My intention was not to go to different student groups -- it was to pull together different students," Dale said. "These ideas we generate together must support and enhance Greenfield Intercultural Center and not in any way detract from that crucial work of political advocacy," she added. And Think Tank members questioned why the UMC would reject any new idea which could potentially achieve diversity. College sophomore Vishal Savani said the only purpose of the proposed Unity Center is "an intentional and proactive effort to bring together all students."