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Prof brings warmth into life of students

(05/03/00 9:00am)

To the world, Leigh Bauer is an attorney and a professor. To his students, however, Bauer is much more -- a friend and, sometimes, even a father-figure. Bauer began his teaching career in Wharton's Legal Studies Department over 40 years ago, even before he graduated from law school. He has a unique teaching philosophy, one that focuses on learning about the world by using critical thinking. "In my class, I bring everyday things to life," Bauer said. Students respond eagerly to this approach, often bringing up current news issues in class. Bauer is not easy on his students -- he strictly enforces attendance and requires class participation. But unlike most Wharton classes, Bauer refuses to grade on a curve. "Students graded on a curve aren't willing to help each other," Bauer explained. "If everyone masters the material, everyone should get As." Bauer shares his beliefs about college life and Penn with his students inside and outside the classroom. He encourages students to date, explaining that it is part of the college experience. Other issues that Bauer feels strongly about include underage drinking and litter, which he believes is the No. 1 problem at Penn. Explaining that the garbage left lying around campus only reflects poorly on Penn, Bauer said, "Everyone should be embarrassed by this litter. It reflects on our character." Bauer does more than just speak out about what he thinks and feels. He acts on those opinions as well. Former student Nhung Tran, now a graduate student in the History Department, explained how one of Bauer's practices influenced her. "Every day, after class, I would watch Professor Bauer walk around the classroom and pick up the trash the students had left behind," Tran said. With her own parents far away in Vietnam, Bauer and his wife took Tran, then an undergraduate student, under their wing to become her adopted family in Philadelphia. "They've provided moral support for me and opened their home to me," Tran said. Bauer, she said, instinctively steps beyond the norm for a professor-student relationship. But don't bother telling Bauer that there's anything remarkable about his attitude toward his students. "Bonding occurs naturally in my class -- I can't explain it," Bauer said. "Interplay with faculty and students is also very important to my wife and to me." Every Friday night, the Bauers dine with different members of the faculty or administration. They also commonly invite students to their home. "The Bauers are always inviting students to their home for Thanksgiving and other holidays. Leigh takes special notice of those students who cannot go to their own homes," Tran said. Students feel at ease with Bauer and take him up on his offer of accessibility. Indeed, one student called Bauer at his office at 5:15 a.m. last week, just to check if he was there. "It's all collaborative," College junior Adam Schiff explained, "and there is no lecturing. We help him come up with the answers." This is exactly the result Bauer desires -- for his students to learn to think critically on their own and also to realize that, for every situation in life, the answer is, "It depends." Bauer enjoys working with Penn students, describing them as "the cream of the crop." Preferring to teach undergraduates to MBA students, he explained that "My challenge here is to do more than just teach law." This is a challenge that, according to his students past and present, Bauer has met and surpassed. "His approach is different than any professor-student relationship I've ever seen," Schiff said. And Engineering freshman Rachael Palmer added her own praise for Bauer. "He's just great -- really interesting and an excellent teacher." Whether catching up with former students or discussing topical issues with current students, Bauer continues to deliver witty one-liners and tricky questions to those around him. But what he hopes his students will realize is that he is simply pushing them to be their best.

Bands wage battle for supremacy at new indie music club

(03/31/00 10:00am)

A crowd of about two hundred Penn students welcomed the sounds of punk, jazz and plain-old rock at last night's unofficial christening of 4040, Penn's new indie music club. Four student bands rocked for more than two hours during the Battle of the Bands, a friendly competition showcasing some of Penn's best undergraduate musicians. The event was sponsored by 34th Street magazine, which is published by The Daily Pennsylvanian Inc. Each of the groups -- The Atreyu Complex, Half an Echo, The Ally and Don't Look Down -- played for 20 to 30 minutes. A panel of judges -- including a Penn music professor, the 34th Street music editor and local group the Jazzyfatnastees -- graded the groups. The Ally, a jam band fronted by College sophomore Ira Tuton, won the competition and left with $200. 34th Street Editor-in-Chief Matt Rand explained that the purpose of the event was to bring something new to Penn's campus. "We wanted to bring in people who wouldn't normally go to a live music show, and we wanted to show them there's some stuff going on that's pretty good," the Wharton junior explained. Each of the four bands gained a spot in the contest by submitting a demo tape to the editors of 34th Street or were asked to participate. "This is a great event for us," said Wharton senior Dave Goldman, the lead singer of The Atreyu Complex. "We get a chance to play for some important people." Half an Echo member Leo Dugan, a College sophomore, said his band is "always looking for opportunities to play. We play all around Philly." The band will be performing in the Quadrangle during Spring Fling. Several participants and organizers said they felt that the Battle of the Bands was an important step for the Penn music scene. "This is a good start for things to happen at Penn," Goldman said. "4040 is a good club that Penn kids don't know about -- they don't know about the music scene." But if many students didn't yet know about the club, perhaps that is because its first show took place less than a month ago after months of negotiations with the University, which had been seeking to bring a non-alcoholic music club to campus. Indeed, the concert was designed to introduce the Penn community to the new club at 4040 Locust Street. 4040 will hold its grand opening tomorrow with emo-band Atom and the Package. 4040 co-owner Sean Agnew felt positive about lending his space to 34th Street's first-ever event. "I want to incorporate more Penn events and get Penn students involved in this scene," Agnew said. Agnew's reputation in Philadelphia's music scene served as an additional draw to both the participating bands and audience members. Wharton and Nursing sophomore Grant Martsolf expressed his excitement at the possibilities opened up by this event. "It's a great idea," Martsolf said. "It's something to do right in my backyard." Judging from audience reactions, the Battle of the Bands was a good step toward the goal of inolving Penn students in the music scene. "I had heard this place was pretty cool, that this was the hot indie rock place in town," Engineering freshman Nirav Batavia said. "Now I'll definitely come back."

Role of modern Jewish female discussed

(03/06/00 10:00am)

Some say women belong only in the kitchen. Others say women should pursue careers and leave the housekeeping to someone else. Somewhere in between these two extremes lies the advice shared by Bronya Shaffer to a crowd of more than 25 Penn students and community members at the Lubavitch House on Friday night. Shaffer, speaking on the role of the Jewish woman in the modern world, explained the middle ground in the conflict between the woman's place in the workplace and in the domestic realm. "It is never a conflict of ideals, it is just a conflict of time and energy," Shaffer said. Her suggestion to Jewish women and girls of all ages was to perform "simple acts -- like lighting the Sabbath candles." She also reminded college students that following traditions can enable a young woman to make wherever she lives into a home. Although Shaffer is herself an observant Hasidic Jew from the ultra-observant neighborhood of Crown Heights, N.Y., she stressed that her message is not meant only for religious Jews. Lighting the candles, Shaffer said, is "about creating an awareness and influencing the people around you. It's for all women." Shaffer also pointed out that even though women may have been limited to certain fields 50 years ago, they have since been more liberated. "Today there is no area that women aren't involved in. Society is changing, and that means traditions are changing," she said. Audience members were largely receptive to Shaffer's message. "Realizing that wherever I am is my home, and that I can light the candles even in my room here at Penn, is really comforting," College sophomore Ilene Kalter said. College sophomore Lisa Pitlor also felt that Shaffer's advice was relevant to her life. "I want to be able to raise my kids and have a career," Pitlor said. "I'm not that religious, but I plan to raise my kids in a Jewish home. These kinds of ideas make sense to me." Shaffer chose to concentrate on the idea of lighting the Sabbath candles in honor of the third birthday of Sterna Levin, the daughter of Rabbi Ephraim and Flora Levin, who run the Lubavitch House at Penn. In Lubavitch tradition, the third birthday is the first time a girl lights the Sabbath candles on Friday night. "At this age, a child starts to understand what they're doing," Levin explained. "They have ownership over their own actions." Levin had invited Shaffer and her family to join his family for the weekend in order to help celebrate this occasion. Shaffer, who travels occasionally to lecture around the country, focuses much of her studies on communication and relationships. Communication, she said, is important to the discussion of the modern Jewish woman. "There are serious misconceptions about traditional Judaism's view of women," Shaffer said. "There must be recognition that what I'm saying doesn't exclude anyone."

Law Auction: Night of fun and fundraising

(02/29/00 10:00am)

Penn Law students put their books away last Wednesday night for a chance to bid on prizes ranging from a weekend stay in Las Vegas to lunch with former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell. In order to support first-year law students, the Equal Justice Foundation -- a student organization that funds law students who do public interest work over the summer -- hosted an auction night at the Law School for a crowd of over 400 law students, professors and community members. "I got funding when I was a first year, and now I want to give back to some of the younger students," said third-year Law student Scott Weiser, who planned to bid on a picnic with one of his professors. The fundraising event featured almost 300 items in a silent auction and 50 items in the live auction. The auction featured such items as lunch for three at the Center City dining landmark Le Bec-Fin with Law Professor Bruce Mann, tickets for two to the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and a summer getaway to Martha's Vineyard. While the first item -- the winner's name as a character in author Bonnie McDougall's next murder mystery -- sold for just $75, the bids soon jumped to as much as $500 for the opera tickets. Some students expressed surprise at the high prices. "The bids are much more than I expected," third-year Law student Locksley Rhoden said. "People are being generous and are really just jumping into it." Auction chair and third-year Law student Andrew Morton explained that the auction has grown tremendously over the past five years. "Five years ago, the auction raised $2,000 and was basically a glorified bake sale. Tonight we're on track to raise $50,000," Morton said. And the Equal Justice Foundation hopes to continue this growth in future years. "This event has unlimited potential. Once the renovations [to the Law School building] are done, we can accommodate even more people," said Morton, pointing to the standing-room only auditorium. Featuring Law School alumni, Robert Toll -- the chief executive officer of Toll Brothers -- and Renee Chenault, the NBC Channel 10 news anchor, as guest auctioneers, the auction was unique among other Law School events. "This is the most law students you'll ever see in one place," Weiser said. "And more professors come to the auction than to the more prestigious Law School events." Penn Law Professor Ed Rock attended the event to watch himself be auctioned off, as he and fellow Professor Heidi Hurd offered to wash the winner's car while on rollerblades. "I'm offering my services tonight, and maybe I'll bid on something too," Rock said. The fact that the Law School is still without a permanent dean, despite a 15-month search, also provided comedic fodder for the organizers of the event. One third-year Law student jokingly asked for a bid of a mere 50 cents for the position of dean of an Ivy League law school. Last year, the Equal Justice Foundation funded 24 students' government and public interest work. This year they are hoping to fund even more. "Not only does it help the students, but the important work they do might otherwise not be done," Morton said.

Talk analyzes Penn-W. Phila. relationship

(02/21/00 10:00am)

Walter Palmer has been a lecturer at Penn for more than 30 years, but that doesn't stop him from having a self-proclaimed "love-hate" relationship with the University. "I love it for the potential of what it could be, but I despise it for what it has done and for what it continues to do," School of Social Work professor explained last night to a group of 30 undergraduate and graduate students. Case in point: "Black Bottom," the once-flourishing West Philadelphia neighborhood that was dismantled several decades ago by the University's wave of westward expansion. In the Rathskellar Lounge of Harnwell College House last Wednesday night, Palmer offered an open, informal session of his graduate course, "Social Work and Political Action." A University City native himself, he discussed Penn's often-strained relationship with West Philadelphia and warned students to think about the roles they play in campus politics and economics. Palmer said students should be aware that the University may be using them as a "consumer of services provided by Penn" -- services which, he noted, students must evaluate and judge for themselves. "Don't just think about these things -- you have to feel. Without feeling, you just won't get it," Palmer said. Penn, according to Palmer, has taken control of land use and land distribution in the surrounding area to the detriment of the residents. "The University should not have the first right of refusal when it comes to land distribution," he said. One student in the class recalled an interview with a North Philadelphia resident who watched developers appraise and plan what would be done with her street. "Unfortunately, the community has sat by and allowed this to happen," Palmer explained. "Students need to begin to raise questions -- if we begin to raise questions, we can bring an end to the mistrust and distrust between the University and the community," Palmer said. Graduate students in the course are currently raising questions through projects in West Philadelphia, University City and North Philadelphia. The class is studying the effect of Penn, Drexel, Temple and the University of the Sciences on their respective neighborhoods. Projects include compiling interviews of community members, city planners and administrators of the schools in these areas. Palmer described the effect of these universities as the "savaging of communities" and reminded the audience that "it doesn't have to be blacks and Latinos --poor white Irish and Italian communities have also been targeted." The key for student activists, Palmer said, is "to gather the data [and] record the history." Penn students must also remember to "view people in the community with some humanity." Penn's reputation for student apathy was also a topic of discussion last night. "I realized [after the sweatshop protest] that Penn as a whole isn't apathetic," said first-year Social Work student Danielle Hill, who organized the discussion. Other students, like Social Work student Alexandra Wittig, said they felt that while the discussion was positive, it was made up of "only a sample of students with some knowledge." "I wonder about the larger community that isn't here," Wittig said.

Pres. Rodin meets with protesters

(02/09/00 10:00am)

The sweatshop protesters' sit-in continued for a second day after their demands were not met. Tension rose in College Hall yesterday as the 13 students protesting Penn's sweatshop policies continued their now two-day-old sit-in in University President Judith Rodin's office, settling in to spend a second night in the building. Although the students -- part of the United Students Against Sweatshops group -- are receiving national attention from the media with the ongoing sit-in and yesterday's rally on College Green, they have yet to get the desired response from Rodin in their quest to change the monitoring organization for University-logo apparel. After a 20-minute meeting with the group yesterday morning, Rodin said that she would not withdraw from the Free Labor Association -- a monitoring organization USAS says is biased and ineffective. But she did not rule it out, saying that she wanted to wait until a recently appointed committee on the matter can examine the issue. Three members of USAS will sit on the committee, which Rodin said would report back by the end of the month. USAS has long been calling upon Rodin to leave the FLA and join the Worker Rights Consortium. They imposed a February 1 deadline upon the Penn administration to make the change. But their deadline has come and gone without any results and the group has begun the sit-in and other demonstrations. "The WRC is better than the FLA because it involves the beneficiaries of the agreements -- the workers," said College freshman Lincoln Ellis, a USAS member. "I want it to be clear that the University has taken a very principled stand," Rodin said. "We are deeply concerned about the plight of workers in underdeveloped countries." But USAS has dismissed the creation of the committee as a "stall tactic" on the part of the University and they held the protest rally yesterday to further communicate their position to the administration. Administrators insisted that they ultimately had the same goals as the students and just needed more time to review the situation. "Everybody wants fair labor standards," said Steve Schutt, Rodin's chief of staff. "[It's a] question of which of two organizations are best set up to help Penn achieve good." And Associate General Counsel Eric Tilles added that "it's a little disheartening to see students saying we're stalling." Still, loud clapping, drum-playing, speeches and cheers echoed across College Green yesterday afternoon as more than 50 students -- mainly USAS members -- and community members rallied against the sweatshop policies. The crowd joined in on chants of, "No justice, No peace" and, "The people united will never be defeated." Following a series of speakers from local and national organizations in support of the cause, the rally moved inside College Hall. Wharton sophomore Brian Kelly, one of the speakers, invited everyone in attendance at the rally to go inside and meet the members of USAS. "Find out what they're doing," Kelley said. "These 13 students are making a stand for human rights." College senior Miriam Joffe-Block, one of the leaders of the USAS group, said she and the other members "had no real expectations" as to how many students would actually attend the rally. But, Joffe-Block continued, pointing to the excited crowd as they sang inside College Hall, "This means a lot to us?. It's really inspiring." Bearing signs indicating their support, representatives from the Penn Environmental Group, the Penn's Women's Alliance, local Teamsters and Temple University students were among the supporters on College Green. Thomas Wheatley came from the National Labor Committee in New York City to attend the rally. "I bring solidarity from NYC," Wheatley exclaimed. "Let's fight for human rights," he said, as the crowd erupted into cheers and applause. Traveling to Philadelphia from Washington, D.C., on behalf of the Student Labor Action Project, Treston Faulkner said he was pleased at the level of emotion and excitement that he said he saw among Penn students. "This is strategic," Faulkner said. "This action is going to set the pace for the rest of the semester." College sophomore Nati Passow and other USAS members emphasized the importance of both student and community involvement. Now, according to Joffe-Block, Rodin should recognize that the group has "the support of the students and the community." Amid increasingly loud cries inside College Hall, Joffe-Block announced a vigil to take place on College Green today at 9:30 p.m. The crowd dispersed only after signing the over 10 signs posted in College Hall supporting the demands of USAS. USAS members say they are prepared to take off even more time from class. "The students will be here as long as possible," Kelly said.

Author tells aspiring writers to diversify

(02/03/00 10:00am)

Would-be writers take note: Beware of taking only English courses. Before a Writers House crowd of about 20 students and Philadelphia residents, author James Morrow, a 1969 Penn graduate, advised aspiring writers to explore the sciences as well as the humanities in their college educations. In a talk Tuesday night, Morrow discussed the connections between a college education and a writing career. He suggested that students take courses in decidedly non-literary disciplines like Psychology, Biology and Physics. "There are so many ideas there," Morrow said, noting that a background in the sciences can later serve as a valuable foundation for stories and novels. English and writing courses should be carefully selected, according to Morrow. He recalled his own studies at Penn under the late author Joseph Heller, who wrote the classic Catch 22. "You get to sit at the feet of great writers," Morrow said. He also advocated writing workshops, noting how his own writing improved as his first drafts were critiqued by his peers. Morrow then read from two of his novels. The first reading was taken from his most recent publication, The Eternal Footman, a story of what happens when God dies. He concluded his readings by reciting an excerpt from his work The Last Witchfinder, which chronicles a fictional meeting between Benjamin Franklin and Sir Isaac Newton. Benjamin George, a freshman at Swarthmore College, attended the event primarily to catch a sneak peek at some of the author's unfinished works. "I came to see what the new book looks like," said George, who listed himself as a fan and is looking forward to the new novel. Other audience members, like Nursing freshman Kristen Lindberg, said they were drawn by the prospect of "hearing an author speak about the process of being published." And while Morrow may not have made the publishing process sound easy, College freshman Jane Lin said she believed Morrow "seemed to represent what most writers say." Morrow also said good "fiction should enrich us in some way" and, in particular, recommended John Gardner's The Art of Fiction as a tool for writing better fiction. Morrow, who called himself a "satirist first and a science-fiction writer second," graduated from Penn with a bachelor's degree in Creative Writing. His first book was published in 1980, and he has since published six other novels, a novella and a collection of short stories. Before he began writing full time, Morrow taught at the high school level. Today, he travels occasionally to colleges and universities across the country -- including nearby LaSalle University, where one of his novels is used in an English course. Citing his influences as Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving and Peter Barnes, Morrow advised the audience and writers of all levels to "not take yourself seriously, but take your work seriously."