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After turbulent year, Bower resigns as W. Crew coach

(09/04/96 9:00am)

Bower's nine-year tenure ended with rowers calling for her resignation After nine years as the coach of the Penn women's crew team, Carol Bower -- whose team accused her of being ineffective and asked for her resignation in November of 1995 -- resigned effective August 31, Athletic Director Steve Bilsky said. Bower's resignation comes after a tumultuous fall season and a spring season in which she did not fully participate in the team's day-to-day operations. Bower, however, said she did not necessarily resign in reaction to last year's criticism. "I took the whole nine years into account," she said. "You always get criticism throughout the years." Under Bower's tenure, Penn failed to finish above fifth place in its league's regional championships. Bower -- a 1984 Olympic gold medalist and a coach at the 1988 Olympic Games and world rowing championships -- said she was ready "to move on." "I think nine years is a long time in one place," Bower said, adding she "had done all that I can for Penn. "It's my time to leave and let somebody new take over," she said. Among the team's complaints this past year was Bower's delaying the arrival of the varsity boats at last fall's Frostbite Regatta on the Schuylkill River. Calling that incident "the last straw" in its relationship with the coach, the team said Bower caused the varsity squad to miss its races. Team members met with Bilsky on Nov. 14, 1995 to discuss their concerns and ask for Bower's resignation. The team then released a statement on Dec. 10, 1995, which said the team had lost "the little respect" it had for Bower and described working with Bower "impossible." According to a letter to the editor in the April 24 issue of The Daily Pennsylvanian from then-junior Marta Glazier, Bower was relegated to a minimal role with the team last spring. But Bilsky did not link the team's protest to Bower's resignation. "I think she came to the conclusion that it probably was better for her and the program to move on to something else that she wanted to do," he said. Bilsky added that he did not "think there was any one thing" that caused Bower to resign. Bilsky said Bower's position has not yet been officially filled and the new coach's name will be announced later this week. Senior Meera Bhatia, a member of the women's crew team in 1995, said she had mixed feelings about Bower's resignation. "I will miss her as a person," said Bhatia, who explained that she enjoyed a "close relationship" with her coach. But Bhatia also noted that the coaching move should benefit the team. "I'm really excited about changes for the program," she said. Bower has decided to pursue a master's degree in the College's dynamics of organization program. She plans to remain involved with rowing programs outside of Penn. "I'm certainly leaving my options open," Bower said. "I've been invited out to other locations?I'm open to whatever comes up."

COLUMN: Not at Penn for the Parties

(06/27/96 9:00am)

as parties provide limited opportunity for meaningful social interaction. Penn's party scene sucks. If you're a pre-frosh, read that first line again, and let it sink into your head. If you're an undergrad or alumnus, well, I hope I can get you to reconsider whatever your views are regarding this subject. Just keep an open mind, please, and read on. Once again, Penn's party scene sucks. No, it doesn't suck because the LCE (under orders from the administration) massively cracked down on Spring Fling this year. It doesn't suck because Locust Walk isn't the party epicenter it supposedly once was. And it certainly doesn't suck because of a hokey "Bring Your Own Beer" policy. Penn's party scene simply sucks for what it is -- or at least what my impression of it has been: Paying five bucks to drink alcohol and dance to loud (usually techno) music. Now for most Penn students, it seems, this is perfectly fine. In fact, I'm sure many folks would vehemently disagree with me and say that since I don't drink, there's no way I can enjoy Penn's party scene. You know what? They're absolutely right. Since my mind wasn't clouded by alcohol at the various parties I went to during my freshman year, I feel reasonably qualified to make a sober assessment of the "party" scene. And boy, does it suck. For one, parties afford little opportunity for social interaction. I don't mean throwing up on others or hooking up with members of the opposite sex you normally wouldn't touch with a stick. I'm talking about having meaningful conversation and making lasting friendships -- these things simply don't happen at parties, at which the music is often deafening and the alcohol buzzing. Even though I don't drink, I do not feel socially deprived. I have become very good friends with several people from my Quad hall, and I have met many interesting individuals through the various activities in which I participate and in my classes. I am not friends with anyone I met at a party. Second, parties offer precious little besides kegs. Sheesh, it's practically impossible to find food (and I don't mean Jell-O shots). And forget about soda -- unless you're going to Pi Lam, you'd better stop at Wawa or Uni-Mart. If I'm paying five bucks not to drink, can't I at least get a Coke? Yeah, in my dreams. That's about it. I'm just a regular (albeit non-drinking) student making observations on and generally venting my frustrations with Penn's party scene. I don't care if the administration calls in five or 500 LCE agents for Fling. I don't care if Locust Walk isn't what it used to be. But if one person chooses to hang out (even drink) with friends on a Saturday night instead of going to an idiotic party, then this column will have been a success. And if someone decides that he/she has a better chance of making friends in a club or activity than at a party, then I'll be perfectly satisfied. However, if this essay's readers merely scoff at the notion of criticizing Penn's party scene for reasons other than the usual, then I will sigh and shake my head. I enjoy being at Penn, both for the academics and the friends I have made. But after I affirmed a few months ago to all but avoid parties, I am more comfortable with myself. That includes the extra five-dollar bills in my pocket.

Faculty, admin. make plans for summer

(05/01/96 9:00am)

Although Provost Stanley Chodorow will spend July traveling to Japan to give a speech and will journey to California in September for his son's wedding, he does not think students would consider his summer activities to be much of a vacation. "I'm afraid my summer won't offer much of what students would think of as fun," Chodorow said, adding that he also plans to attend the tenth International Congress of Medieval Canon Law in August. While various faculty and administrators will be traveling this summer, some plan to remain at the University -- doing research and preparing for classes. Linguistics Graduate Chairperson Don Ringe, for one, is not planning to leave Philadelphia during the summer. "My plans for this summer are to lock myself in my study, work like hell and refuse to deal with anything else," Ringe said. "It's the eternal cry of the American academic: 'Summer is coming. Now I can work!' " Mathematics Professor David Harbater, on the other hand, will travel to France -- "increasingly one of the world centers of activity for mathematical research" -- and then to England, where he will vacation with friends and family. Harbater said he hopes that tourist destinations there will be open when he tries to visit them this summer, because last year he found London's sights closed on the days he went to see them. "Little had I suspected that those particular days were a major national holiday there and everything would be shut down," Harbater said. "At least I could see Big Ben from the outside!" Anthropology Professor Alan Mann will also be in France, coordinating the Penn-in-Bordeaux Anthropology course on human origins. Mann -- a self-described "fanatic bicyclist" -- said he and his wife plan "long rides through the French countryside" on their tandem bicycle. And School of Engineering and Applied Science Dean Gregory Farrington will travel to Moscow, Sweden, Rome, Maine and North Carolina. Farrington's other plans include "battling the weeds" and "working to be sure that my son mows the lawn," he said. Annenberg School for Communication Dean Kathleen Hall Jamieson has a busy schedule filled with conferences in Washington. "I am going to be attempting the equivalent of coordinating the Battle of Normandy Beach," she said. And College of Arts and Sciences Dean Robert Rescorla plans to balance his summer between research and vacationing. "It is difficult having the time to do research during the year," said Rescorla, who will hike with his wife in Maine's Acadia National Park after working in his laboratory. But University President Judith Rodin -- perhaps taking a cue from her own advice -- is more determined than anyone to do something interesting this summer. "I'm going to spend the summer getting a life," Rodin said.

Profs, grad students honored at reception

(04/25/96 9:00am)

Ira Abrams andIra Abrams andDean's Awards given History Professor Drew Faust has a sense of humor about the recognition she has received for her outstanding teaching abilities. After hearing a student's statement that she "quite literally changed the trajectory of my life," Faust said she hoped the change was for the better. "The person might have been a rich banker," she said. School of Arts and Sciences Dean Rosemary Stevens presented Faust with the SAS Ira Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching during a reception yesterday. In addition, eight graduate students received the Dean's Awards for Distinguished Teaching. Approximately 50 students and faculty attended the gathering, which was held in the Furness Building's Arthur Ross Gallery. The Abrams Award has been given to an SAS professor annually since 1983. Faust -- who received the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1982 -- said she believes the overall teaching level at the University is high. "I have been deeply impressed by how much effort and how much care goes into teaching at Penn," she said. Faust explained that she found the recent Philadelphia Inquirer series of articles about the University "distressing." "We are all teachers and we are all learners," Faust said, adding that a research university like Penn is "a continuum of learning that pushes to the edges of human knowledge. "We must defend the research university," she said. Faust -- who received her American Civilization doctorate from the University in 1975 and has been teaching since then -- said her "very smart" students have complemented and shaped her teaching and research. "They insist on my asking big questions," Faust said. "I think I'm a much better historian for being forced to ask those questions." In presenting the awards, Stevens read poignant excerpts from students' and faculty members' nomination letters. "Professor Faust is unequivocally the best teacher I have ever had," wrote one student. And College senior Elana Harris noted before the reception that Faust "really cares about her students." "She really wants them to enjoy what they're learning," said Harris, who is currently doing an independent study project with Faust. Stevens read similar comments about the graduate students who received the Dean's Awards. One of English graduate student Peter Parolin's students called him "the yardstick by which all my subsequent teachers will be measured." And one professor said that American Civilization graduate student Bruce Lenthall "has excellent rapport with his students." "They like him, they respect him and they work for him," Stevens read. Award recipient and German graduate student Scott Shrake -- who teaches introductory German -- said he attempts to make the class more interesting through media such as movies. "I do try to not just teach the language but bring the culture to life," Shrake said. And History graduate student Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, who also won a Dean's Award, said she envisions "the classroom as a workshop." "We're all sort of historians here," she said. Political Science Department Chairperson Thomas Callaghy called awardee and Political Science graduate student Scott Silverstone "one of the best graduate students" in the department. Other Dean's Award recipients included Philosophy graduate student Michael McShane, Biology graduate student Paul Nealen and English graduate student Roberta Stack.

News server crashes twice due to software failure

(04/19/96 9:00am)

The server -- which provides the University community with access to approximately 7,000 Usenet and Penn newsgroups -- crashed Wednesday night. As of late last night, netnews users could only access newsgroups in the local "upenn.*" hierarchy, which includes about 600 newsgroups. According to Bill Magill, manager of network computing services for Data Communications and Computing Services, netnews first crashed at approximately 8 p.m. Wednesday. Although the server was back on line at about 11:15 p.m., it went down again early Thursday morning. Magill said netnews should be fully restored by early this morning, but added that no "formal deadline" is in place. Noam Arzt, director of information technology and architecture for Information Systems and Computing, attributed the crash to a software failure. Arzt said ISC needs "special software? to manage the very large amount of disk space" required to store every unexpired Usenet article on netnews. "Part of that software failed and needed to be reconfigured," Arzt explained. Additionally, Magill said the continuous increase in news volume has been "astronomical" -- and this helped precipitate the crash. "The growth was even more dramatic than anyone had predicted," he said. Magill said that even though DCCS had finished replacing the entire netnews system in December, its news volume projections were too "conservative." Arzt added that no articles in upenn.* newsgroups were actually erased due to the crash. He said DCCS takes "very different steps to preserve" the upenn.* newsgroups as opposed to those on Usenet. DCCS backs up all upenn.* articles from the current academic year, Arzt explained. However, netnews only has the capacity to retain five days' worth of Usenet articles -- and that alone includes millions of posts from more than 6,000 newsgroups. Arzt said that since netnews deletes Usenet articles that are more than five days old, the crash's effects will be all but invisible by the middle of next week. "Within several days it will have everything it would have had" if the crash had not occurred, Arzt said. DCCS posted updates on the netnews situation to its World Wide Web page throughout the day yesterday. Arzt is confident that this problem will not reoccur in the near future. "It is unlikely that this will happen again because we understand the phenomenon better now," he said. However, Arzt explained that Penn is not the only university to have suffered this type of crash. "It has happened at other institutions using similar servers and similar software," Arzt said, adding that Penn's netnews system has been running on a Digital Equipment Corporation Alpha supercomputer since December 1995. Initially, the crash seemed to confuse users -- several of whom posted to various newsgroups wondering what had happened. But by last night, students did not seem to mind the system failure. College junior Cristobal Cardona said although he subscribes to "about one hundred" newsgroups, the crash did not really affect him. "It's no big deal," he said, adding that "all systems have problems" occasionally. And College sophomore Patrick Danner felt similarly. "It's not going to have a profound impact on my life," he said. Still, Arzt noted that 46 members of the University community were using netnews within a minute of its restart on Wednesday night.

Students commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day

(04/16/96 9:00am)

Shielding the flames of their candles from the Superblock wind, 40 students gathered last night to commemorate Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Memorial Day. The students -- some wearing yellow felt Stars of David like those European Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust -- then solemnly proceeded down Locust Walk toward College Green. As the evening grew colder and it began to rain, approximately 100 students and faculty gathered at the peace sign for the observance's opening ceremonies -- which included Holocaust-related stories, speeches and poems. "The weather is actually appropriate for the occasion," Associate Vice Provost for University Life Larry Moneta said, as he spoke about what the Holocaust meant to him. Several of his family members perished in the gas chambers, and Moneta advised the audience to learn more about Holocaust survivors' personal stories before it is too late. "Do more than simply remember," Moneta said. "Talk to a survivor." Six million Jews are estimated to have been murdered in the Holocaust, which was engineered by Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime during World War II. College junior Abigail Lindenbaum, co-chairperson of Hillel's Holocaust Education Committee, which organized the event, echoed Moneta's sentiment. "I ask that you seek out the individuals behind these names," Lindenbaum said, referring to the 24-hour reading of Holocaust victims' names that commenced after the ceremony. German Professor Kathryn Hellerstein, who specializes in Yiddish language and literature, said Yiddish is a "complex, vibrant, variegated culture? that was all but destroyed" in the Holocaust. "Those that know and love Yiddish keep it alive," Hellerstein said, noting that Khurbm -- the Yiddish term for the Holocaust -- literally translates as "destruction." Hellerstein and several students read poignant poems by individuals who lived through the Holocaust, while other members of the committee told personal Holocaust-related stories. College freshman Michelle Fliman said her Hungarian grandfather's high school class was awestruck when he went to his 40th reunion, because many of his classmates believed he had perished in the Holocaust. "This is my family -- my wife, my daughters and my grandchildren," Fliman quoted her grandfather -- a Holocaust survivor -- as telling his class at the reunion. And College freshman Michael Litwin discussed his emotional experience two years ago on the March of the Living, during which more than 6,000 people -- two-thirds of them teenagers -- walk from Poland to Israel each year. "Until I was standing in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, I had no idea the impact it would have on me," Litwin said. "I saw it," he added. "I saw the destruction and decay." Litwin's photographs from the journey were collected in a slide show that also began last night and will end today at 6:45 p.m. The 24-hour name reading will also conclude with a special closing ceremony this evening. The closing ceremony at the peace sign will be followed at 7:30 p.m. with a speech by Nelly Toll, a Holocaust survivor and an artist since childhood.

Restaurants can't stomach food trucks, but students relish them

(04/05/96 10:00am)

Helen Booker commutes daily from her administrative job at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. But she never conducts any official business at HUP. Every day, Booker buys fruit salad from Phuong Ha's cart on 34th Street, on the sidewalk outside HUP. "I walk all the way over here just for this," Booker said. "She's got the best fruit in town." Other customers might disagree, since Ha's cart is one of about 10 mobile fruit-salad establishments that currently operate on or near campus. On an average weekday afternoon, there are more than 60 food trucks and carts on campus, serving everything from fruit salad and cheesesteaks to pizza and alu paratha. Alu paratha? This potato-filled whole wheat bread is available for $2 from Surjit Singh's Indian food truck at 40th and Locust streets. Although the food trucks and carts -- which have been a campus staple for more than 20 years -- offer a wide variety of cuisine at student-friendly prices, some restaurant operators said they are bothered by the vendors' presence. The restaurateurs claim that many vendors sell unsanitary food, disobey parking regulations, take some business away from local restaurants and have far lower overhead costs due to their lack of rent and real estate taxes. Yet vendors said they believe their food is clean and healthy, noting that vending is a legitimate way to earn a living and -- Ha being a prime example -- that they have regular customers just as any restaurant does. The Competition Because of the number of vendors and restaurants on campus, a chief concern in the community is competition. "I think they're stealing from us," said Don McKee, owner of Muffins 'n More in Houston Hall. "They have cut into this business tremendously -- not just me, everybody." Student Life, Activities and Facilities Associate Director Tom Hauber said the food carts outside Houston Hall do exact a price from the building's tenants. "Some of [the food carts] have adversely affected some of the vendors in the hall," Hauber said. But he added that the food carts outside may actually help business inside. "The Houston Hall merchants will not believe it," he said. "But I actually see it happening." Other restaurant operators said they do not worry much about competition from the food trucks and carts because of distinct quality differences. "They have to cut into some of our business, but not enough for it to hurt us," said Beijing co-owner Mark Gendelman. "The way it stands now, we're fine." And Bruno Sicilia, manager of Cosimo's Pizza in the Food Court, said he is more concerned about people who sit idly at tables in the Food Court than about the food trucks across the street. The vendors themselves said competition is not a factor in their businesses. Le Anh -- who owns "The Real Le Anh" Chinese food truck on the south side of Spruce Street near 36th Street -- said even though her name remains on two other food trucks which she no longer owns, she does not worry about competition from them or from the other trucks serving similar fare. And The Pizza Pitt in Houston Hall and the Pizzeria Express food truck on Spruce Street are owned by the same person. "It's a better business arrangement, but it's too much work," said manager Andreas Andoniadis, who added that he puts in "at least 100 hours" each week. Clean and Healthy? Jack Tran's family has operated the food truck at 34th and Walnut streets for more than six years. Tran, who is studying computer science at Rutgers University-Camden, said his Vietnamese family decided to serve traditional American foods instead of Asian fare for economic reasons. "It's easier, it's faster and more people like it," he said. "It has wider appeal." Although Sicilia said the vendors are "hardworking people," he added that he feels the food is generally more sanitary in retail food establishments. "From my experience, I would say that the quality of food is much better here," he said, adding that he hears that several vendors "have to precook the night before" and do not have proper refrigeration. But Tran maintains that his family's truck serves high quality food under sanitary conditions. "If we weren't sanitized, I think we wouldn't be in business," he said. Philadelphia Department of Health spokesperson Jeff Moran echoed Tran's comment. "It's in no vendor's interest -- no business's interest -- to serve dirty food," Moran said. Moran added that the vast majority of food trucks and carts have high standards of cleanliness -- and that the Health Department regularly performs surprise inspections to ensure that vendors meet these standards. Even so, the department examines each report of unsanitary food or facilities. "We investigate every complaint," he said, adding that "very few cases actually go to court." But even some vendors feel there are varying standards among their peers. Jim DiBattista, who works at the Quaker Shaker food truck at 37th Street and Locust Walk, explained that his employers "buy way better meats" than many other vendors do, and that he thinks his truck is cleaner than others are. "Everything's got to be scrubbed," DiBattista said, washing dishes as he spoke. "My boss is anal." Still, restaurant operators feel there is an inherent sanitary difference between the restaurants and the food trucks. Larry Baker, general manager of Cool Peppers Mexican Grill on 40th Street, said all of his restaurant's materials are routinely sterilized and that his employees wear gloves -- which he said most vendors do not do. Baker said he believes that "the chances of getting some type of food poisoning or bacteria from our restaurant" are considerably lower than from outdoor vendors. He said he would not eat from a food truck, adding that his restaurant's fresh food is healthier than the vendors' fare. "Everything is made from scratch," he said. "We don't serve things from a can." College sophomore Joanna Wolf, who said she usually stops at a food cart to "pick up a quick drink on the way to class," is also loath to eat from the vendors. "Generally, I find it to be unhealthy food," she said. Crowd and Parking Yet the hundreds, perhaps thousands of students, faculty and staff who regularly patronize the food trucks and carts seem to have a different opinion. College freshman John Wright, who does not have a Dining Services meal contract, eats from the vendors "every day." "You can get healthy food," Wright said. "It's definitely better than Stouffer Dining." According to Associate Treasurer Chris Mason, the market demand, along with a recent city ordinance that "restricted vending on Center City streets," have led to the glut of vendors at the University. "They needed a place to go," Mason said. "[And] the University does not have a vending plan in place." In fact, according to Hauber, the situation became so bad at one point that one could not cross Spruce Street in front of Houston Hall because the carts were so close together. The Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections -- which regulates all city businesses -- now stipulates that all food carts, but not trucks, must be at least 30 feet apart from one another, according to spokesperson Tom McNally. Hauber said the department even "marked lines" to ensure that vendors complied. But the situation is different for the larger trucks, which must park on the street in order to conduct business. Richard Dickson, Philadelphia Parking Authority director of regulations and public service, said that there is little his agency can do about vendor parking. "As long as they have money in the meter, they can park there," Dickson said. Although the traffic code says vehicles may not stay past the meter's allotted time capacity, the PPA decided in 1983 not to enforce that time limit if money remained in the meter, Dickson explained. But this policy has led to problems, Dickson said, adding that vendors may "jam the meters" in order to avoid any parking tickets forever. "It's prevalent everywhere there are vendors," he said. "It's not unique to the Penn campus, unfortunately." As a result of this problem, the PPA is currently reconsidering the non-enforcement policy, Dickson said. Gendelman said it did not seem difficult for food truck vendors to find a location on campus. "[The vendors] just put their truck down anywhere they want and that's it," he said. And Mason said parking regulations are not enforced anyway. "Most of the time [the vendors] don't put money in the meters," he said. Mason added that one possible solution would be to have the Philadelphia City Council create a special vendor zone for Penn, similar to the arrangement at Drexel University. According to Dickson, food trucks must pay $3,000 annually for a spot on Drexel's campus -- between Market and Chestnut streets on 32nd Street. Furthermore, vending is prohibited for one additional block in each direction. Operating Costs The restaurant operators also gripe that they must pay a premium in rent and taxes -- while vendors have much lower overhead costs and can therefore set considerably lower prices. According to McNally, "anyone that's operating a business in this city must have a Business Privilege License" -- a one-time $200 fee. All food service establishments must also own a Food Preparation License, which costs $80 per year. And the vendors must annually fork over $250 for a Sidewalk Sales License. On top of that, vendors must purchase a vehicle, which can run anywhere from about $20,000 for a lunch cart to $75,000 for Rami Dakko's 1994 truck. But the vendors have few other expenses besides food and beverage costs. On the other hand, restaurants must pay thousands of dollars each month in rent, taxes and labor. Beijing co-owner Alex Yuen said his establishment pays about $6,000 in real estate taxes every month. And Quin Triu, manager of Oriental Food Fair at the Food Court, said he pays $9,000 per month in rent. Sicilia said the vendors do not just have lower operating costs -- many do not complete their tax returns properly. "They don't pay taxes on everything they make," he said. Yuen and Gendelman also voiced similar concerns. But the vendors continue to defend their businesses -- and the effort they put in.

Burmese woman tells of atrocities, her fight for rights

(03/25/96 10:00am)

Ohmar Khin can still recall, in vivid detail, how her country's military government brutally crushed a nonviolent student demonstration in March 1988. "There was blood all over," she said. "[The students] were beaten and they were actually drowned into the lake [by the soldiers]. I was screaming." Khin, a self-described "student-in-exile from Burma," discussed her involvement in efforts to achieve democracy and human rights in the Southeast Asian nation Friday. Khin's speech was the main component of the University's observance of International Women's Day. The program, entitled "Human Rights & Women's Issues in Burma: The Impact of Dictatorship," took place in Houston Hall. Penn Women's Center Associate Director Gloria Gay opened the event by praising International Women's Day -- a national holiday -- commenting that women throughout the world face very similar issues. Second-year Social Work student Yunju Nam, an intern at the Center and the event's organizer, then presented a short video called Burma: State of Despair. The video, produced by the British Broadcasting Company, depicted government-sponsored forced labor on infrastructure projects. Its narrator called Burma a "vast slave labor camp." The video also explained the plight of Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Known in Burma and throughout the world simply as "The Lady," Kyi was finally released from house arrest in July 1995 -- "released into a prison," according to Khin. The prison, Khin said, is Burma itself. The State Law and Order Restoration Council, which has ruled since September 1988, still closely watches Kyi and denies Burmese citizens the freedoms of assembly, speech and the press, Khin added. In 1989, the Council officially renamed the country Myanmar, but many people and organizations still refer to it as Burma. Khin's intense account of her own experiences as a revolutionary held rapt the audience of about 40. "Before 1988, I had no idea that my life would be changed in a totally different direction," said Khin, who was then studying chemistry at Rangoon Arts and Science University. Khin said she met several students who troops had beaten. Those students quickly convinced her to join the nascent student democracy movement. At the March 1988 demonstration, she fortunately managed to escape the chaos, watching the massacre from a nearby house. "[The soldiers] had the order to shoot," Khin said. "I witnessed the brutality of our own government on the younger generation." Khin added that on August 8, 1988, known as "The Four Eights," the government killed at least 3,000 people. "Thousands of people marched in the streets, calling for democracy and human rights," she said. "The response that we got from our own government was shooting and killing." Khin left Burma the next month, after the Council came to power and "started arresting students." She stayed in a student camp on the Thailand-Burma border before arriving in the United States in May 1990, as "one of the first two Burmese refugees that the U.S. government accepted." Khin is now active in publicizing the Council's human rights violations and the predicament of Burmese women. "We have thousands of Burmese women who are forced into prostitution in Thailand," she said. Three of Khin's friends also briefly discussed their harrowing experiences during Friday's event. Additionally, members of Amnesty International at Penn talked about their letter-writing campaign asking President Clinton and American corporations that operate in Burma to recognize the human rights violations occurring there. Nam said that as a result of Friday's event, she plans to involve herself in the "Free Burma" movement. "I was very impressed by [Khin's] speech," she said, adding that as a Korean, she felt an "obligation to support" the cause for Burma.

Students discuss Yiddish stories

(03/08/96 10:00am)

An impoverished grandmother unleashes a tirade at the "wealthy, hypocritical women" who surround her. She is the title character in "The Zogerin," a short story by Rokhl Brokhes, an early 20th century female Yiddish author. Zogerin is a Yiddish word which roughly translates to "woman prayer leader." German Professor Kathryn Hellerstein read "The Zogerin" and other Yiddish women's literature to a small, captive audience of about 10 students in the High Rise North Rathskellar Wednesday night. "I hate the cliche that Yiddish is a dying language," Hellerstein said, despite the fact that the number of speakers of the German-Hebrew tongue has dwindled over the past several decades. Hellerstein, who specializes in Yiddish language and literature, conveyed the language's vibrancy and richness in two short stories and one poem, which were all translated into English. An abandoned wife's haunting dreams of female ghosts in her family formed the basis of the untitled poem Hellerstein read. The poem was written in 1927 by Kadya Molodowsky as part of her "Women's Poems" series. "The speaker of the poem is very angry at her female ancestors who chastise her" for her freewheeling life, Hellerstein said. Hellerstein also read the short story "The Shorn Head" by Fradel Schtok, which concerns the tribulations of a woman who confronts the traditional practice of shaving a married woman's head. Although both short stories were in English, some Yiddish words and phrases remained in the texts. "I think it was a very deliberate editorial decision to include Yiddish words," Hellerstein said, adding that Found Treasures, the Yiddish women's short story collection which contained "The Zogerin," included a glossary of the terms. In a lively discussion following the readings, Hellerstein also said that though it may seem otherwise, the characters do not correspond with humorous Yiddish stereotypes propagated by filmmaker Woody Allen and others. "The few stories by women that have been translated and collected are not funny," she added. Hellerstein admitted that "tears were running down my face half the time" when she was reading Found Treasures. College sophomore Ariel Blumenthal, who organized the event for Hillel's recently-created Forum for Student-Faculty Interaction, said she was very pleased with the reading and the subsequent discussion. "I think that's what we need to see more of on campus," Blumenthal said, referring to the discussion between the students and Hellerstein. Blumenthal added that she may plan similar events with professors of other languages. Hellerstein, who became interested in Yiddish while in graduate school, said she hopes the language does not become extinct. "I think there is an incredible urgency to learn the language and learn from people," she said. She also explained the personal significance of her knowledge of Yiddish -- her father spoke it. "Once I started learning the language, it was a real point of connection for me," Hellerstein said.

Local Israeli consul examines peace talks

(02/28/96 10:00am)

Comparing peace negotiations between Israel and Syria to haggling with a recalcitrant store owner, Israeli Consul Eli Avidar said Syrian President Hafez Assad is refusing to make any major concessions -- just as a store owner rejects the notion of lowering prices. Taking the analogy further, Avidar said Assad understands the value of peace between Syria and Israel, as the store owner knows the true value of his goods. Avidar, who is consul to the Mid-Atlantic region, spoke Monday night to approximately 40 students at Van Pelt Library about Israeli-Syrian negotiations and Sunday's terrorist bombings. "He doesn't work in a democratic system," Avidar said of Assad. "The only opposition he has is himself." Avidar said that for five years, Israel has been negotiating with Syria over the Golan Heights, a region on the border of the two countries, held by Israel since 1967. "We should make a transformation to a place of peace," he said. Avidar added that Israel is asking for four main guarantees from Syria in return for concessions on the Golan. First, he said, Israel wants Syria's troops to retreat a considerable distance from the Golan Heights. "That's not an easy task for a totalitarian country," Avidar said. Since Israel's "major source of water" is in the Golan Heights, Avidar said Israel also needs assurance that the water will still be available. Israel is also calling for open diplomatic relations with Syria, according to Avidar. "We would like to have an exchange of ambassadors and embassies," he said. Finally, Israel wants people to be able to freely cross the Israel-Syria border, as they can now cross the Israel-Jordan border, Avidar said. Although Syria seems reluctant to agree to any of these terms, Avidar said he is confident that the two countries will reach an agreement soon, citing recent events that have defied expectations. "People didn't believe that the [Palestine Liberation Organization] would have democratic elections," he said, referring to the vote that took place last month. Avidar also discussed Sunday's terrorist bombings in the cities of Jerusalem and Ashkelon, explaining that they should not affect the Israel-Syria peace talks. "It's the obligation of Yasser Arafat and the PLO to stop terror and stop Hamas and stop Islamic Jihad," he said. College sophomore and IsraeLink Political Coordinator Seth Lasser said he was generally pleased with Avidar's speech, which IsraeLink sponsored. "It was good to hear an Israeli government official say that the Syrians are being stubborn," said Lasser, a Daily Pennsylvanian columnist. Deborah Lichtenfeld, Philadelphia coordinator for the World Zionist Organization's University Student Department, said Avidar explained the complex situation very clearly. "The change has happened so rapidly that you really need to be on top of it," she said. Avidar said he appreciated the University community's activism on these issues.

Dr. Ruth to talk on birds, bees

(02/15/96 10:00am)

The diminutive sex therapist Ruth Westheimer -- known to millions as "Dr. Ruth" -- will present her unique, German-accented perspective on sexuality to the University community next month. According to Arianna Koransky, Hillel's Jewish Campus Service Corps fellow, Westheimer will discuss sexuality -- specifically focusing on the Jewish aspects of it -- at Irvine Auditorium on March 27. "I'm really excited," said Koransky, who received confirmation Monday that Westheimer was coming to campus. "I think she's somebody who's fun and informative." Hillel, the Steinhardt Jewish Heritage Program, the Philadelphia Jewish Federation, Connaissance and Facilitating Learning About Sexual Health are co-sponsoring Westheimer's visit. Connaissance has committed $5,000 to Westheimer's $11,500 speaking fee and travel expenses, according to Connaissance Co-Director Richard Archer. Hillel and the Philadelphia Jewish Federation are each contributing $1,000, and Connaissance will sell tickets to make up the difference. According to Archer, a Wharton junior, the organization voted unanimously to provide the funding to bring the sex therapist to the University. "I don't think they'll have any trouble selling out," Archer said. Hillel will also host a reception for Westheimer, who holds a doctorate in Education. Currently, Westheimer has a syndicated newspaper column, "Ask Dr. Ruth," and she has written several books on sexuality. Her frank radio show, Sexually Speaking, propelled her to fame in the 1980s. Koransky said Westheimer, who survived the Holocaust and lived in Israel for several years, should appeal to all students. Koransky and Hillel's Jewish Freshman Social Council were the main forces behind bringing Westheimer to the University. The council first discussed bringing Westheimer to campus in December and began searching for funding in January. Koransky contacted Admire Presentations, the agency that arranges lectures for Westheimer. Other council members went to various organizations to obtain financial and technical support. FLASH will handle publicity, and plans to distribute condoms and safer sex information at the speech, according to Kurt Conklin, health educator and FLASH adviser. "We're inspired," he said. "She made people fear sex less and make it seem more playful and enjoyable." Archer said that Connaissance -- which just contracted with Billy Joel to speak and perform in April -- is benefiting from its new status as part of the Social Planning and Events Committee. When Connaissance was simply a member of the Student Activities Council, it could not charge admission for events. "With the ability to sell tickets, we have more leeway on who we can bring," Archer said. The tickets will probably cost between $2 and $4, according to the event's organizers.

Stoppard becomes panel focus

(02/08/96 10:00am)

Although Tom Stoppard was supposed to be only one third of a panel discussion entitled "The Landscape of Late Modernism" yesterday, he quickly became the focus of the afternoon. And the capacity crowd of nearly 400 students, faculty and alumni which packed the Annenberg School Auditorium did not seem to mind. Stoppard's busy second day on campus did not end with the panel discussion, which was only the second of three events scheduled to showcase the playwright and author. In an official proclamation last night, Mayor Ed Rendell declared yesterday "Stoppard Day" in the city of Philadelphia. Rendell also gave the author a keychain to the city, as well as a miniature Liberty Bell replica, at a dinner at Eisenlohr Hall held by University President Judith Rodin honoring Stoppard. The discussion earlier in the afternoon also featured English Department Chairperson Wendy Steiner and Music Professor Jeffrey Kallberg. Steiner opened the discussion by asking Stoppard "where you see yourself in relation to other works of this century" and which authors influenced him. Stoppard initially replied that he had difficulty pinpointing particular influences or, by the same token, eliminating other authors. "The question of influence is sometimes as ambiguous as the word itself," he said. But Stoppard did cite Damon Runyon, Samuel Beckett and James Joyce as well-known authors who have affected him. He also mentioned James Saunders, a comparatively obscure British playwright. "It's almost impossible, maybe completely impossible, to write a play which doesn't remind somebody of something else," he said, drawing laughs from the audience. When Steiner probed Stoppard further on where he would place himself in the context of 20th-century literature, Stoppard once again avoided giving a direct answer. "I don't think of myself as part of anything," he said. Stoppard often changed the topic during the discussion, at one point turning a question about aesthetics in his work into an anecdotal monologue about philosophical issues and his "love affair with Ernest Hemingway." Stoppard, who was born in Czechoslovakia but grew up in England, also talked about his friendship with the Czech playwright-turned-president Vaclav Havel. Stoppard also revealed his surprising early vision of the final scene in Arcadia. He said he wanted to use the Rolling Stones song "You Can't Always Get What You Want" as the background music for the scene, which features two couples, two hundred years apart, waltzing in a study room. "I wrote it into the script," Stoppard said. "But I was so ignorant that I didn't know you couldn't waltz to it." A short question and answer session with the audience followed the discussion. While many of those in attendance seemed to enjoy Stoppard's presentation, some said they felt the format did not work well and the topic of modernism was not covered. "The two interrogators were superfluous and hard to understand," said University alumna Annette Fine. But others said they did not mind the focus on Stoppard and his work. "The topic wasn't the thing being discussed, but what was discussed was interesting," College sophomore Cindy Mullock said. Fourth-year English graduate student Leigh Edwards expressed similar feelings. "As an artist, he was really good about talking to academics," she said. And some were simply awed by Stoppard. Andrew Hohns, a senior at Philadelphia's Masterman High School, who asked a question about Stoppard's play Jumpers, said he was thrilled with the playwright's response. Stoppard, who stayed afterward to sign books for 15 minutes, admitted that he played with the format of the discussion. "The trick with these things is to talk about what you want to talk about irrespective of the title," he said. Stoppard also said he appreciated the audience's enthusiasm. "It was a typically friendly Penn audience," he said. Daily Pennsylvanian reporter Jaclyn LaPlaca contributed to this article.

Talking about safer sex, baby

(02/02/96 10:00am)

Female students who do not feel at ease with sex toys may learn more about them at parties sponsored by Party Gals. Hosting a "sex-toy Tupperware party" with the Philadelphia-based organization -- whose mission is to educate women about sex toys -- is just a sample of what to expect from Safer Sex Awareness Month, according to health educator Kurt Conklin, coordinator of the month's events. Known in past years as HIV/AIDS Awareness Month, the name was changed this year in order to address other problems associated with sex, said Conklin, who also serves as the adviser to Facilitating Learning About Sexual Health. "HIV is still always a concern," he said, noting that previously the month had not focused on issues such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. According to College junior Ashley Paine, an active member of FLASH, sex educators are attempting to lessen the negative connotations associated with STDs by calling them STIs -- sexually transmitted infections. Conklin said he hopes the month will allow students to utilize University and other resources related to safe sex and to "encourage dialogue on campus about sexuality." Paine said FLASH -- the student organization that has helped to coordinate the month's programming -- has planned more "creative" events this year than in the past. Paine added that the month is geared toward "eroticizing safer sex" and "trying to make it seem appealing and fun." "Safer sex opens up so many more possibilities," she said, citing activities such as fantasy, masturbation and using sex toys. The first of four "Safer Sex Sundays," where FLASH will provide free condoms and information, will kick off the month's events this Sunday at Chats at 11 p.m. Other events with a safer sex theme include film screenings, speeches, workshops and "The Exotic Erotic Ball," which promises "music, motion, people and prophylactics," according to the calendar of events. FLASH has also published a newsletter, available today, entitled "Let's Talk About (Safer) Sex," which contains articles on condoms, AIDS, sex toys, tattoos and masturbation, along with facts and statistics on AIDS and STIs. Education graduate student Chris Fariello, the newsletter's editor-in-chief, said he liked the shift of the month's focus from HIV/AIDS to safer sex in general. "It allows more individuals to get involved," said Fariello, who is working toward a doctorate in human sexuality education. Conklin said students -- both as individuals and within groups -- have historically expressed interest in the events associated with the month. Fraternities and sororities have called the Office of Health Education in past years, asking to schedule a speaker or workshop, Conklin said. Thanks to the programming, students "may finally come into the office for the first time," Conklin added. Still, Paine acknowledged the difficulty of changing attitudes toward safer sex. "There is only so much that education can do," she said. "It takes something significant to change people's behavior," such as a pregnancy or an STI. Although organizers will be giving out condoms on Locust Walk throughout the month to promote safe sex, Wharton freshman Brian Jobe said he believes condoms do not prevent the spread of AIDS. "The only surefire way is abstinence," he said. Engineering junior Sean Gallagher, who said he knew nothing about Safer Sex Awareness Month, suggested a maxim for sex: "As little as possible, as wisely as possible." Julie Davids, a member of the AIDS activism group ACT-UP! who will be part of a panel discussion next Wednesday entitled "The Future of HIV/AIDS Activism," stressed the need for more student involvement in such causes. "It's really important for students who care about these issues not to blindly donate money," she said, adding that they should instead become directly involved in the community. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Alliance, The Book Store, Penn Women's Center and Connaissance are sponsoring many of the events throughout the week.

Gran student works to improve literacy

(01/30/96 10:00am)

For many college students, reading and writing consists of skimming through an entire textbook the night before a midterm, or cranking out 12-page papers under deadline pressure. But after visiting the poorest areas in Haiti, first-year Education graduate student Allison Cary found out that the definition of literacy can be relative. "I thought, 'Gee, don't they understand what it's going to do for their lives, to know how to read and write?' " she said. Cary, who will receive her master's degree this spring, recently returned from a visit to Haiti to examine literacy programs, her second trip in two years. She made the trip with Beyond Borders, a nonprofit Christian organization that works closely with literacy centers and organizations in Haiti. Cary, now a Beyond Borders trustee, learned about the organization when John Engle, her close friend since first grade, founded it three years ago. Cary's path to Haiti was not simple. As a child in "homogeneous, suburban" Hershey, Pa., Cary became interested in black culture, albeit from a "very naive perspective." In junior high school, she was selected to spend some time at a camp with inner-city children, and she read books such as Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. Cary, who graduated from the University of Delaware in 1986, originally planned to go into journalism, but her friends pointed her in a different direction. "People said, 'Do you really want to report on everybody's misfortune?' " Cary said. "Why don't you do something before the misfortune happens." Instead of immediately following that advice, Cary pursued a career in sales management with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, working in the Philadelphia suburbs and then in the city for the past three years. Although her job was satisfying and had a "team atmosphere," working in an urban environment renewed her interest in black culture and raised new questions about her career. "A lot of the questions I had about inner-city life weren't being discussed in my work environment," Cary said. Cary then began performing volunteer work for a church in predominantly black Germantown two years ago. And the more she talked with Engle, who is the co-director of Beyond Borders, the more she became interested in the organization. Cary said she first went to Haiti in January 1995 because she was curious about Third World countries and wanted to "see what [Engle] was doing." Though she arrived there two months after the United States military came to restore democracy, her first impression of Haiti was a negative one. "The airport was chaotic," Cary said, adding that she was "really overwhelmed by the poverty" in Port-au-Prince, the nation's capital. The lack of electricity, gasoline and even running water made life difficult, she explained. Yet when she traveled to the more serene countryside, she encountered friendly, enthusiastic people -- especially when she and two other Americans stayed with a local family. "It was wonderful, it was really different," Cary said, admitting though that "it was very uncomfortable and awkward at times." Despite the language barrier, Cary learned much about the Haitian people, their culture and their goals. And one of the Americans she was with spoke Creole, the language of the vast majority of Haitians. "They don't want money, they don't want a new house, they don't want running water. They want to be educated," Cary said. The trip, known by others in Beyond Borders as "Transformational Travel," did indeed change Cary. When she returned to the U.S., she decided to alter her career path, a choice she had been contemplating for two years before the journey to Haiti. Cary began to wonder if she could make a difference in others' lives and her own. "I want to be a teacher so I can learn myself," Cary said. John Rawley, who has known Cary since her childhood, said she has always been "loving with other people." Rawley accompanied Cary on this month's trip. He said he believed the first trip led to "her resolving in her own mind that she wanted to devote her life to helping children." Cary applied to education graduate schools last February and has discovered that her fellow students share the same concerns as she does. "[The education program] made me realize how many other people are as concerned as I am about what happens and worry about what's going on," Cary said. As part of her studies, Cary is a student teacher for fourth graders, an experience she called "a real eye-opener." Although she said the children are "very bright and energetic," she stressed that they need "to develop their own self-discipline" and "initiative for learning." When Cary returned to Haiti earlier this month, she had hoped to "find out what progress had been made" in both the country's literacy centers and infrastructure. Cary discovered an increase in commerce and construction, and a "more organized" airport, but poverty was still prevalent. "No matter who goes there, or what your questions are, there is something for everybody to learn," she said. Cary now is looking forward to her new career, hoping eventually to teach in an inner-city school, most likely in Philadelphia. "It's very humbling to be involved with education," she said.

Activist discusses race, sexuality

(01/19/96 10:00am)

When Marjorie Hill was in third grade, her teacher assigned an essay about what the world would be like in the year 2000. The young Hill described a world in which children would not be judged by the color of their skin but rather by the content of their character. Hill, formerly director of the New York City Office of Lesbian and Gay Concerns under former Mayor David Dinkins, conveyed that message in a speech entitled "What Difference Do Differences Make? -- Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation." Hill spoke in Houston Hall Wednesday evening to an audience of approximately 40 as part of the University's commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr's life. A prominent member of the African American and gay and lesbian communities, Hill discussed King's impact and his methods of overcoming the racist attitudes of society. "Dr. Martin Luther King stood for justice, truth and fairness," said Hill, who currently serves as the vice chairperson of the New York State Workers' Compensation Board. "It is sometimes difficult to live by things that are so simple." She added that King's agenda will only be implemented if the American people come to terms with every kind of racism. "It is impossible to view any form of racism as isolated or separated from others," she said. Hill, who has a doctorate in psychology, said courage, community-building and coalition, which she dubbed the "three C's," could ultimately lead to overcoming racism and bigotry in America. She also quoted King, noting that he believed people "must stand together as allies or die together as fools." Hill said King's message resonates today, teaching that everyone has the same "God-given rights." "Maybe it's not the difference that makes the difference, but the perception," Hill said. She also dealt with more specific issues during a lengthy question-and-answer session with the audience. Hill addressed Wednesday's death of pioneering black congresswoman Barbara Jordan, calling her "an incredible warrior in the fight for justice." Hill, who is currently engaged and preparing for her wedding, offered advice to the gay community. "We need people to move beyond the safety of our gay and lesbian centers," she said. After Hill finished, Bob Schoenberg, director of the University's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Center and organizer of the event, said he was "delighted" that she had come to speak. "So many of the things she talked about seemed so relevant," he said, adding that he "loved the lighthearted stories." College senior Anthony Putz, co-chairperson of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Alliance, said Hill's remarks were "poignant and on the mark in all cases." In addition, second-year Social Work student Raina McCoy called Hill "inspiring." "I think it's great that they brought someone who is African American and lesbian and out," she said. The Rev. Patrick Maye, pastor of Unity Fellowship Church, a predominantly African American church that "affirms the spirituality" of gays and lesbians, said although he enjoyed Hill's speech, he wished the publicity for the event had been better. According to Maye, the event's organizers should have notified all the gay and lesbian organizations, along with the general public. Hill said she was "very excited" to speak at the University, especially since it was her first time on campus. An author of several publications, including the forthcoming Growing Up Gay or Lesbian, Hill is also featured in "All God's Children," a recent film about homophobia in black culture.