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Yale grad group makes plans for strike

(02/21/03 10:00am)

With a long history of union disputes in its shadow, the possibility of a strike looms large over Yale University's campus after a strike vote was passed by the school's Graduate Employees and Students Organization on Wednesday. The organizing committee, which is affiliated with locals 34 and 35 representing Yale's clerical, technical, dining hall and maintenance employees, has yet to set an official strike date, according to GESO organizer Carlos Aramayo. Nevertheless, Yale officials are confident that the strike, authorized by over three-quarters of the more than 600 graduate students voting at Wednesday's meeting, will begin the week of March 3, during a sympathy strike by Yale's other unions. "The graduate student union drive at Yale is directly tied to our normal unionization efforts," Yale spokesperson Helaine Klasky said. "We've been in the process of very lengthy contract renewal negotiations [which administrators have] not signed because union leadership has been insistent on tying it to graduate student unionization, which is a non-negotiable issue." While GESO has never formally petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for collective bargaining rights, the organization has a long, colorful history. Attempting to secure a promise from Yale President Richard Levin that the university would waive its right to appeal a regional NLRB director's decision, GESO organized a grade strike -- in which grades were withheld -- at the end of the winter semester between 1995 and 1996. Levin's outspokenly anti-graduate employee union stance has led some to believe that even if an election were held, the results would be impounded for years while Yale argued the case straight to the national office of the NLRB. "No one currently here would ever see the result of that vote," Aramayo said. GESO is asking only for the negotiations between the organization and Levin to resume, according to Aramayo. "We just want them to come back to the table so we can... come up with a process we both feel is fair," Aramayo said. "We think that if they want to form a union, they should request an NLRB sanctioned election and hold a vote," Klasky countered. "Just as [the union reserves] rights and privileges, we may or may not choose to exercise them, but we won't forgo those rights." Asked to estimate the effect a teaching-assistant walk-out would have on undergraduate education, Aramayo said that the ball was in Yale's court to negotiate in good faith and avoid the strike. "If [Yale] is really concerned about that, they'll have a dialogue," he said, adding that "as things become more concrete, the university will back down." "None of us really want to go on strike," Aramayo continued. "I love my teaching, and I love teaching undergrads." Yale officials are perplexed as to why graduate employees would want to strike at all. "What needs are not being met?" Klasky asked, noting that Yale has expanded family and dental healthcare coverage. Aramayo said his colleagues authorized the strike "not for an extra few bucks but because they want their voice heard." Yale's undergraduates, meanwhile, nervously watch as the clock ticks down to March. "One of my [teaching assistants] thought that he could just take the students off campus and teach," one Yale senior said, adding that GESO officials then reminded the graduate employee that no contact with students or research work would be allowed during the strike. As striking Yale graduate students would technically no longer be university employees, keeping students' midterms, which are Yale property, after the strike date would leave them open to criminal charges. "We'll have to come up with ways to still have a discussion, maybe some online forum kind of deal," the Yale undergraduate said, speculating on how one best replaces a striking TA. "It's all right for now, but if this lasts more than a week, it's going to be a problem."

Health plan a concern for grad students

(02/20/03 10:00am)

Healthcare, a basic necessity often taken for granted in the University community, has been at the heart of the unionization debate as Penn's graduate employees balance their stipends and medical bills on a student plan. While administrators point to recent improvements in coverage and affordability to show that healthcare at Penn can evolve without a graduate student union, some union advocates have voiced skepticism over the University's willingness to maintain a flexible plan specially designed for graduate employees. "It's livable if you're healthy," Graduate Employees Together-University of Pennsylvania spokesperson Joanna Kempner said. "But if you have a chronic condition or if you have dependents, then it is subpar." Even graduate students who said their experiences with Student Health Service have been positive also empathize with struggling colleagues, especially those with children. "It seems fine," second-year computer science doctoral candidate Ameesh Makadia said. "It's free for me right now. We don't get dental care, but particularly for me, that's not a problem because I'm still covered on a dental plan outside the University." Nevertheless, Makadia recognized that "if you do have a family, this would not be the proper plan, or the ideal plan at least." "Especially for the humanities majors," he continued. "Their stipends are so low, [the Penn Student Insurance Plan] isn't livable." But according to Deputy Provost Peter Conn, the current student health plan was designed for and largely by students through the Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee. "There are about 20 members on that committee.... Twelve are students, and 10 of the 12 are graduate and professional students," he said, adding that the current plan had been presented to and approved by the committee after a series of public meetings last spring. Conn also said that healthcare and health insurance across the United States is in a state of crisis. "We... have a society in which over 40 million people have no health insurance at all," he said. "We are in a crisis... and the Penn Student Insurance Plan is coping with that crisis.... Providing what the students themselves tell us is an excellent plan under the circumstances." Some, however, remain unconvinced and maintain that healthcare under a union would alleviate some of the existing problems. "The University wants to make this sound like the most radical thing they've ever heard of," Kempner said, noting that the University of Michigan's three decades of collective bargaining with its graduate employees has only improved its healthcare and quality of life on campus. "I really think [Michigan] is the best place to look," Kempner said. "They have secured benefits for dependents, and Michigan... just got subsidized childcare, which is great." At Penn, however, students who have acquired an extra family member or two have a more difficult road ahead of them. PSIP "really discriminates against older students who bring a lot to our program," Kempner said. Female graduate students looking to start families are also faced with a difficult decision, according to Kempner. "It's hard on the tenure track, it's hard in graduate school, it's really something on [women's] minds," she said. "We want to pursue a passion, but we don't want to put brakes on our lives." But according to administrators, although it is not free, dependent coverage in its current state is adequate. "The plan already incorporates a significant cross-subsidy for dependents," Conn countered. "In other words, the cost of the premium for dependents... while high... is already literally thousands of dollars less" than care outside the plan. Administrators have also suggested in a number of flyers and statements that healthcare would decline in quality and likely increase in price should GET-UP win collective bargaining rights. "If graduate students... were to be defined to be employees, they would no longer be eligible to participate" in PSIP, Conn said. "There are laws that would require those students to drop out of the student health insurance plan and negotiate for an employee plan. "We don't know what the result of that negotiation would be," he added. "But I can be very confident that the plan that would emerge... would be less attractive for the money than the plan the students have now." At Michigan, though, this obstacle has been overcome with the creation of a "separate graduate student health plan called GradCare," Kempner said. The plan allows graduate employees outside the unit to enroll in a plan tailored to meet graduate students' needs, giving them "the option to be folded into other employee healthcare" when they are eligible for union membership, Kempner said. "It's all negotiated. That's the... key," she concluded. "Everything they say might happen really never has happened."

Graduating seniors face tightened job market

(02/19/03 10:00am)

Believing that no jobs are available for them, nearly half a million Americans have given up looking for work, according to the U.S. Department of Labor -- and now with graduation looming, some of Penn's seniors are fighting a similar despair despite their Ivy League resumes. "It's certainly not a good market," a Career Services counselor said of the national hiring slump, which The New York Times called the worst in two decades. "I think our students are doing about as well as can be expected." According to Career Services, the hardest hit industry has been consulting -- the second most popular career choice for graduates of the Wharton School and a top choice for graduates of the College and School of Engineering and Applied Science. As companies from brokerage firms to fast-food chains slash their hiring budgets, many students simply continue going to school. Applications to graduate schools, especially law schools, have skyrocketed, according to Career Services. "I'm not on the job market," College senior Ryan Schmidt said. Already accepted into an M.D./Ph.D. program, Schmidt doesn't believe that things are all that bad. "I've seen people having hard times, but I haven't seen anyone say 'because it's so bad, I'm definitely going to graduate school,'" he said. Some students, however, are more willing to pound the pavement than stay in school. "I don't have plans to go to grad school at this time," Engineering senior Theodore Paulakis said. "I'll keep on looking until I find something." A computer science major, Paulakis hasn't found anything yet. "The interviews themselves tend to be very harsh, and getting them to begin with can be difficult," Paulakis said, noting that "most full-time employers have found their new recruits for this year." While Wharton senior Amal Dave admitted that "it was tough getting a job," he "can't complain" now that he has accepted an offer in commercial banking. "The best way to describe it is how Career Services does -- students get one [job offer] if they're lucky, fewer than one if they're not." Meanwhile, national shortages of qualified nurses and teachers have made job-hunting relatively pleasant for those in the right school at the right time. "I've had a lot of job offers," Nursing senior Sara Mylett said. "Everywhere I've been applying, there have been sign-up bonuses," she continued. "They've been really good about recruiting nurses." Career Services has worked with alumni relations, encouraging Penn parents and alumni to hire University students "for internships and permanent positions." "Our students are very strong, they're enterprising, they haven't been whining," a Career Services official said. "They're doing what they need to do."

Bargaining unit causes confusion, contention

(02/19/03 10:00am)

With exactly one week before graduate employee union elections, the composition of the bargaining unit -- a major factor in the outcome of the vote -- is a point of contention in the unionization debate. The defined unit, which includes only certain types of graduate students in only some of Penn's individual departments, determines who would be represented by a union -- and whose vote counts in the union election. "This unit is not appropriate," Deputy Provost Peter Conn said about the allegedly arbitrary inclusion of some graduate students and the exclusion of others. "The unit is internally contradictory... [and] makes very strange divisions between and among students doing identical work." Additionally, for those not on the front line of the debate, confusion has arisen over who is a union candidate and who is not -- although those in the defined unit have received information on union elections, those excluded from the unit have not been notified of their status. "I really don't know," Fels School of Government graduate student Allison McConomy said, when asked if she was in the bargaining unit. She added that the only clarification offered to her has come from her own school's administration. Meanwhile, Penn administrators have been working hard to sway eligible voters. A flyer released by the Office of the Provost last week accused Graduate Employees Together-University of Pennsylvania of having intentionally excluded "students such as R[esearch] A[ssistant]s in natural sciences graduate groups and most professional students," while "the union even tried to keep out graduate students in economics and linguistics by arguing that both were 'natural sciences.'" GET-UP spokesperson Joanna Kempner, however, pointed out that the University "did have the option of sitting down and negotiating a unit at any time," rather than allowing the National Labor Relations Board to arbitrate the process. Kempner also noted that the first draft of the Excelsior list, the list of eligible voters, was supplied by Penn. "They gave us a list of everyone they thought was eligible, and we gave them a list of everyone we thought was eligible," she said. "The way this works is that the University -- the employer, as they say -- makes the list in accordance with the definitions" supplied by the NLRB, Conn said. Conn said that every graduate dean, along with the more than 50 graduate chairs, worked together to decide which "individuals would meet the test of inclusion and exclusion in this semester on the day of the vote." Because the New York University case -- in which the school became the first private university to form a graduate student union -- is the most "robust legal precedent," according to Kempner, the regional director of the NLRB who decided on the bargaining unit had little choice but to base her decision on what happened in the East Village three years ago. But Conn said that GET-UP is applying the legal precedent blindly. "The decision itself includes, in at least one case, a comment by the regional director herself on the question of RAs in the sciences," Conn said. "The NYU precedent obliges her to decide against her own opinion." Perceived inconsistencies in the unit have also come under fire, as students doing the same work -- first-year candidates for master's and doctoral degrees in the Graduate School of Education, for example -- are sometimes not all included in the unit simultaneously. "The unit by law doesn't have to be a perfect unit, it has to be an appropriate unit," Kempner said, responding to administrators' criticism and noting that the University should have cooperated and prevented the process from becoming overly litigious. Graduate students will be met on Feb. 26 in Houston Hall by an official from the NLRB and two observers -- one from GET-UP and one from the University. Voters not on the Excelsior list who wish to cast challenge ballots may do so with a valid Penn ID. Challenge ballots will be placed in a sealed, unmarked envelope, which is itself then sealed into an envelope bearing the voter's name. Should the margin of victory in the election be greater than the total number of challenge ballots, those ballots will be discarded. However, if the challenge ballots could potentially change the results of the election, they are removed one at a time, as each name is debated back and forth in front of the NLRB. If the NLRB determines that the individual in question has voting rights, the sealed envelope is removed, added to the general pool and counted anonymously. Conn said that the University is encouraging students to vote whether or not they are on the official list. The University will post notices of election around campus listing specific jobs, departments and schools whose graduate employees are eligible to vote 72 hours before the election, as per NLRB policy. Anyone confused about voting rights can also contact either the administration or GET-UP directly. Still, as the University's appeal to the national office of the NLRB pends, some remain frustrated that next week's elections may decide nothing at all. "They're not really going to count our votes," Kempner said, referring to the NLRB policy that votes be impounded until the employer's appeal is decided.

Justice Scalia's affirmative action stance incites protest

(02/14/03 10:00am)

Trampling dirty, white snow underfoot as they marched, chanted and encouraged passing motorists to "honk if you love affirmative action," students, professors and activists from around the country gathered to demonstrate outside the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology yesterday afternoon as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke at a closed event inside. "Hey! Scalia! Like what you see? See you April 1 in D.C.!" the demonstrators chanted. With two high-profile cases --Grutter v. Bollinger and its companion case Gratz v. Bollinger -- about to come before the Supreme Court, the future of affirmative action programs in the United States hangs in balance. A march on the Supreme Court, during the cases' preliminary hearings scheduled for April 1, is being planned and coordinated at Penn and at colleges and high schools around the country. Based on lawsuits filed by three applicants to the University of Michigan Law School accusing the university of rejecting white applicants because of their race, Grutter is aimed at Michigan's law school while Gratz targets race-influenced admissions to the university's undergraduate program. Especially since President Bush filed an amicus brief urging the court to oppose affirmative action, the cases have taken on tremendous political weight. "Bush says Jim Crow/We say hell no!" was shouted alongside anti-Scalia and anti-discrimination chants, as demonstrators paraded in a slow oval carrying anti-Bush, Scalia and Trent Lott signs. "We're headed backwards, and that's insanity," History graduate student Kyle Farley said. "America's historical memory is way too short," Farley continued, explaining his participation in the demonstration. "I study American history, so I don't forget what's happened." "It's a mistake to think of this as a black issue or a minority issue," he added later. "This is an American issue." Passers-by and those coming to the event from the west including a long string of well-dressed law students and faculty, nervously edged past the slow-marching protesters. "They're not being disruptive," Penn Law School alumnus David Terry said. "They're nowhere even near the entrance." Offering an extra ticket to the event to the chanting protesters, a bemused Terry offered his opinion on Scalia's relationship to the pending affirmative action cases. "It's a hot-button issue, one out of a dozen or a hundred Mr. Scalia could answer for," Terry said. Others were confused at first as to why the demonstrators were there at all. "Does [Penn] have a problem?" asked Classical Studies Professor Keith DeVries, who happened to walk by the protest. When told that the signs and chanting were directed at Scalia, DeVries response was to the point. "What a horrible person," he said. "Who invited him?" The protesters' opinions of the conservative Supreme Court justice tended to be other than positive. "He's an evil man," said Anthony Monteiro, a lecturer in Afro-American Studies. "He's a throwback to Dred Scott." Second-year Graduate School of Education student Kelley Evans expressed fears that Scalia represented "a return to education where diversity is not represented." "That's going backwards," she continued. "That's the world of my parents." "I'm going forward," she concluded, as she walked back into the circular ranks of the picketers. However, Thomas Fitzpatrick, a second-year law student at Villanova University and a candidate for the chairmanship of the National Black Law Students Association, felt that the event was less an attack on Scalia than a struggle against the policies he represents. "It's not about picketing Scalia," he said. "It's about picketing an idea, a relic." It's about the "equal chance and equal opportunity we deserve as human beings," Washington, D.C. high school student James Barron concurred. As plainclothes Philadelphia police and a University-mandated observer from the Free Speech Council looked on, the protesters exercised their First Amendment rights without incident. Though the question of affirmative action is a decidedly national issue, as witnessed by the participation of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary, College sophomore Carl Foreman explained the cases' relevance to Penn. Academic Program chair of the Black Student League and a resident in DuBois College House, Foreman described the possibility that programs such as DuBois itself might be rendered unconstitutional as "scary for me, personally." Estimating the total number of participants at "40 to 50," organizer Vinay Harpalani, a GSE doctoral candidate and a Daily Pennsylvanian columnist, was pleased with the event. "It was excellent," he said. "We made a statement -- that was our goal."

Social Work aids child welfare cases

(02/14/03 10:00am)

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

Friend sheds light on missing junior

(02/13/03 10:00am)

While University administrators, students, police, private investigators and family members continue both the physical search for missing student David Dantzler-Wolfe as well as investigations into possible motives behind his disappearance, members of the last community in which Dantzler-Wolfe put down roots share Penn's confusion, anxiety and disbelief. Last seen on the morning of Dec. 10, Dantzler-Wolfe has now been missing for over two months. As sources in both the University and Philadelphia police departments released information about an investigation into Dantzler-Wolfe prior to his disappearance, the mystery surrounding the case has only deepened. Ali Hasan, now a fourth-year film student at Occidental College in California, knew Dantzler-Wolfe well during their time together in high school at the Groton School in Massachusetts. "For two years, David was one of my closest friends," Hasan said. "Especially at boarding school, you just become so much more attached" to your friends and housemates, he added. When asked about the investigation into Dantzler-Wolfe allegedly entering a female student's "abode" and videotaping her, Hasan offered the following explanation. "You know when a fraternity puts you up to task to do a stupid thing?" he asked. "Somebody might have put him up to a dare. I can't confirm whether it happened or not, but he likes to live wild, he likes to play tricks." Meanwhile, Hasan said that finding Dantzler-Wolfe will be especially difficult. "David knows how to live on his own, he's also very good with money and he was in ROTC, so he picked up some tricks there," Hasan said. "You could confidently give $1,000 to him and expect him to live [on it] for some time," Hasan said. When asked to speculate on Dantzler-Wolfe's whereabouts, Hasan offered two theories. "I think he might be in the forest," Hasan said. "He really liked the isolation of it at Groton, so I could see him at a... crappy motel in a forest or a woodland area." He also liked New York City, according to Hasan. "He might be staying at a youth hostel there," Hasan said. But no matter where the Wharton junior is, those who know him are still surprised by his disappearance. "It was a shock to all of us," said Connie Brown, assistant registrar at Groton. "In the registrar's office, I'd see him all the time," she added. "He was a great kid, nice to talk to," Brown continued, saying that Dantzler-Wolfe was "a very responsible kid who'd never go off on his own." Having lived with Dantzler-Wolfe and another Groton student, Adrian Martin, in a triple his senior year, Hasan said he "just came to rely on them." "The highlight of my day was seeing David and Adrian," he said. "If they weren't around, I would have left." "We would always study together," Hasan recalled. "He was really big on mathematics, and the good friends he would make were often through studying with them. He was the top kid in all his classes, but he was very good about sharing his knowledge." A natural scholar who "genuinely enjoyed doing... his homework," Dantzler-Wolfe's disappearance may have been related to academic frustration, Hasan said. "He wasn't enjoying it," Hasan said, describing Dantzler-Wolfe's experience at the Wharton School. At Groton, "his academics would embody him," Hasan explained, describing Dantzler-Wolfe's love of philosophy and intellectual curiosity. "I don't think... business... fascinated him or grabbed his attention. He likes things that are really deep -- with business, you've got supply and demand, and you can't go much deeper." "I think he felt a little mistreated... sometimes," Hasan continued, noting that Dantzler-Wolfe had complained that his professors "would change assignments around, or they would change the syllabus." In particular, Hasan remembered "one test David studied extremely hard for, then the professor walked in the next day and changed the whole format." "It completely screwed David over," Hasan said. "That was right before he disappeared." Nevertheless, Hasan said that he believed Dantzler-Wolfe's commitment to business was a matter of "honor" for the Wharton student. "He invested so much into going to Wharton," Hasan said. "His mother is a single parent, she raised David herself. He really admires her.... His goal in life is to support his mother, to buy her a really nice house and a nice car." Announcing in the 10th grade that Wharton would be his first-choice college, the decision made sense to Dantzler-Wolfe given the obligations he took upon himself to help his family, Hasan added. "The most logical way [to make enough money to help his family] was to go into business and become an investment banker, an economist, that sort of thing," Hasan said. "It made sense because that would also allow him to make money fast, so it would leave the door open so he could do something he liked later on, like become a professor." According to Hasan, "to realize it was such a massive mistake" to attend Wharton might have been Dantzler-Wolfe's motivation to escape. Hasan urged those involved in the search to go the extra mile. "It's worth the work," he said. "He's an excellent person. He's a beautiful person, and if there's anyone who doesn't believe that, it's because they didn't get a chance to know him."

Students protest war in Iraq with songs, speeches

(02/13/03 10:00am)

Trying to hold back bombs and bullets with a single rented amplifier, a few boxes of cookies and an undeniable amount of spirit, Penn Students Against the War in Iraq held a rally on College Green yesterday afternoon. Below-freezing temperatures made the two hours of pamphlets, speeches, poems, songs and chanting a challenging exercise in cold-weather endurance. "It's going to be hot in Baghdad when all those bombs drop," Penn anthropology and education graduate student Todd Wolfson said, explaining his willingness to stand in the snow for the cause. Peaking at around 50 people, the size of the audience was satisfactory to event organizers and participants. "I think it's a fine crowd," said German lecturer Beatrice Santorini, the event's first speaker. In her speech, Santorini expressed a desire to cut through half-truths and government ambiguity. "Because Benjamin Franklin is looking on, who I like to think of as a sort of patron saint of common sense and plain speech, I would like to call things by their real name," she said. "The vague advisories and warnings that are being issued are instances of fear-mongering," Santorini continued. "And the government of this country has been taken over by warlords, most of whom would be diagnosed as psychopaths if they had been called to another station in life." Other speakers ran the gamut from political poetry reminding listeners that "the revolution will not be televised," nor will it "help your... sex appeal" to the pragmatic words of Nubar Hovsepian, associate director of Penn's Middle East Center. "The reality is, I don't think we are going to stop the war," he said, offering instead the opinion that the reconstruction and rebuilding of Iraq should be kept in mind as the United States runs the risk of becoming analogous to "the British colonial administration of the 1920s." "War is detrimental to your health," he reminded his audience in conclusion. Some found hope in the demonstrators' ranks. Gloria Hayes, senior secretary at the University Medical Center's department of radiology, found the experience "well worth the... discomfort," describing the event as "reassuring and powerful." Others, however, said they found the dynamic overly scripted and less interactive than they would have liked. "It's like [watching] a scene from a play," College freshman Aaron Hann said. College junior Dillon Kuehn said he felt that, in opposing a war based "on 30 variables in two hours," the event oversimplified the issues somewhat. "I think it's good that they're out here, and they should be out here, but I'd rather speak with them than have them speak to me," he said. While early attempts at chants left a somewhat confused crowd answering an event organizer's spirited "What's war?!" with an almost questioning "Bad," experienced activists were on hand to keep the crowd energized. Annie Day, a committed activist affiliated with the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade and the Not in Our Name Student Youth Network, led the assembly in rounds of chanting between speeches. "Afghanistan, Iraq, who's next on the list?/We've got to stop this, we've got to resist!" she exclaimed, with most of those within earshot following her lead. "For all of us out here, there's probably 30 people somewhere warm," one organizer said, commending the crowd for attending as the event neared its end. As shown by last month's "die-in" demonstration at Yale University, last week's anti-war resolution by Cornell University's student assembly and the upcoming student demonstrations in Philadelphia and New York on Saturday, yesterday's demonstrators at Penn are not alone.

Pearly white resume for Dental dean

(02/12/03 10:00am)

Marjorie Jeffcoat comes to Penn with three distinguished decades of dentistry experience in the research lab, behind an administrator's desk and in those hard-to-reach places around the gum line. Formally announced last week as on deck to replace School of Dental Medicine Dean Raymond Fonseca when his term expires this summer, Jeffcoat currently serves as the chair of the University of Alabama School of Dentistry's periodontics department. When it comes to Jeffcoat's work, however, periodontics is hardly the whole story. "She's been joking that she's recently logged more [continuing education] hours in OB/GYN than in dentistry,"colleague Nico Geurs said, describing Jeffcoat's award-winning presentation on dentistry and prenatal care last week that showed a significant reduction in premature births when mothers undergo scaling and root planing in the second trimester of pregnancy. "If the follow-up study confirms what we found in the pilot, that's really going to change pre-natal care," Geurs said. Director of Alabama's pre-doctoral program in periodontics, Geurs has known Jeffcoat both as her student and as her colleague. "She was my mentor," Geurs said, adding that Jeffcoat's enthusiasm "inspired me so much that I applied to be a resident." Now, seven years later, Jeffcoat's excellence as a researcher and administrator seem to rival her performance as a teacher and mentor. "She's excellent at getting research projects in and very good at dispersing all the work," Geurs enthused. "She doesn't just keep them to herself." "I've gotten projects I thought I wouldn't have been able to do until a lot later in my career" through Jeffcoat's assistance, Geurs said. Other former students shared Geurs' appreciation of Jeffcoat's style and approachability. "She's my role model," former Alabama graduate student Rupa Hamal said. "I'm from Nepal originally, and she gave me the opportunity to get into the research world," Hamal continued. "She opened the door for me." Hamal, who has her doctorate in dental medicine from Penn as well as a master's in oral biology from Alabama, predicted that Jeffcoat and the University will complement each other nicely. "She's very research oriented," Hamal said. "Also, Penn is kind of hurting in the field of periodontics, so... I'm hoping she can help them there." What's more, though Jeffcoat has consistently held major appointments in research and academic organizations, including the editorship of the Journal of the American Dental Association, multitasking has never been a problem for the former Harvard professor. "She really guided me through the dissertation process," Hamal said. "She always had time." "She's the kind of person who can do four or five things at once," Geurs concurred. Jeffcoat, a Boston native with an undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said she was wooed into dentistry both by those who "convinced me that I could make a difference" and by the prospect of using the "tools I learned at MIT," combining engineering and biology to design and execute clinical trials. "I do the kind of research that brings developments from the bench-top to people," Jeffcoat said. "It's a really rewarding field." Known for her interdisciplinary, broad-minded outlook, Jeffcoat confessed that Penn's large, flexible and diverse academic community drew her to Philadelphia. "Your mouth is connected to the rest of your body," Jeffcoat cheerfully said, explaining her willingness to do work outside her field. "I work with everybody here, and that's what I want to do at Penn." Dean of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine R. Bruce Donoff, who worked with Jeffcoat during her decade on Harvard's faculty, commended the University on its choice. "Dr. Jeffcoat is an outstanding professional and true leader," Donoff said in an e-mail. "Her new position will challenge her for sure, but she has great interpersonal skills, a marvelous temperament for dealing with difficult issues and people and wonderful vision," he continued. "The Harvard School of Dental Medicine is proud of all our graduates, but especially proud and fortunate to call Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat one of our own. Pennsylvania has chosen well."

Student's family hires investigator

(02/12/03 10:00am)

In addition to efforts by the University Police Department to locate missing student David Dantzler-Wolfe, the Wharton junior's mother has commissioned a private investigation. Coordinated by the family's lawyer, the private investigation is being spearheaded by Frank Friel, president of the Philadelphia-based private investigation firm Atlantic Security International Investigations. Friel explained that he was hired as "another set of eyes and ears that has a primary focus on the absence of David," noting that the University Police "have a multitude of priorities." Last week, sources in the Philadelphia and University Police departments said that Dantzler-Wolfe had been investigated by the University Police for entering another student's "abode" and videotaping her. This investigation began prior to Dantzler-Wolfe's Dec. 10 disappearance. University officials have remained tight-lipped regarding this investigation. "No one will comment on anything other than the missing person investigation," Director of Special Services for University Police Pat Brennan said Monday. Brennan, Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush and University spokeswoman Lori Doyle were unavailable for comment yesterday. When asked yesterday to comment on the investigation of Dantzler-Wolfe that began prior to Dec. 10, Friel said, "My contacts [in the University Police Department] have been forthright, helpful and cooperative, but I'm not privy to that investigation." The family's lawyer Steven Fairlie, however, expressed frustration in dealing with University officials. "No one at Penn is willing to confirm that a warrant exists," he said, adding, "At the very top of the administration, they won't confirm or deny anything." "It's not in their interest to bring that up," he noted, referring to the investigation that began before Dec. 10. Since disappearing in and of itself is not illegal, tracking missing persons becomes all the more time-consuming and difficult, according to Friel. "He's perfectly entitled to walk off campus and not notify anyone," Friel said. "I can't at this point attribute a motive to the young man. I can only conclude that he is no longer on the campus," Friel said. "When you have a young man who just decides to leave, for whatever reason, then those reasons usually remain his," Friel continued, highlighting the difficulties in working on a case where "the circumstances under which he left are as far as we know self-contained in his own mind." "We don't exist under Big Brother," Friel had said in an earlier conversation. "Should he choose to remain hidden, then he's very capable of doing so." While Friel is not working directly with University Police as he continues to investigate "friends, relatives, associates, bank accounts [and] phone records," he does believe that the UPPD has "been forthright, helpful and cooperative." When contacted last Thursday, neither Friel nor Fairlie said he had any knowledge of criminal investigations pre-dating Dantzler-Wolfe's disappearance. "Sherlock Holmes himself might not have solved this," Friel said.

Bathrooms in Quad get lockdown

(02/10/03 10:00am)

Though bathroom doors in the Quadrangle are now officially locked, technical problems and resident resistance have stuck a wad of paper towels into the gears of Penn's safety initiative. Citing a "miscommunication" as the reason for the delay, Director of College Houses and Academic Services Leslie Delauter said in an e-mail that the lock-down, originally scheduled for Feb. 3, had been completed as of Thursday. Administrators had hoped to have the new bathroom door policy in place at the start of the new year to address general security concerns, according to an e-mail sent by Woodland College House Dean Jane Rogers to Woodland residents. While not a direct response to the incident, the alleged attempted sexual assault by a man who gained unauthorized access to a female student's bedroom in the Quad would only seem to further demonstrate the rationale behind the new security policy. Some, however, are not willing to part with easy access to their restrooms without a struggle. "My hall has already stuffed toilet paper into the latch so it can't lock," Engineering senior Brian Flounders said. A resident adviser in Woodland, Flounders blames the mid-year implementation of the locked-door policy for the resentment it has caused. "I don't mind the lock rule," Flounders said. "It's just that they did it halfway through the year that pisses everyone off. "I have to take out the paper towels [from the locks], but I do have some sympathy" for the disgruntled residents, he concluded. Woodland Graduate Associate Adam Michaels confirmed that "everyone who works in the college houses in the Quad knows that there's a subset of residents who are going to try and keep the doors unlocked." "Historically in the Quad, some [doors] had been and some haven't" been locked, Michaels continued. "If you're going to lock some bathrooms, you might as well lock them all." Noting that problems with the locks themselves had prevented some residents from entering their hall bathrooms even with keys, a quick response from Facilities locksmiths has since allowed relatively trouble-free access to Quad bathrooms, Michaels said. A bathroom door in Speakman is serving as a center of grass-roots student resistance. Signed by 16 freshmen from all three Quad college houses, a petition on the door of Speakman 307 outlines the case against the Housing and Conference Services policy. Predicting "a decrease in the social appeal of being in the Quad" and "an inability to use the bathroom in any Quad dorm other than the one in which you live," the petition bears witness to the emotional response the lock-down has elicited. "I'm going to pee on the door on Feb. 3," one anonymous signatory added to the petition. Because of student tampering, most bathroom doors can still be opened without keys.

NYU tension continues after grad student unionization

(01/31/03 10:00am)

At New York University, the future is now. The only private university in the U.S. to negotiate with union-represented graduate students, the continuing tension at NYU today may very well be representative of Penn's own condition in a few short months. Granted, the process took over half a decade up in Manhattan. "Unionization has been around NYU for the past six years, if I include the first discussions," said Koray Caliskan, a Turkish graduate student in NYU's politics department and a member of the union's bargaining committee. The university administration did not cede bargaining rights quietly, fighting the process both through the courts and through internal informational campaigns. Since a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board decided on April 3, 2000, to recognize certain NYU graduate students as "employees" as defined by the National Labor Relations Act, the decision was only legally binding in the New York region. The stage was set for a precedent-making case in the graduate student labor movement. Once NYU's appeal to the national office of the NLRB was rejected by the then-three-member board on Oct. 31, 2000, it was game, set and match for the private university's administration. After the appeal's defeat, when the ballots from the election allowed by the regional director's earlier ruling were finally released as per NLRB policy, the NLRB certified the Graduate Student Organizing Committee/United Auto Workers' slim victory and declared them to be a legitimate, legally-recognized union. While ballots were challenged and the university allegedly "continued to hem and haw" and "declined to recognize" the union, according to bargaining committee member Laura Tanenbaum, the end result was the same. "Initially, they didn't even want to accept a standard grievance procedure," remembered Tanenbaum, a seventh-year comparative literature doctoral candidate. "They wanted a panel of professors instead of the standard outside arbitration process -- your bosses' colleagues deciding your grievances." Caliskan remembers the desperate times before unionization. "When I came to NYU in 1997, my salary was $9,600 and I didn't have money to buy lunch," Caliskan said. "That was one of the most humbling experiences," he continued. "A few students of mine proposed to go out and have lunch together after a class, and I had only two bucks in my pocket." Collective bargaining, it would seem, has made a world of difference. "Now my salary is $16,000 plus free healthcare, and we don't pay student fees or anything," Caliskan enthused. "The contract's been very effective," Tanenbaum agreed, citing improved health care and pay across the 1,200 person unit. Many such improvements were originally offered as sops to quell the rising tide of unionization, according to both Tanenbaum and Caliskan. "In the buy-us-off stage, they made some contributions," Tanenbaum said. "NYU started... to prevent us from unionizing by increasing wages," Caliskan agreed. Many NYU officials and faculty declined or were unavailable for comment. However, an NYU professor speaking on condition of anonymity offered his perspective on the unionization campaign. "What we pay our grad students is a function of our ability to compete," he said, dismissing the GSOC/UAW claim that the campaign itself was responsible for university "pay-offs." "We just installed the financial aid reform, which had been initiated long before the union came along," he continued. "The union's timing was fortuitous." "The irony is of course the graduate students responsible for the imposition of the union have graduated and moved on," the professor added, leaving faculty and administrators to deal with the increasing bureaucracy and complications they left in their wake. Stating that he didn't think "the average academic" had noticed any significant changes yet, he offered some advice to universities following NYU into collective bargaining. "Maintain control of the academic environment," he warned. "It's worth paying the price to maintain academic integrity. Good luck."

Renowned research provost to leave Penn

(01/31/03 10:00am)

Vice Provost for Research Neal Nathanson announced his fourth retirement yesterday. "I retired as professor at Penn, then I was the vice dean for research, then I was the director of AIDS research at NIH and this one makes four," the renowned microbiologist said, outlining a distinguished career that saw him in the front ranks of the drive against polio and the AIDS virus. Nathanson "has overseen the successful transition of our research compliance efforts and truly helped make Penn a world leader in this area," University Provost Robert Barchi said in a press release. The University has only just begun efforts to find a successor, Nathanson said, adding that he was not involved in the search. Before coming to Penn, Nathanson logged two years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heading the Polio Surveillance Unit. The Harvard-educated medical doctor would later join the faculty at Johns Hopkins University, where he had done his post-doctoral training in virology, working in the School of Hygiene and Public Health and ultimately rising to the rank of professor and head of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Epidemiology. Immediately prior to coming to West Philadelphia, Nathanson served as the director of the Office of AIDS Research at the National Institute of Health from 1998 until his appointment at Penn in 2000. First chairing the Department of Microbiology, Nathanson also served as vice dean for research and research training at the University's School of Medicine. As the vice provost for research, Nathanson exercised policy and administrative oversight over the $500 million that makes up the University's research enterprise. He also played a key role in strategic planning, issues pertaining to human research and clinical trials and getting new technology from the research laboratory to the streets. A recipient of numerous awards and distinctions, including the Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award, the Pioneer in NeuroVirology Award and membership in the Society of Scholars at Johns Hopkins, Nathanson first rose to prominence for his groundbreaking work on the virology and epidemiology of polio. Still, despite the long list of achievements behind him, Nathanson continues to look to the road ahead. "Who knows what the future may bring?" he said. "It's like you guys" at The Daily Pennsylvanian, he added good-naturedly, "when one story's done, it's time to move on to the next."

Ivies await rulings on unions

(01/29/03 10:00am)

Unique as the Penn experience may be, the process of contested unionization is currently affecting thousands of students nationwide. Though a few months further downstream, Brown and Columbia universities are in the same boat as Penn, as graduate employees and administrators await decisions from the national office of the National Labor Relations Board. "At the moment, it doesn't seem to be a hot issue," said Samuel Brenner, co-president of Brown's Graduate Student Council. "We're all waiting to see what happens so we're not discussing it on a daily basis." As President Bush's appointees to the board take their seats and the backlog of cases only begins to be cracked, relative calm descends over Brown, whose appeal was formally served on Dec. 13, 2001. NLRB policy creates a strange dynamic -- while elections can and do take place given a regional director's blessing, the results cannot be counted until appeals to the national office are resolved. Similar surface calm and continuing tension reign at Columbia, whose administration's appeal has been pending since February 2002. "Things are very, very quiet," said Roosevelt Montas, a ninth-year English doctoral student. "There has been very little movement. Every now and then the organizers will come and hold up signs, but it's very low key." Since Brown's union organizing committee -- assisted by the International Union, United Automobile Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers -- "can't win at the moment and can't lose at the moment," Brenner said he sees the debate to be held in a "deep freeze" as both the administration and the union shift their time and resources elsewhere. While Brenner admitted that "almost everybody" agrees there are serious issues to be addressed -- especially unclear guidelines regulating the teaching assistant workload -- the history doctoral candidate believes that students and administrators at Brown can still be amicable. "The debate here was intense but on the whole, very civilized," Brenner said, noting that since Brown is "such a small community," it tends to enjoy a relatively congenial atmosphere. "We also got a new president, who I think has been doing a very good job" of addressing graduate students' concerns, Brenner said. Some, however, aren't ready to kiss and make up. Forty-three-year-old history doctoral candidate Chris Frazer had already been around the block a few times before deciding to go back to school. Still, the former journalist, photographer, construction worker, short-order cook and auto mechanic claims to have "never encountered" an anti-union campaign as heavy-handed as that of the Brown administration. "They tried to impugn the organizing committee as being anti-foreigner, anti-environment, anti-democratic," Frazer said. "There was a deliberate attempt by the administration and the anti-union committee to cultivate an atmosphere where people were afraid, and where it was impossible to have a clear and reasoned dialogue," Frazer continued. A father of two and a Canadian international student without a green card, Frazer dismissed claims that Brown's unionization debate has been especially congenial, confiding that "a lot of us harbor... bitter feelings toward the administration." "There will be a union here at Brown... one way or another," Frazer said. "They have not dealt seriously with any of the issues that led to the union drive in the first place." Over at Columbia, Montas was stuck in the thick of the debate last year as the school's student caucus president, doing his best to provide neutral ground for an informed exchange of opinions. "I worked very hard to make a real and civilized debate," Montas said, lamenting that both the administration and the pro-union activists made "the overall tone... very propagandistic, generalistic, sloganish." Opinions shifted, however, as elections approached. "Last year when the campaign was in its prime, people's initial response tended to be in favor" of unionization, Montas said. "That changed for a lot of people as elections drew near, as they weighed the positions of both sides rather than the posturing."

Perspective: Unionization: The people behind the debate

(01/28/03 10:00am)

Whether they see themselves as fighting a necessary battle for what's right and just or just want to be left alone, Penn's 10,000 graduate students have been in the spotlight, silhouetted by tracer fire and targeting-flares in the continuing struggle over unionization. But somewhere along the way, the ideas and ideologies have obscured the human faces of the very people over whom this war is being waged. These are three of those people. Black doesn't seem like the best camouflage for an environment bordered by neon-yellow walls and chrome light fixtures. Still, from her black boots to her black sweater and stylish black glasses, Francesca Bregoli blends effortlessly into the trendy Bucks County crowd. "I actually have meetings here sometimes," the second-year history doctoral candidate says on the way in, a testament to the office-space crunch in College Hall. Though the department returned to College Hall over a year ago, redistributed furniture and space have yet to settle. After completing her undergraduate degree in Venice, quirks in the Italian admissions system for graduate programs led her to choose to study abroad. The lure of Penn's Center for Judaic Studies wooed Bregoli both from Manhattan and from three other graduate programs' offers of admission. Making the transition from museum work, Bregoli admits to missing the more concrete rewards of preparing exhibitions. "When I was working as a curator, you prepare an exhibition..., people see it, it's over," Bregoli remembers. "As a grad student, your work never ends ---- either you're reading or you're writing," Bregoli says, comparing her current life to her past career. "It's not a 9-to-5 job." Still, Bregoli doesn't regret the choice. Even TA-ing a survey course outside of her field, Bregoli finds satisfaction in her new calling. "It can be a very exciting and challenging opportunity... to teach that history can be fun, to be as engaging as possible and leave some lasting impressions," Bregoli enthuses. As cleverly placed speakers bounce driving retro beats off the hardwood counters and floors, it becomes clear that life as an international student on a graduate stipend is not all peaches, cream and fulfillment. "My greatest fear is getting sick or injured," Bregoli confides. "I pray not to have dental problems here." Though health coverage for graduate students has improved, dental and eye care remain prohibitively expensive. "On the SAS minimum of $14,000 -- $1,100 a month -- half goes for rent, the rest for food and books," Bregoli explains, demonstrating the devastating effect emergency healthcare would have on a budget that is almost cracked by start of semester course-book purchases alone. And on an ideological level, Bregoli, "a strong believer in personal responsibility," remains frustrated with the unionization debate. "I don't like having things imposed on me," Bregoli posits. "It would have been nice to have the vote and let students decide." Breezily describing her political past, summing up her activities as an undergraduate with a nonchalant admission that she and her colleagues "did take over the university for a while, took over a few rooms and sort of occupied them," Bregoli was immediately drawn to Graduate Employees Together-University of Pennsylvania. "There seems to be a... decision not to listen from the administration," Bregoli says, frustrated that the process has not been more constructive. Originally hoping that "unionization at Penn could help make for a better teaching experience, a better environment, not as a question of more money but more in terms of being recognized as a professional," Bregoli continues to support the efforts of her colleagues. But her own experience has been positively positive. "The professor I work with calls us colleagues, treats us as peers," Bregoli says. "That's really all we want." Heading toward her Center City home, Bregoli fades into the Sansom Street night. But some, despite the administration's wishes, won't just fade away. • From College Hall's perspective, Ed Webb has the resume of a troublemaker. Yet the advocacy coordinator and founder of Graduate Parents at Penn and onetime spokesperson for GET-UP, considers himself content. "I'm having a good time," he says. "I really want to emphasize that." Sitting comfortably in his kitchen, in the home he and his wife purchased to accommodate their second child, the pony-tailed, third-year political science doctoral candidate is at ease, a cordial host. Over dishes of homemade apple crumble, Webb explains what brought him from a career in the British Diplomatic Service to Penn, from London and Cairo to West Philadelphia. The life of a diplomat is unpredictable. "You could end up in Port Moresby, the gang-rape capital of the world," Webb continues, glancing at the crackling baby monitor on the kitchen counter. "Especially with a family, that's not the kind of chance you want to take," he says. After an eight-year career that saw him rise from college recruit to head of the Central Asia and South Caucasus Section, Webb traded his "dream job," embassy housing, international lifestyle and all, for a graduate stipend and the chance to study again. Now, settled into a family neighborhood on 27th Street, Webb has been putting the skills he honed as a diplomat to uses of which the University administration is not entirely supportive ---- advocating for graduate students with children in particular. "It's a blind spot," Webb maintains. "They don't even know how many people at Penn have child dependents." Webb also notes the unexplained cessation of family housing programs the year of his matriculation, the paucity of affordable on-campus childcare and the problem of family healthcare. "Let's say you're on a stipend of $14,000, the SAS minimum," Webb offers. "Healthcare with two or more dependents costs $7,000 -- half your income." At least Webb accumulated some savings during his earlier career, money that made the down payment on his house possible. His wife, Francesca Amendolia, also supplements the family's income. Dividing the childcare between them, their position is "relatively secure." But Webb, green card in hand, is one of the lucky ones. He is free to work any U.S. job, as is his wife, a New Yorker. On a student visa, international students are largely forbidden to work off campus. Their spouses would likely not be allowed to work at all. Either way, supporting a family complicates the lives of "hundreds of Penn graduate and professional students," according to Webb. "I founded Grad Parents at Penn to give a voice and a community to these people," Webb says. "Something that I've been hearing muttered is 'What are these people doing having children in graduate school?'" Webb adds incredulously. Given the University's preference for candidates with work experience in their fields, Webb wonders at the administration's inability to understand that such people tend to "have gathered a few family members along the way." As a stranger's presence in the kitchen begins to unnerve Webb's son Daniel, the interview pauses until the preschooler is mollified by a pad, pencil and page of stickers that let him, too, play reporter. Standing, holding 4-month-old Helena, who has since decided to wake up and make her presence known over the monitor, Webb insists that he has no illusions about the lifestyle of a graduate parent, paying for diapers and formula instead of blacklights and beer. "But is this a corporation that produces degrees, or is it a community?" he asks, voice rising. "If it's the latter, then the welfare of its members and their families should matter." Recalling meetings with administrators, Webb briefly vents his frustration. "Penn has this habit.... They say, 'Well, what do other schools do?'" Webb's response is succinct -- "What's the right thing to do?" But for some, the answer doesn't include the words "collective bargaining." • Since graduating from Cornell in 2000 and becoming an Asian and Middle Eastern studies doctoral candidate that same year, Max Dionisio has been as loud a student voice against unionization as Penn has yet seen. Wary of GET-UP's claims and convinced that graduate student unionization is inappropriate both for Penn and universities in general, Dionisio has risked pariah status, publicly broadcasting his skeptical take on the proposed union. Planted at a study table in the Graduate Student Center on Locust Walk, he describes running an anti-unionization campaign ---- alone. "We don't have money from the union... and we're not the University with their resources," he says. "So how do you get your message out there?" Apparently, you don't. "In this debate, there's only been two voices," he notes. "The voice of anti-union students -- who are anti-union for different reasons -- has gone unheard." Asked why there is no formal anti-union student group, as was formed at Cornell and Brown, Dionisio describes how difficult it is standing in the cold, lonely no-man's land between the AFT-supported GET-UP and the sheer muscle of the Penn administration. "Speaking as the guy who tried to start [such a group], I encountered a lot of apathy, people who were only willing to jump in once there was an organization already in place," he explains. "I asked the guys at Brown what they did," Dionisio recalls. "They told me, 'Tough it out.'" Easy as it is to give such advice, fitting an anti-union campaign into a lone grad student's schedule between classes, grading, teaching and research is about as pleasant and feasible a prospect as passing an elephant-sized gall stone. With the group he formed against the union disbanded and time running out, it may be "too late for any kind of unified opposition voice" besides the administration. And that's what worries him. Fighting to bargain collectively, the unit will struggle to meet the diverse needs of its constituents, Dionisio believes. "A lot of people who want to join the union aren't doing it for the same reasons," he says. Meeting the needs of a father who has to find affordable child care to free up time to study Japanese and a single political scientist stuck with an unreasonable workload through one contract would be challenging to say the least. Whatever their positions, few students are willing to risk publicizing them. "They feel that their actual social lives, their interaction with their colleagues would be jeopardized," Dionisio continues, modestly failing to point out that he himself was brave enough to stand alone. Still, with the Feb. 26 election start-date looming large, apathy seems to be dissolving. "People are suddenly realizing this is really happening," Dionisio says. Reddening visibly at the thought of a strike, as has happened at grad unions at state universities, Dionisio voices his disgust for people willing to use undergraduates as a bargaining tool. "What does it say when teachers walk out on students?" he asks. Dionisio is frustrated that the situation has reached this point at all. "It's like Bush and Iraq," he says. "War is never inevitable, except when everything else has fallen apart... GAPSA, GSAC, SHIAC ---- I would like to see people coming to those bodies and utilizing them. "How out of hand is this going to get? We have no idea." Henry Kissinger once quipped that university politics are vicious because the stakes are so small. For a man who helped send men to die in the jungles of Vietnam, bickering over pay and work status in ivory towers probably isn't going to inspire waves of empathy. While the unionization process has yet to demand blood sacrifice, the stakes are no smaller than Ed Webb's children, Francesca Bregoli's health or Max Dionisio's future.

Students unfazed by union debate

(01/24/03 10:00am)

Pamphlets urging graduate students to "Think about it" and supplying reasons to vote against collective bargaining. Coalitions of labor leaders and listserv cries of solidarity. And plenty of people who could not care less. While partisans on both sides trade rhetorical blows, the stance of the individual graduate student on the unionization issue often seems dictated more by personal circumstances than ideological commitment. Though Penn boasts well over 9,000 graduate students, the number of graduate employees included in the "bargaining unit" and thus eligible to vote in union elections falls between 1,000 and 1,100, according to Graduate Employees Together-University of Pennsylvania estimates. Those in the unit tend to be concentrated in the humanities, leaving students who are ineligible to vote or enrolled in schools other than the School of Arts and Sciences less than enthusiastic about unionizing. "Oh, GET-UP and all that?" Engineering graduate student Sachin Daxini mused. "I don't really care one way or the other." Shasta Jones, a doctoral candidate in demography, voiced a similar lack of interest in the ongoing debate. "If I get one of the pamphlets the University has been sending out, I'll quickly glance through it and throw it out," Jones said. Nor is Jones particularly swayed by GET-UP. "I'm not convinced things would get better," Jones said. "When things have gotten bad in the past, the administration has always been fairly receptive." Interestingly, many in the bargaining unit itself voiced concerns about the implications of unionization for themselves and their departments. "I'm in a pretty small department, and it seems like it's a small-fish-in-a-big-pond kind of scenario, and that's making some people nervous," second-year music doctoral student Michael Masci said. Others were displeased to be included in the unit altogether. "I feel solidarity within my school and in my department," Engineering doctoral student Ken Lo maintained. "But I feel like if you guys want to be in a union, you humanities majors, that's all well and good, but don't take any money out of my pocket." "I find this union almost unconstitutional," Lo added. "I'd go so far as to say SEAS is probably fairly anti-union. But... we're going to be treated exactly the same as [those in the] humanities, who outnumber us by 3 to 1." "Okay, if humanities TAs get abused, [they can] go ahead and unionize," Lo continued. "But why am I getting dragged into this? Simple: GET-UP is playing a numbers game. They have more power over the administration and the healthcare plan they want to set up [if they have] more people in the bargaining unit." Lo also dismissed complaints by GET-UP sympathizers who claim that the current situation creates hardships for graduate employees supporting families. "Anyone planning on having kids while they're still... on a grad school stipend, please report to the Franklin Building," Lo said. "There's an error on your GRE scores." Still, there are those without a vested interest in unionization who admit to some empathy for struggling graduate employees. "I have a wife and daughter to take care of," Wharton MBA student Hideaki Hattori said. "As a husband and a father, I understand that it's important to think of their welfare."

U. education project earns grant funding

(01/23/03 10:00am)

Supporting a project that represents a partnership between the school and the city as well as marriages between schools within the University, the William Penn Foundation recently awarded Penn's Graduate School of Education an $800,000 grant for a two-year initiative. Designed to produce concrete improvements in the lives of children in the city while also gathering and processing longer-term research data, the project represents a new paradigm in child welfare. "If we're successful, we'll have the only integrated municipal database on children and youth in the country," GSE Professor John Fantuzzo said. Fantuzzo, a primary mover behind the proposal and the project, stressed that this is no ordinary grant. "We're very, very excited, not so much in that it represents the 'Wow, we got another grant so we can do another project so we can get another publication'" mindset, he said. Rather, the project represents "not an isolated study but the capacity for generations of studies." Reconciling the practical, urgent world of city officials in the trenches of child welfare with the broader outlook of a research university, the grant will allow Penn to work "with the city to create an integrated database to foster and support the city's improvement, evaluate services and bring state of the art research findings to inform decision making and practice," Fantuzzo said. Through the creation of the Kids' Integrated Database System, or KIDS, data on the educational needs, health and welfare of more than 250,000 Philadelphia children will be shared for the first time ever, as the once independent databases maintained by the public schools and by the city's human services and public health departments are merged. "The data are integrated to inform projects and policies and major initiatives," Fantuzzo said. "The larger picture in terms of the University is to create a really genuine partnership between faculty and the city's administrators, the University's resources and the incredible wisdom and knowledge of [those] working in the city." Bridging a gap between the researcher and the social worker, the University administrator and the city councilman, has not been easy. "Where there's sometimes the greatest needs, there's also the greatest urgencies and the greatest tensions, so people trying to get that grant in in the 48 days they give you go to places where the capacities are already there." "The places where the capacities aren't there are those that we find most compelling," Fantuzzo concluded. No fewer than four of the University's schools are collaborating on this project. GSE will be joined by the medical center's Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research and the Cartographic Modeling Laboratory, which represents the pooled efforts of both the School of Social Work and the Graduate School of Fine Arts. At the neighborhood level, Penn's School of Engineering and Applied Science will participate in the Learning Links component of the project, which will feature early childhood mentoring conducted by Penn student volunteers and electronic bridges" between the Penn-- Alexander and Lea Elementary schools.

U. business head gives talk on breaking rank

(01/23/03 10:00am)

Standing in front of a full house at Penn's Graduate Student Center, Executive Vice President Clifford Stanley proudly described the unusual language he used in the military. "As a United States Marine, I would stand up in front of people and use a four-letter word," Stanley said. "That's right: Love." As part of the University's Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium, which includes over 40 events extending weeks past the official holiday, Stanley spoke on "When Leaders Need to Break Rank" yesterday evening. As EVP, Stanley has been responsible for the University's non-academic operations, from finance and real estate to public safety, serving as the link between University President Judith Rodin and her senior administrators since his arrival on campus in October of last year. GSC Director Anita Mastroieni briefly introduced the former major general and explained why Stanley's experience was relevant to the symposium. "Considering the characteristics of Dr. King's leadership, what made him so remarkable is that he broke rank so successfully," Mastroieni said. Stanley, a decorated 30-year Marine Corps veteran, powerfully advocated a "basic respect for people" and a strong, consistent moral code, in opposition to higher authority if necessary. "You learn to think ahead of the person thinking in front of you," Stanley explained. "Leaders have to break ranks, and when you do, you're alone. You might have some people with you, but you'll find it awfully lonely." Referencing his involvement integrating bowling alleys with the Civil Rights Movement during the Orangeburg Massacre in South Carolina, choices he has made in his military career and even how he feels walking down Locust Walk, Stanley tied his varied, colorful life to King's central message. "When I meet you, every day, you are very special to me. That's what Dr. King was saying," Stanley said. Taking questions toward the end of the presentation, Stanley addressed issues ranging from potential unilateral U.S. military action in Iraq to "When do you draw the line between being devious and being savvy?" "I'm hoping I don't know all of it," Stanley said, responding to the information publicly available on the impending war. "I don't know anyone who wants war." "Well, there are people I know," he added. "They're not in their right mind, though."

Farm Show features vets, sculpture

(01/20/03 10:00am)

(Check out our online slideshow of the Farm Show) It's not often that Penn and the phrase "Meat goat competition" can be reasonably mentioned in the same breath. From Jan. 11 to Jan. 18, however, at the 87th Annual Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg, Penn was represented both by an official delegation from the School of Veterinary Medicine and through graduates of the school who, pursuing careers in raising, breeding or caring for animals, made it a point not to miss the nation's largest indoor farm show. The permanent Farm Show Complex housed educational presentations, vendors' booths, livestock competitions and a rodeo arena on its 1 million square feet of floor space. An 800-pound butter sculpture, ironically depicting a dairy cow, also greeted visitors entering the main exhibition room. "I'm particularly gratified just to see kids staring at it," Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Press Secretary Steve Wagner joked. Last year, in honor of the tragedies of Sept. 11, the butter sculpture represented rescue personnel, including a soldier, policeman and fireman. Though gradually fading into the past, a Sept. 11 theme ran thick through many vendor's wares. Some featured the number 93 superimposed over eagles or American flags in remembrance of the flight that crashed in rural Pennsylvania. "There is a new awareness, a constant reminder that we could be right in the middle of it," Wagner said. Sept. 11 worked its way into the University's booth, as presentations on its walls featured Penn veterinarians working with rescue dogs during search-and-rescue operations at Ground Zero. Promoting Penn, or at least differentiating the University from Penn State, was one of the delegation's primary objectives. "Everybody in Philadelphia knows who we are.... People out here don't," said Jeanie Robinson-Pownall, communications coordinator at the Vet School's New Bolton Center. "And then there's always that confusion between the University of Pennsylvania, known as Penn, and Penn State.

'DP' changes hands at banquet

(01/20/03 10:00am)

Daily Pennsylvanian staffers, alumni, parents and three understanding bartenders celebrated the paper's annual changing of the guard at a banquet held Saturday at The Inn at Penn. Many longstanding traditions were honored during the course of the night -- which marked the 119th board of editors and managers' ascension to power -- from University President Judith Rodin's remarks to the sports staff's exit immediately prior to her taking the stage. After a quiet, composed cocktail hour, the 245 guests flooded into the ballroom for presentations and dinner. Outgoing Executive Editor and College senior Matthew Mugmon opened the evening, introducing Rodin. Though Rodin declared herself to be "tired of doing stand-up for... Penn's Fourth Estate," she commended the DP staff members for their influence on campus. "You are much more powerful and influential than I bargained for," she said, citing the 2004 presidential election, Dick Cheney's visit and the infamous goal post incident during this past year's Ivy championship. Particularly piqued by a column run last semester suggesting that she run for president of the United States, Rodin concluded her remarks dismissing "baseless rumors" about her political aspirations. "I couldn't possibly comment," Rodin said. "Besides, I have a plane to catch to New Hampshire." And with that, Rodin exited the ballroom, not deigning to spend the remainder of the evening with her bemused audience. Former DP staffer David Borgenicht, co-author of the Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook and the evening's keynote speaker, offered his advice for survival in the world of journalism. "You have to sell yourself as much as your ideas," he said. "It's slutty but true." As coffee and cake circulated, awards were presented to members of the 118th DP staff. This year's Reporter of the Year was former campus team reporter and incoming Campus News Editor Madlen Read, while Photographer of the Year went to incoming Photo Editor and shutterbug extraordinaire Caroline New. The sports department proudly announced Jeremy Dubert as its Sports MVP and Dave Zeitlin as Sports Writer of the Year. Meanwhile, Dan "D-Mac" McQuade took home both the Editor of the Year and the DP Alumni Association's coveted Michael Silver Writing Award for his article "Sweat and Glory." The second Michael Silver Award, for photography, went to Lauren Karp. The official segment of the evening culminated with members of the 119th board taking the stage one by one to formally assume their positions. Speeches and awards gave way to a driving bass beat and long lines at the open bars as the after-party slowly got into full swing. Though the first song played reminded party-goers that "it doesn't take a lot to fall in love," it took most attendees several drinks. Incoming Executive Editor Amy Potter said that the highlight of the evening would be finding out who ended up together. "It won't be me!" Potter said. "Although Jesse Spector may have other ideas." Spector, a DP legend and former sports editor, returned to the banquet this year, nobly disqualifying himself from winning the award named in his honor. Consequently, this year's J. Gordon Spector Random Hookup Award went jointly to two recently retired beat reporters who were actively pursuing each other on the dance floor, though many felt that Spector's retirement from the field left the competition disappointing. Other noteworthy events included Paul Gulesserian's rendition of Cher's "Believe" and Managing Editor Marla Dunn's giggling dedication of a song to Technical Services Director Jonathan Bare, because "he wouldn't dance with me" or outgoing City News Editor Alexis Gilbert. Former Managing Editor Tristan Schweiger bet $200 that Mugmon would go home alone. To that, Mugmon responded, "I will have their asses kicked. That is to say, I will kick their asses."