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Students rally to show solidarity with Israel

(12/07/01 10:00am)

With the blue-and-white star and stripes of the Israeli flag waving in the background, over a hundred students gathered on College Green yesterday in an act of solidarity for Israel following the weekend's terrorist strikes. The rally, held at noon, featured a slate of student, political and religious speakers, all of whom emphasized that following the three suicide bombing attacks on Israel this weekend, Jewish Americans must demonstrate support for their sister country. "Israel, you are not alone," Adam Groveman, one of the event's five speakers, declared from the podium placed directly in front of College Green's notable peace sign. "To Mr. Arafat, we have a message - act now to stop terror and be a leader," the Wharton freshman continued. "Israel and Jews abhor war." The event was prepared by members of Penn's Jewish community after 26 civilians were killed, and 250 injured, in three separate incidents - two in Jerusalem and one in Haifa - of attacks by suicide bombers last weekend. Since the attacks took place, the terrorist sect Hamas has claimed responsibility for the incidents, and Israel has begun retaliation by striking the offices of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Groveman's testament to the Jewish and U.S. support for the state of Israel as it battles terrorism in the Middle East came in the middle of the program, which began with a statement by Hillel President David Kagan. "We stand here today to declare that terrorist attacks for any cause anywhere are unacceptable," the College senior said to begin the rally. But throughout the series of speeches, one of the themes that resonated strongest with the audience was the parallel between the recent attacks on Israel and the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes on U.S. soil, a sentiment represented by the handfuls of American flags billowing next to the Israeli flag. "Most Americans understand that the war we are fighting against terrorism is the same war the United States is waging right now," Giora Becher, Consul General of Israel, said in his address to the dozens of students who quietly and attentively waved Israeli flags as they watched. "It's the same war," Becher added. The generally somber group of students, gathered in a semi-circle around the podium, occasionally broke their silence for song, raising their voices for "Am Yisrael Chi," a traditional Israeli folk song. And for many of those assembled, yesterday's rally was an important recognition of the right of the state of Israel to exist, a right that several speakers said has been threatened since the day the United Nations first established the nation. "For 54 years, the state of Israel has been trying to live at peace with the Palestinians," said Michael Jankelowitz, the Campus Israel Affairs representative. At the end of the rally, the students and speakers demonstrated their Israeli-American alliance by singing the anthems of both Israel and the United States. For Kagan, yesterday's rally was a testament to the strength of Penn's Jewish community in offering support for the state of Israel. "Within 12 hours after the events of Saturday, a bunch of people at Hillel had already started e-mailing back and forth about having an event," Kagan explained following the program. "The response from the community was tremendous, how quickly everyone pulled together." And for the dozens of students who gave up the middle of their Thursday, attending a rally was a simple, but obvious, way to demonstrate their support for the state of Israel and their staunch opposition to and intolerance for any act of terrorism. "It's important for us to be aware and to make others aware of the fact that Israel is still victim to heinous acts of terror," College junior Joshua Kaplan said after the program. "It doesn't make a difference if it's blowing up a skyscraper in New York or going out on a suicide bombing. "We want to react, but in a positive way."

Student elections start today, despite a candidate shortage

(03/22/01 10:00am)

With just a week until votes are cast, candidates for the Undergraduate Assembly and class boards gathered in Logan Hall yesterday to learn about the guidelines of the upcoming campaigns. Also at last night's meeting, a final list of candidates for the upcoming elections was drawn up. Candidates officially will begin campaigning today at 6 a.m., and students will be able to vote online from March 28 to April 3. The winners will be announced on April 4. College junior Anne Hankey, Nominations and Elections Committee vice chairwoman of elections, said that though she was pleased with overall turnout, there were several openings in the class boards that she expected would have been filled. "I'm pretty happy with the way everything is going," she said. "It surprises me that no one wants to drop down for class boards." Currently, there are three openings in both the rising junior and rising senior class boards. Over 60 hopeful future campus leaders gathered in the Terrace Room yesterday evening. Forty-five students are running for UA positions, down significantly from last year, when 60 candidates ran for the body and also fewer than in 1999, when 53 students ran for the spots on the assembly. The vast majority of those running for the UA -- a total of 31 students -- come from the College, with five others coming from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, seven from the Wharton School and two from the Nursing School. Unlike last year, where the tightest race was among the 15 Wharton students running for the school's four available spots, this year's most heated race will likely be among the School of Arts and Sciences candidates. There are only 16 seats for the 31 candidates running. Four seats will be distributed to the winners among the five Engineering candidates, with one seat going to the victorious of the two Nursing students. Among the class boards, the race for the presidency of the rising junior and rising senior Class Boards will be tight -- four students from each year are running for the single slot. The candidate for the presidency of the rising sophomore class board, however, is running unopposed. Last night's event focused on the Fair Practices Code, which outlines restrictions for campaigning. At the end of elections on April 4, the NEC will hold a hearing to determine whether there have been violations of the code, which includes restrictions on campaign items like posters. The intent of the code is "to make sure there is a fair and unbiased election," Hankey said. To kick off elections next week, the NEC is sponsoring a "Get Out the Vote Event" next Wednesday, an opportunity for candidates to get to meet the student body. College freshman Rea Harrison, who is running to be a SAS representative on the UA, hopes that she will be able to make herself known in order to beat the stiff competition among the SAS students. "I hope that my name is already out there from running for freshman class president at the beginning of the year, but I think it's going to be difficult winning against upperclassmen for SAS representative," she said. Daily Pennsylvanian staff writer Christina Yang contributed to this article.

Committee appointed that may choose to privatize Health System

(01/14/01 10:00am)

Amidst speculation that Penn may privatize the financially beleaguered Health System, a committee of trustees and faculty has been formed to consider the system's best options. The University Trustees Executive Committee authorized the appointment of four Trustees and eight faculty members to the committee at its meeting last Friday. The committee was charged with examining how to make the University of Pennsylvania Health System's four wholly-owned hospitals and 12 affiliates more profitable and competitive. But in an e-mail sent to Health faculty and staff, University President Judith Rodin tried to dispel rumors that the committee was already looking to sell parts of the Health System. Instead, she wrote in the e-mail, the committee will look at possible changes in structure to raise money, increase the market competitiveness of the Health System and retain the academic mission of the Medical School. Rodin denied that the decision to look at alternative options for the Health System was solely due to its financial problems. Over the past three years, the Health System has lost over $330 million. "It's not driven by our prior financial problems alone, it's driven by the change in environment in academic medicine and health care," Rodin said in an interview yesterday. University spokeswoman Phyllis Holtzman said it was too soon to predict the course of action the committee might take, adding that there are no definite plans for privatization. "The University has made no decision to sell the Health System, and no decision is imminent," she said, cautioning that the committee should be allowed a deliberative process before speculations begin. "The committee has just been formed," Holtzman added. "We need to let them get started and do their work." However, several possibilities remain open for the Health System. The University could choose to sell the entire system -- or even just some of its hospitals -- to the for-profit private sector. Speculation that the University was going to follow this course of action had penetrated the Health System faculty and staff this week. Besides selling the system, the University could instead create a not-for-profit spin-off. Penn could also choose to pursue a partnership between the Health System and another University or an investment group in the private sector. For example, the medical centers of Stanford University and the University of California San Francisco merged several years ago, although the merger recently collapsed after financial losses. Holtzman said that the University had already been approached by potential partners, but she would not identify the partners or specify how many had contacted Penn. "The Health System's financial improvement has prompted other institutions and organizations to express some interest," she said, noting the almost $170 million deficit reduction the Health System posted in Fiscal Year 2000. Both Rodin and Holtzman noted that the committee's discussion was typical of debates in all academic medical centers today. "Every academic medical center in the United States is having strategic conversations," Rodin noted. Added Holtzman, "There are a lot of conversations taking place because of the volatile health care environment."

Rodin: Penn will join FLA and WRC

(12/14/00 10:00am)

Penn will join both the Fair Labor Association and the Worker Rights Consortium to monitor the production of University-logo apparel, University President Judith Rodin announced yesterday. Rodin sent a letter to the Committee on Manufacturer Responsibility yesterday concurring with their November recommendation that Penn should join both. Rodin cited the complementary nature of the groups as her reason for joining both. "The WRC is focused primarily on those places and those factories that make university and college apparel," Rodin said. "The FLA is focusing on the whole apparel industry." Rodin also said that both groups' commitment to using non-governmental organizations to monitor factories made them appealing. Penn was a member of the FLA until last spring, when pressure from a nine-day student sit-in at College Hall culminated in Rodin's decision to withdraw from the organization. Penn Students Against Sweatshops, which organized the sit-in, claimed that the FLA was too closely linked with corporate interests to monitor factory conditions effectively. PSAS urged that Penn join the then-fledgling WRC because they believed it better protected workers' rights. And PSAS members yesterday repeated their criticisms of the FLA, lashing out at the administration for its decision to join both. "I'm still really disappointed with the president's decision," said College junior and PSAS member Reshma Mehta, who is also a member of the Committee and a Daily Pennsylvanian photographer. "I don't feel like Dr. Rodin or the University administration has been held accountable," she added. Mehta noted that the University had not adequately responded to PSAS' assertion that the FLA's effectiveness is compromised by a conflict of interest with its corporate partners. Mehta also said the administration did not address the groups' concern that the FLA lacked University representation on its governing board and had poor methods for approving its members' monitoring efforts. "The University administration hasn't really answered our questions or addressed the concerns we've raised over the past few months," added Wharton and College sophomore Shawn Dick, a PSAS member. But Rodin maintained that the FLA has come a long way since Penn first withdrew. "I think that in some ways, the FLA became persuaded by the activism of the students against sweatshops and WRC activists that there was more credibility to the process" of monitoring the apparel industry, she said. Rodin also noted that the FLA had worked to increase university representation within the organization after a Penn committee found the levels of representation insufficient last spring. "They are considering, and... we will continue to pressure them to make sure they add another university seat," Rodin said, adding that the FLA has an advisory council strictly for universities. The FLA is backed by the White House and has a longer history than the WRC, which was launched last spring. But in less than a year, the WRC's membership has swelled to almost 70 schools, and it does not accept corporations into its organization like the FLA does. The WRC reserves five of 15 seats on its governing board for university representation, while the FLA currently has one of its 14 governance seats devoted to universities. Rodin noted that though the organizations' approaches to dealing with universities differed, both had a similar philosophy of using non-governmental organizations to monitor labor conditions. "One place where they look similar is that it looks like they are going to increasingly rely on NGOs to do their monitoring, and I think that's very valuable," Rodin explained. But PSAS member Matt Grove warned that the portion of factories that the FLA requires its members to monitor is too low to ensure safe working conditions. "Would you feel comfortable eating at McDonald's if you knew only 15 percent of them nationwide had been inspected?" the College junior asked. "That's our biggest problem." Grove didn't specify what action PSAS would take in the future, but said it was likely that the group do something in response to Rodin's decision. "It seems clear that since President Rodin and the administration still don't seem accountable to the questions that we raise, we would feel legitimate with just about any tactic," Grove said.

College senior wins Rhodes Scholarship

(12/11/00 10:00am)

After failing to land any Rhodes Scholars for the past decade, the University is basking in the glow of College senior Lipika Goyal, who was named a winner of the prestigious award this weekend. Goyal, one of four honorees from the Northeast region and 32 honorees from across the country, will use the award to earn a master's degree in developmental studies at Oxford University in England. "It's certainly something you don't expect," the Biological Basis of Behavior major. "Just to be a finalist is an honor." Goyal's win comes less than a week after fellow College senior Ari Alexander received the Marshall Scholarship. Penn students have not landed both scholarships in the same year since 1983. To Art Casciato, director of the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, the two awards demonstrate Penn's "exceptional" student body. "Lipika is truly an exceptional student and person," Casciato said. "But Lipika and Ari are the exceptions that prove the rule that Penn students are exceptional." Goyal strives to use her undergraduate science degree from Penn and Oxford master's in developmental studies to work in the field of international public health. The Oxford master's examines the economics, history, social anthropology and politics of developing countries. Eventually, after spending two years in Oxford at the expense of the Rhodes Scholarship Trust, Goyal said she wants to go on to medical school and become a doctor. With a background in the humanities and a study of developing countries, Goyal said she hopes to be "the most culturally sensitive researcher that I can." Part of Goyal's desire to work in international public health stems from two summers researching in Ghana and India. In Ghana, Goyal spent six weeks working with two Penn professors to investigate malaria and sickle cell disease. She also spent one week with a host family in a Ghanian village. "The people are so warm and the country so welcoming," Goyal said. "It's so rich." And in India, Goyal studied zinc deficiency in New Delhi slums, investigating the feasibility of a national program devoted to zinc supplement distribution. "It strengthened my commitment to international public health," Goyal said of her experience abroad. "It was a very humbling experience." Goyal received the Rhodes Scholarship after spending the past several days interviewing with the Rhodes panel in Boston. On Saturday, Goyal and nine other finalists had formal 20-minute discussions with the panel of judges. The finalists also met with the Rhodes judges on Friday night during a cocktail party. And Goyal said that given her experience with the Rhodes program, everyone should apply for these scholarships. "It was one of those things where I was just going to throw my name in a hat," she explained. "Anyone can win a Rhodes Scholarship," she added. "There's so many qualified people out there. There's nothing special about me." The scholarship, created from the will of British philanthropist and colonialist Cecil B. Rhodes, is the oldest international study award offered to American students. This year, 950 students from 357 colleges and universities applied. The 32 winners follow in the footsteps of President Bill Clinton, Supreme Court Justice David Souter and a handful of current United States senators and representatives.

PR crises leave U. in spin cycle

(12/01/00 10:00am)

Penn's spin doctors have been working overtime this year, as the University name has been continually emblazoned in negative headlines. The Health System has teetered on the brink of disaster, with several major departures in leadership and continuing financial returns in the red. And to top it off, federal sanctions followed the death of an 18-year-old enrolled in an experimental trial at Penn. And then there was the University endowment dropping while its peers' funds dramatically rose, the fact that administrators have been leaving with an eerie regularity and other events over the past 12 months that have not reflected particularly well on Penn. Casting these ongoing problems in a rosy light has been tough. "People tend to forget the good news of the past and focus on the bad news of today," explained John Chandler, a senior consultant at a search firm for higher education. Chandler noted that since January, Penn has gotten a lot of bad publicity compared to its Ivy counterparts. Pamela Rosser, who owns a Philadelphia public relations firm, said Penn should work extra hard to broadcast its positive accomplishments to cover up the bad news. And indeed, University President Judith Rodin insisted that it had been a very good year for Penn in the papers. "I think it's been a year of very good press," she said. As examples, Rodin pointed to the recent receipt of a Nobel Prize by a Penn chemist and positive publicity surrounding University initiatives in West Philadelphia. But to some, things haven't looked so cheery for Penn. The University found itself in headlines in February after the federal government halted all gene therapy research at Penn, and for months thereafter as the government investigated the University's research practices. Penn's reputation as a research institution was under fire as a result of the death of Jesse Gelsinger -- which his family claimed was Penn's fault. "Because they are so high profile, they are more susceptible to being in the news as the big bad guy," Rosser noted. She said that Penn's complexity and size makes it an easy target for bad publicity. This September, the Health System announced that its financial performance improved by about $168 million since Fiscal Year 1999. "That's been a positive movement forwards, and I think has served us well," UPHS spokeswoman Rebecca Harmon said. But even with this improvement, UPHS still lost $30 million in 2000. And the University as a whole had financial difficulties over the past year. While the endowments of schools like Harvard, Yale and Princeton universities skyrocketed, Penn's posted a loss of over 1 percent in Fiscal Year 1999. "That, of course, can have a long-term impact," Chandler said. "Some places posted spectacular returns, and Penn is rather unusual in underperforming." But Rodin said that while this was a temporary setback in Penn's image, the bad news about the endowment faded quickly. "The endowment was a one-day story," she said. "Yes, it was story I wish hadn't happened, but I don't think that's an issue of Penn's." Still, the financial problems from the Health System and the endowment have impacted student life. It looks like a planned new dormitory in Hamilton Village may not be built any more -- largely because Penn can't afford it. And finances have also led to the unraveling of the Sundance Cinemas deal. Outside of finances, the University has faced significant challenges in keeping its leadership at the University. In February, Health System CEO William Kelley was fired. And his successor, Peter Traber, left the Health System for the private sector after about six months on the job. "A lot of time, inevitably there's a fall guy," Rosser speculated about the departures of Kelley and Traber. This summer, Penn lost several key administrators, as well. "You want to have a stable, visible, likable leader," Rosser said. "It could hurt some relationships." But in the end, despite some less-than-desirable stories in the press, many agreed that Penn retained its strong position in the public eye. "These have been setbacks, but it has such a strong positive image," Rosser said. Added Chandler, "It's easy to forget that Penn has had overall a very good history." Rodin cautioned against reading too much into some challenges Penn has faced over the year. "It's not appropriate or useful to over-interpret the impact of those failures," she said.

Students rally to save SARS Dept.

(11/30/00 10:00am)

For South Asia Regional Studies students, the future looks bleak. With only three main faculty members and a recent loss of a major funding source, the department is in danger of falling to pieces. This means that the now independent department could be downgraded to a program -- a course of study which draws on several departments but has no main hub of its own. School of Arts and Sciences Dean Samuel Preston charged a task force of six faculty members to look into the SARS Department this fall. The committee was to report to Preston by tomorrow, but isn't likely to make that deadline. Some students are so worried that they have formed a group called Save SARS. The approximately 20-member organization recently circulated a petition on the need to keep SARS alive. "In like five to 10 years, the department will be gone," College sophomore and Save SARS member Payal Kadia said. The students presented the petition with over 500 signatures to the task force over a week ago. It is important to maintain SARS, students said, especially given that about 6 percent of Penn's population is South Asian. "I think that it appeals to a lot of people because of minority issues," College junior and Save SARS member Shilpa Thakkar said. "It is a South Asian issue." The department's undergraduate chairwoman, Rosane Rocher, said that as of yet nothing definite has been decided, but becoming a program is a possibility. Problems have creeped up on the department over the last few years. Several professors have retired recently and popular SARS Professor Wilhelm Halbfass passed away this summer. "At this particular time, we are losing a number of strong faculty," Rocher explained. And at the beginning of the semester, the department received word that they had not been granted Title VI funding from the the U.S. Department of Education -- which had always accounted for a significant part of the budget. This is the first year SARS did not get the federal funding. "That was a disappointment," Rocher said. "It was really quite a shock." Save SARS launched the effort to retain the department around a month ago following Preston's appointment of the task force. According to College sophomore and SARS major Shaun Gonzales, the group's primary goal is to make sure that the department isn't turned into a program. Save SARS is also working to pressure the University to hire new SARS professors as the current professors head toward retirement -- a possibility that could lead to the elimination of the department altogether. Both Kadia and Gonzales said that student involvement was a key component of the organization. "We want to make it a student effort," Kadia said. "For the students that come here because of this major, that's not really fair." Save SARS is split in half with one research component and one awareness committee. Gonzales, who heads the group's research endeavors, said his committee is looking at other SARS departments that have been transformed into programs. Gonzales voiced concern that SAS administrators need to adequately address the students' desires to keep SARS as a department. "We would like to see the administration listen to what the students want," he said.

Mentors, few and far between

(11/29/00 10:00am)

In over two years at Penn, College junior Angel Del Villar has yet to have a Latino professor at Penn. He wishes things were otherwise, but the Latino English major says that he's simply grown accustomed to the lack of minority professors at Penn.About this series Share your experiences Visit the entire series "I wish there were more minority professors," Del Villar explained. "But I've always just tried to have myself deal with it." Del Villar isn't the only minority student at Penn forced to adjust to a predominately white environment. To try and handle this racial climate, more and more students are reaching out to minority professors through informal mentoring relationships. Students and professors alike say these ties help minority students feel comfortable in the traditionally white setting of academia. And both groups voiced the need for mentors, with many citing the importance of minority role models as crucial to an undergraduate's success. Minority students and faculty said that mentoring relationships are marked by a high comfort level on both ends. Typically, these bonds form through classes and range from the occasional drop-in at office hours to the weekly coffee date. Del Villar remembers talking to one African-American professor about his past and his background -- things he said he might not have discussed with another professor. "The fact that he's a minority professor, maybe sometimes there is a higher level of comfort," Del Villar said. College sophomore Chavon Sutton, who is African American, added that with minority professors, "It's just a matter of feeling like I don't have to be reserved initially." For Penn professors who actively mentor undergraduates at Penn, the relationship means helping students cope with racial issues in a number of ways. English Professor Herman Beavers remembered speaking with one student whose roommate heavily questioned him about how he got into Penn, insinuating that his race rather than his accomplishments won him a place at the University. "[The student was] devastated by the idea that anybody could think that they didn't get here because they worked hard," Beavers noted. Many times, Beavers said, he helps students adjust to the racial climate at Penn -- a place in which he said it can be hard for minorities to find their niche. "The culture at Penn is such that it has the effect of erasing students of color," Beavers said. But Sutton said her mentoring relationship wasn't directly about race. It helped her gain confidence in herself and her academic abilities -- even prompting her to turn away from the pre-medical track. "He helped me see I was smarter than that. That was powerful," she explained. "Deep inside, I felt that pre-med wasn't for me." For many faculty, mentoring a minority student means serving as a role model, encouraging many to pursue careers regardless of the lack of minorities in a particular field. Sociology Professor Tukufu Zuberi, the former director of the African Studies Center, noted that minority mentoring relationships are especially important with few minority professors at Penn. Physics Professor Larry Gladney, one of several minority professors at Penn who serves as a mentor, said he works with students who are intimidated by a lack of minorities in the sciences. "Students say that they never see black scientists, [and] it's isolating in thinking about career options," Gladney said. Gladney noted that he serves not only as a mentor but as a role model, encouraging students of color to pursue careers in certain disciplines -- namely the hard sciences. According to Beavers, if students go through their Penn careers without ever seeing a professor of their own race, they might feel turned away. "Students walk into a class and have never had a minority professor in front of the classroom," Beavers said, adding that without minority professors, students can began to believe there simply aren't minorities in the discipline. And students said that never seeing minority professors sets a discouraging example for them. "It can be hard as an African-American student to believe in yourself when you see so many people who don't look like you," Sutton explained. "If we don't see it, we don't believe it." Sutton added that these connections weren't intentional -- but informally happened given the few minority professors and role models at Penn. "I think it's natural," she said.

Penn, pumpkins and poultry

(11/28/00 10:00am)

Even though they were few and far between, the students who stuck around Penn's campus for Thanksgiving still found a way to celebrate Turkey Day with all the trimmings. Several college houses sponsored Thanksgiving dinners, and others helped pair students with faculty and staff for the evening. "We try to make it feel like everyone has a place to go," Community House Faculty Master Linda Brown said. And at Harnwell College House, residents didn't have to look any further than their own rooftop lounge. Graduate Assistant Cory Thorne organized a Thanksgiving dinner catered by Philadelphia's own Montserrat bistro -- complete with several turkeys, pecan and pumpkin pies, cranberry sauce and "all the regular stuff." Thorne said that more than 40 people signed up for the Thursday afternoon dinner, although not everyone on the list managed to make it. Still, Thorne called it "a good success," considering how empty the high rise was over the holiday weekend. Residents of Stouffer College House also got to enjoy traditional Thanksgiving fare, served hot from the kitchen of their own faculty master's apartment. Around 20 Stouffer residents joined Legal Studies Professor Phil Nichols, his wife and their three children on Thursday afternoon, and post-dinner gossiping and talking continued around the kitchen table for hours after the meal was done. "It was really pleasant," Nichols recalled. "People stayed for as long as they wanted." And to top off the night, students gathered around the Nichols family television for an evening viewing of Labyrinth. But according to Nichols, the holiday bonding between Stouffer residents wasn't anything extraordinary. "In this house, people hang out together all the time," he explained. Those who stayed on campus for the holiday also found a way to celebrate in the homes of local families, as several college houses paired up students with faculty or staff members for a home-cooked meal. Goldberg College House Dean Jane Rogers said college houses "always get calls from local people who want to host students who were here for the holiday." This year, she said, was no exception. But for those who did stay around for the holiday, there was little activity over the weekend. "It was really mellow," Nichols said. "People rested mostly." And Rogers said that when she got back to campus on Saturday after vacationing for the holiday, she couldn't believe how quiet the campus was. "I was unloading my car in the middle of the Quad, and I didn't see anybody for 10 minutes," she said. "It seemed very quiet Saturday night and through a lot of Sunday."

Rodin's pay tops for universities

(11/21/00 10:00am)

If Harvard or Princeton do come knocking on her door, Penn President Judith Rodin might tell them she's better paid here than she would be at her Ivy counterparts. Rodin ranked as the highest-paid president of a private university in a recent survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education, raking in a total compensation package of $655,557 for fiscal year 1998-99. "I am honored by the confidence that Penn's Trustees have in me, and grateful for the generous compensation that I receive," Rodin said in an e-mail statement. But though she led the universities, Rodin's pay came in behind that of former Williams College President Harry Payne, who topped the larger group of 479 colleges and universities with a compensation package of $878,222. That number included a hefty retirement package from when he stepped down in October 1999. Within her overall compensation package, Rodin received $605,165 in base pay and $52,392 in benefits. She also received a $12,000 expense account that is used for her car. The study notes that 1998-99 marks the first year that the regular salaries and benefits of any college president exceeded $600,000. New York University and John Hopkins University joined Penn in breaking this boundary. According to John Chandler, a senior consultant for a top-level academic search firm, presidents' salaries have been rising faster in the past several years than in recent memory. "At the major research universities and in the elite private liberal arts colleges, the salaries have been going up at a rapid clip," Chandler said. Rodin's compensation in 1998-99 represented a nearly 20 percent increase from the year before, and her total package has increased by a robust 74.4 percent since she's been at Penn. "In a sense, it's partly supply and demand.... The supply of highly qualified people who are willing to go into the presidency is not all that large," Chandler added. Chairman of the University Trustees James Riepe -- who helps set the University president's salary each year -- said that Rodin's rank toward the top reflects her quality as Penn's leader. "She clearly is one of the best presidents of the large universities in the country, and so to be among the top paid is reasonable," he explained. Riepe said that in setting Rodin's salary, the Trustees look at her accomplishments over the long term and comparative data on what other institutions pay their presidents. But he also acknowledged that keeping Rodin at Penn is a part of setting up her compensation. "There's always an element of retention in compensation," he said. And for many academics, there's the highly paid lure of the corporate world, which Chandler said could drive up salaries. "After all, boards of colleges and universities usually are well aware of what's going on in the corporate world," he explained, adding that presidents' salaries "look awfully low" when compared to those of CEOs of major companies. But university presidents shouldn't expect to always see such rapid increases, Chandler cautioned. "I think there will come a point when there will be pressures against the presidential salaries rising as rapidly as they have in recent years," he noted. "There will be more attention to what colleges and university presidents make relative to faculty members." Even Riepe said that Rodin shouldn't expect another 20 percent pay raise next year. "I don't anticipate that it will continue rising at that rate," he said.

Future of campus development highlights Council meeting

(11/16/00 10:00am)

In the wake of major delays in Penn's plans to build a movie theater on Walnut Street, University Council discussed the future of campus development at its third meeting of the semester yesterday afternoon. While the meeting mainly focused on committee reports, Executive Vice President John Fry also announced that General Cinemas -- Penn's partner in the Sundance Cinemas project -- had filed for bankruptcy and withdrawn their funding, setting back the project. "We're committed to doing the project," Fry told those assembled. "We have continued to talk to Sundance." The group spent most of the meeting talking about future plans for campus. Psychology Professor John Sabini, chairman of Council's Committee on Facilities, presented an update on the Campus Development Plan, which provides guidelines for developing future University architectural and landscaping projects. "The Campus Development Plan is still evolving," Sabini said. "The plan is a work in progress." Sabini said that in developing campus building projects, the University should not shy away from taking advantage of emerging opportunities. "Opportunism is not a dirty word in this game," he said. "Take advantage of what opportunities you're given." Vice President for Facilities Omar Blaik also explained changes in how the University allocates funds to projects, a process which was altered to help fit the needs of the Campus Development Plan. Projects that cost in excess of $250,000 will go through three levels of review before money can be put toward the project: programmatic, financial and architectural. "The main point is that projects move forward only when they meet programmatic needs... and financial needs," Blaik explained. Fry and University Police Chief Maureen Rush provided the faculty, staff and students in attendance with an update on security issues, noting that overall crime on campus has decreased 25 percent in the last five years. But bike thefts and thefts from autos continue to increase, and Rush provided Council with an overview of measures the police department is taking to fight the rise. The UPPD is trying to deter bike thefts with "crime prevention through environmental design," moving bike racks to well-lit and more closely monitored areas. To fight theft from autos, Rush said that police officers are leaving "theft awareness notices" on the windshields of cars that are particularly susceptible to crime because of things like openly displayed property. Blaik also informed Council of the pilot program designed to increase recycling on campus.

Glass ceiling in the sciences

(11/15/00 10:00am)

When Fay Ajzenberg-Selove began her days as a Penn Physics professor in 1973, some of her male colleagues were less than thrilled to be working alongside her. "They made remarks to me, they tried to put me down in all sorts of ways," she said of some of the men in her department. After all, her complaints of Penn's gender discrimination had resulted in a state-sponsored investigation into gender equity at the University -- which found a case of discrimination and eventually led to Ajzenberg-Selove's appointment as a full professor. And though she said that the working relationship between men and women in the sciences has changed, things still aren't equal in the hard sciences. For example, in the Physics Department, only three of 37 professors are female. The numbers aren't much better for the Chemistry Department; there are only two tenured female faculty members out of a total of around 25. Many are quick to point out that these numbers are low because, decades ago, there weren't very many female graduate students preparing to go into academia. But a recent progress report by a special committee investigating gender equity issues at Penn reported last month that even with the low candidate pool taken into account, females were still underrepresented in the hard sciences at the University. "These are the departments where we clearly have disproportionately few women," Committee co-Chair and Biochemistry Professor Phoebe Leboy said. And according to some women, the overwhelming number of men in some departments presents a tense and competitive working environment -- prompting many women to choose less research-intensive schools instead Penn.

University selects chief of research

(11/14/00 10:00am)

A former top official at the National Institutes of Health has been appointed as the new vice provost for research, Provost Robert Barchi announced today. Microbiologist Neal Nathanson, a well-respected researcher who ran NIH's AIDS division, replaces Ralph Amado, who stepped down last winter after five years in the job. "Dr. Nathanson is a world renowned neurobiologist," Barchi said. "I am delighted that he has been willing to come to Penn and join our staff." In his new position, Nathanson -- who was a Medical School vice dean before leaving for the NIH in 1998 -- will oversee the policy and administration of the University's over-$500 million research enterprise. He will also play a role in overseeing clinical research at Penn -- which has received national criticism since the 1999 death of Jesse Gelsinger in a gene therapy trial. Until September, Nathanson -- who will officially assume the position on December 1 -- was the director of the Office of AIDS Research at the NIH. In the past, the vice provost for research has been a part-time position, but Nathanson will assume the post full time. The job has been enhanced, Barchi said, in accordance with Penn's growth as a premier research institution. Nathanson said he was pleased to return to Penn. "I'm a Penn person," he said. "Here is where my heart is and always has been," he said, noting that he is married to Penn Biochemistry Professor Phoebe Leboy. Although Nathanson said he didn't have any specific goals or projects he wanted to tackle, he did emphasize the importance of strengthening Penn's research image. "Our sort of general vision is that we would really like to make Penn be perceived by people here and around the country as one of the finest, best places to do research with an administration that is as supportive as possible," Nathanson said. Nathanson was located by a 13-member search committee of students and faculty, who conducted a nationwide search for a list of final candidates to submit to Barchi. Nathanson will deal with policies surrounding the conduct of research, help in the strategic planning of research and help transfer technology from the laboratory to the commercial sector. Barchi has been pushing to increase the role of the vice provost for research since he took over and began reorganizing the provost's office almost two years ago. "To put this in context, the research enterprise at Penn over the last 10 years has grown from something in the neighborhood of $200 million a year to something well over $500 million a year in sponsored research," Barchi explained. "It is a huge and very complicated business and has become much, much more complicated... especially in research involving animals and in research involving human subjects," he added. And though Nathanson was not at Penn during the controversy surrounding the University's Institute for Human Gene Therapy and the fallout from Gelsinger's death last fall, he said that the turmoil sent him a message about clinical research. "What the Gelsinger case has alerted us to is that there are a number of ways in which we need to be careful about the integrity of research involving human subjects," Nathanson said. He noted that it was important to look at issues of informed consent, institutional review boards and conflict of interest in areas of human research -- all issues that have played prominent roles in the Gelsinger controversy. "There will be a number of changes, hopefully to strengthen the integrity of that whole area. That certainly will be a major part of my agenda," he said.

Penn endowment loses money despite an economic upswing

(11/09/00 10:00am)

Despite the extraordinarily high returns of the endowments at peer institutions recently, Penn's endowment posted a highly disappointing 1.8 percent loss for Fiscal Year 2000. Penn's endowment sits at about $3.2 billion. While that is one of the largest in the country, when measured on a per-student basis, it is one of the lowest among Penn's peer institutions. The drop can be largely attributed to two factors: Penn's historical preference for "value stocks" and a lack of alternative investments, such as venture capital or buyout investments. Alternative investments practically doubled endowments at other schools, including Yale, Harvard and Princeton universities. "Fiscal 2000, we were miles behind some of our competitors because they had exposure to venture capital and we didn't," Investment Board Chair Howard Marks said. "Venture capital had a level of performance that was unprecedented." Value stocks are those purchased simply because of their low price, not because of the company's potential for growth. In the past several years, the market has favored venture capital and growth and technology stocks in favor of the value-based investment of the University. "We were value when the market was growth," Vice President for Finance Craig Carnaroli said. But Penn has spent the past several years developing a new long-term plan for the endowment to reduce its reliance on value stocks. The plan calls for investing 50 percent in stocks, 15 percent in excess return assets like venture capital and buyouts, 15 percent in diversifying assets and 20 percent in bonds. According to Chief Investment Officer Landis Zimmerman, Penn has been moving toward this goal for a couple of years. "We're pretty close. We think within the next fiscal year," Zimmerman said. He added that Penn has moved around $1 billion in assets in the past few years. Still, Penn was drastically outperformed by its peers in the last fiscal year. For example, Notre Dame's endowment skyrocketed by almost 60 percent in FY 2000, and Harvard brought its already large endowment to $19.2 billion dollars with a 32.3 percent return. Notre Dame and Harvard aren't alone, either -- the majority of the wealthiest 25 schools in the nation saw double-digit increases in their endowments in FY 2000, according to figures published in The Chronicle for Higher Education. Penn just simply didn't have the types of investments that led to the growth its peer schools experienced during this time. "We are never going to recoup that period of private equity payout," University President Judith Rodin said. Penn's value-bias stemmed from a period of exceptional growth in the 1980s and early 1990s under the leadership of John Neff, whose investment style centered around value stocks. And for around 15 years, the strategy worked great for Penn. "Why change the horse that's been working for you?" Carnaroli said. "You can't fault us for sticking with what works." While Penn has since changed its investment structure to accommodate the volatility of the market, Carnaroli said that these benefits will not be seen overnight. "We're not likely to see the benefits of the private equity for a period of time," he explained. "In the long run, Penn's endowment will be better off." Marks cautioned against looking at the market performance in the past year and running out to reinvest the endowment in technology growth stocks. "It'd be folly to do it all today and have a representative proportion in growth stocks and then have them collapse," he explained. "Having lost the money that could have been made in growth stocks and venture, the worst thing would be to move into them now and participate in their fall to earth," Marks said. "That would be the worst thing imaginable." Instead, the goal of the broader, less value-dependent plan is to secure Penn's endowment so the ups and downs of the market won't hit as hard. "If things continue to soar like they did last year, we're not going to be in the vanguard," Marks said. "But I don't expect that to be the case. If things collapse, we're going to be definitely above average." University Trustees Chairman James Riepe added that last year's poor performance should be taken in the context of the endowment's overall long-term performance. "If you look at the 20-year numbers, we are still well ahead of many of our peers," he said. "The investment business is a long-term business. We don't look at it on just a one-year basis."

Trustees review University finances

(11/09/00 10:00am)

The University Trustees held their fall stated meeting yesterday, hearing reports on the University's investments and plans for campus development. Over two dozen Trustees joined top administrators at the Inn at Penn for the afternoon meeting and approved 21 resolutions. Investment Board Chair Howard Marks also presented an overview of the endowment's performance in Fiscal year 2000, which posted a disappointing 1.8 percent loss. "This endowment is well set up for adverse times, and that's what we had," Marks told the Trustees. "Things have turned in our direction. I think we're gaining ground." The Investment Board met yesterday morning in a closed meeting. William Mack also presented an update of the Facilities and Campus Planning Committee, which met on Monday at the University's new chiller plant. According to Mack, the majority of the group's discussion centered around the campus master development plan. They focused on entrances to campus, pedestrian access and expansion opportunities. Mack said the committee hopes that by its next meeting in the spring, it will have made progress in acquiring the sought-after postal lands east of campus. "We are working on it, and hopefully progressing to the point where we can give you what we hope to be positive news," Mack told those in attendance. University President Judith Rodin and Provost Robert Barchi also presented reports to the Trustees, and Executive Vice President John Fry delivered the University's financial report. There are currently 90 Trustees who advise the University in financing, academic initiatives, campus development and several other areas. While the Trustees usually break into committees at their fall, spring and summer meetings, they will instead spend the rest of this fall's meeting at an off-campus retreat in Princeton, N.J. "If you stay on campus, you sort of get caught up in the issues of the day," Trustees Chairman James Riepe explained. "This is something where we're trying to get the Trustees to look forward a bit." Today, the Trustees will also conduct a self-audit and look at their internal structure of governance. The remainder of today and tomorrow will be devoted to advising the administration on what Penn's long-term plan should be.

Trustees travel to Princeton in order to plan Penn's future

(11/08/00 10:00am)

The University Trustees will discuss Penn's long-term future and conduct a self-analysis at a retreat in Princeton, N.J., on Thursday and Friday. But tomorrow, before leaving for the retreat, the Investment Board of the Trustees will meet and go over the financial performance of the endowment during Fiscal Year 2000. The stated meeting of the Trustees will also be held tomorrow afternoon at the Inn at Penn. The Princeton retreat is the first of its kind in at least six years. While the Trustees usually meet in committee groups pertaining to different aspects of academic life, campus development and budget initiatives at their meetings, the retreat will replace these committee meetings this time. Instead, according to University President Judith Rodin, the group will spend part of Thursday looking at its governance and internal organization. Rodin said that many universities are looking at different ways for their trustees to operate effectively. Trustees at Yale, for instance, go to a different university each year to look at how other schools handle issues surrounding higher education and the trustees. The Trustees will spend the second part of the retreat in Princeton discussing a long-term plan for Penn and evaluating how the University should approach emerging topics facing higher education. "Sometimes we think we all take a Penn-specific focus," Rodin said. "It's useful to know what the broad national trends are." University Secretary Leslie Kruhly said that the Trustees will look at topics like faculty retention, student recruitment and distance learning and other issues that "all Ivies face." Robert Zemsky, director of the Institute for Research on Higher Education, will present the Trustees with general background remarks and research findings about higher education to help guide the discussion. According to Kruhly, approximately 40 of the 90 Trustees will attend this week's retreat. In the past, the financial troubles of the Health System have surfaced in many of the Trustees' meetings, but Kruhly projected that the financially beleaguered UPHS won't be a dominant part of this week's retreat. "I don't expect it to be," she explained. "The expectation is that the Health System problems will be resolved over the short term." Kruhly also said that while University administrators will be present when the Trustees look at Penn's long-term future, the self-audit will be attended by Trustees only. "They're going to be looking at the mechanisms of how the Board functions," she explained. Rodin said that in her over six years as president, the Trustees have never met in a closed retreat before. She said the retreat was prompted by the appointment of James Riepe as chairman in 1999. "This is an experiment," she noted.

Expense causes focus group to lose student audience

(11/07/00 10:00am)

Television news network MSNBC wanted to put Penn on national television by filming a live focus group from campus during its election coverage tonight. But when it was asked to pay $22,000 to use the Zellerbach Theatre in the Annenberg Center, the network had to change its plans. The focus group will instead be filmed at the Inn at Penn on Walnut Street for around 30 percent of the cost. Though it's still at a Penn-owned facility, the Inn at Penn can't accommodate a mostly student audience that the network was hoping to use as part of its Election Night programming. MSNBC political analyst and high-profile Republican pollster Frank Luntz said the network usually pays up to $1,500 for broadcast space. Luntz -- who will moderate tonight's focus group -- said he was upset with Penn's high price tag for such high-profile exposure. "I am disappointed," said Luntz, a Penn alumnus and former American Civilization professor who frequently clashed with his colleagues in the School of Arts and Sciences. "It's inconceivable that this would have happened. It's really sad that Penn forgoes opportunities like this." MSNBC approached the Annenberg Center last week about holding the focus group of approximately 30 voters who were undecided until right before the election as to who to vote for. The forum will focus on what topics or issues helped these Pennsylvanians make up their minds. If the network had been able to shoot at the Annenberg Center, students would have been able to come in to watch the live focus group. However, students won't be able attend the shooting at the Inn at Penn because of space constraints. Annenberg Center Director of Operations Mike Durker said that the $22,000 would go toward covering stage hands, rental line items and administrative costs. The Annenberg Center is separate from the Annenberg School for Communication, and a potential partnership for the event was never discussed with the University administration. "We've waived a lot of the charges that we normally would pass on as well," Durker said, adding that the Annenberg Center's not-for-profit status yielded the high price. "NBC is not not-for-profit," he continued. "I don't think they are hurting for the money." Still, MSNBC said it was disappointed with the outcome. "I think it's a real shame that students can't come," NBC national producer Tom Bernthal said. "This is a perspective on the electoral process that very few people have the opportunity to witness firsthand." A Penn student who tried to help bring the MSNBC program to Penn said the $22,000 pricetag was "ridiculous." "It would have given immediate coverage to Penn and Penn students," said the student, who asked to remain anonymous. Both the student and Luntz said they were frustrated with Penn's bureaucracy. "The fact that [NBC] should have to struggle to schedule this is embarrassing to the University," Luntz said. "I'm very disappointed. This is typical Penn red-tape bureaucracy." Penn spokeswoman Phyllis Holtzman declined to comment. Bernthal said that the Inn at Penn would probably charge the network about $8,000 -- still higher than the station typically pays for such venues. But he said that since the network only approached the hotel 25 hours before the program was scheduled to go on air, the price was justified. The Inn at Penn will provide the network with risers, chairs, lighting and power, as well as the space in the facility's Woodlands Ballroom.

Gene therapy suit settled out of court

(11/06/00 10:00am)

The family of Jesse Gelsinger settled their wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against the University and others involved with Penn's Institute for Human Gene Therapy for an undisclosed amount of money last week. The settlement, announced on Friday, comes just six weeks after Gelsinger's family filed the lawsuit, and more than a year after 18-year-old Jesse died while participating in a Penn gene therapy trial, becoming the first known patient to die as a result of gene therapy. Gelsinger's death prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to suspend all human experiments at the IHGT and brought Penn national scrutiny for its scientific research methods. Last summer, the administration dramatically reduced the IHGT's mandate. "This has been a difficult year for everybody involved, and we are pleased that we have been able to reach an amicable resolution of the lawsuit," University President Judith Rodin said in an e-mail statement. For Paul Gelsinger, Jesse's father, the lawsuit brings closure to his discussions with Penn about the situation surrounding his son's death. "I let Penn off the hook here," Gelsinger said last night. "I could have refused to settle this case." "It's over with Penn as far as I'm concerned," he added. "I don't need to see them embarrassed anymore." As part of the settlement, Gelsinger dropped as defendants Arthur Caplan, the director of Penn's Center for Bioethics, and former Health System CEO William Kelley. The suit alleged that negligence by Penn, IHGT Director James M. Wilson and the two other scientists running the experiment directly resulted in Jesse's death. The suit also claimed that Wilson and Kelley, who both hold several gene therapy patents, stood to gain financially from the success of Penn's gene therapy experiments, and that their judgement was clouded because of it. Paul Gelsinger said he was disappointed that Penn never apologized to his family. "An apology from them would go a long way," he said. "I don't know if they have the heart to do so. That we never got an apology does not help this wound to heal." Gelsinger said that he planned on using the money from the settlement to establish a foundation in Jesse's name to distribute money to different charities. He said he hoped to work with the National Organization for Rare Disorders and Circare, a human rights organization that deals with research subjects. Gelsinger expressed doubt that Penn could really take a national leadership role in changing research conditions. "If they don't have the heart to even apologize, I don't see how they can consider themselves a national leader in bioethics," he said. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and IHGT investor Genovo, Inc. -- founded by Wilson -- were also named in the original suit. The suit also charged that researchers Mark Batshaw and Steven Raper withheld information regarding the risks of the trial. According to Gelsinger family attorney Alan Milstein, Caplan and Kelley were both dropped from this list "in accordance with the requirements of Penn to settle." Caplan said he was pleased that he had been dropped from the suit, and that this might send a message to the legal community about naming bioethicists in lawsuits. But Caplan said he still wasn't sure why he was named in the first place, though he speculated it may have been because he was actively involved in talking about human trials. "I think that I had a role in talking about this," he explained. "It may have been the visibility of bioethics, media accounts which didn't get the story across." Many were surprised when Caplan was named as a defendant, saying that involving bioethicists in litigation might hamper their ability to give advice. The lawsuit alleged that Caplan was at fault because it was at his prompting that researchers used adults with less severe cases of the liver disease, like Jesse, rather than fatally ill infants. The suit also repeated the violations that the FDA reported after their detailed investigation of the IHGT last year, including that Wilson's team misled the Gelsingers about the risks involved in the study and that they repeatedly violated federal research protocol. Though Penn issued a statement with the announcement of the settlement, none of the other defendants could be reached for further comment over the weekend. "Penn's hope is that the agreement among the parties will enable the Gelsingers to bring a small measure of closure to their loss," the University statement said. Gelsinger was born with a mild form of ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency, or OTC, which affects the liver's ability to break down ammonia. Though many OTC sufferers die as infants, Jesse's form of the disease could be controlled through medication and diet. He joined the trial in the hopes of helping others with fatal forms of the disease.