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Staff editorial: Go out and explore

(08/31/06 9:00am)

Welcome (or welcome back) to Philadelphia. Chances are, you're not from around here. In fact, most of the incoming class hails from outside of the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, and 12 percent crossed the Unites States border to study here. In this day and age, when Penn attracts students from all across the country and around the world, many outsiders descend on this city each fall. Most of them come seeking a first-rate education, and many choose Penn because of its urban environment. Sadly, though, scores of students fail to take advantage of the great things Philadelphia has to offer. Soon, classes will begin and the Philly heat will turn to cold, making it easy to pass the days from the comfort of your dorm room. Don't let that happen to you. This city was the birthplace of America two centuries ago and is very much alive today with culture and attractions on par with those of any other major metropolis. But too many Penn students only see their own campus and a handful of tourist hotspots. There is more history here than just Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. There is more shopping here than just campus stores and Rittenhouse Square. There are more places to explore culture than just the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The University has provided a few worthy avenues to explore in the coming week of New Student Orientation, including walking tours of Center City and University City, and everyone unfamiliar with the area should tag along. But that is just scratching the surface. Philadelphia is often referred to as a "city of neighborhoods." From Old City to Manayunk or from Fishtown to the Italian Market, there is something different to see in every corner of William Penn's city. (To get you started, section B of today's edition contains a set of 10 places and events you must visit during your time at Penn) There are also dozens of things to do around town that you might not be aware of and that some students never discover. Tomorrow is First Friday, a day on which more than 40 Old City art galleries open their doors to the public from 5 to 9 p.m. On the gastronomic side (where Philadelphia specializes), Restaurant Week begins on Sept. 10. From Sunday to Friday, more than 100 of the best restaurants in Philadelphia offer three-course meals for only $30. The city will be inviting college students from schools all over the region to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at the end of September for the Campus Philly Kick Off, which promises music, food and a rare chance to meet other students whom you may not otherwise encounter. And do not believe anyone who tells you that Philadelphia is not a haven for music. In the coming month alone, Dave Matthews, John Mayer, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Who and Bob Dylan will be playing in the area. It's really up to you what parts of Philadelphia you explore and what experiences make your Penn career memorable. After all, if you did not want to live in a city, you could have chosen Dartmouth. Everyone has something new to gain from the city, even those who have lived here their entire lives. So grab a friend and some SEPTA tokens and get going.

Campus remains open despite terrorist threat

(09/11/01 9:00am)

San Jose State University remained open this morning while campus, city, state and federal law enforcement agencies assessed the threat of continued attacks that destroyed two New York City skyscrapers and at least four airliners. Terrorists hijacked two airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center in a coordinated series of blows that brought down the twin 110-story towers. A plane also slammed into the Pentagon, bringing the seat of government itself under attack. American Airlines and United Airlines both confirmed that each had lost two planes. Thousands could be dead or injured, a high-ranking New York City police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The SJSU announcement was made shortly before 9:30 a.m. by SJSU Police Chief Ric Abeyta. Gov. Gray Davis has placed all state facilities on high tectical alert, said Sylvia Hutchinson, SJSU spokeswoman. The University Police Department has been in touch with all local state and federal law enforcement facilities, Abeyta said. "We are continuing to monitor the situation." Abeyta and and Lt. Bruce Lowe, UPD public affairs officer, were not available for direct comment.

Wharton goes global

(06/07/01 9:00am)

Nearly six months after Wharton announced the creation of Wharton West -- its San Francisco satellite campus -- they have announced that the location will be on the top floor of the Folger Building. Amidst the historic location, this site marks a new trend towards the globalization of higher education.

A shower of goodbyes

(05/24/01 9:00am)

Friends and family looked for shelter as the students of the Class of 2001 braved the heavy showers on Monday morning, marking the University's 245th commencement. Despite a soggy Franklin Field, thousands of onlookers cheered for the graduates, refusing to let a little rain dampen their spirits. The University cancelled the student processional across campus in light of the dreary conditions, which was slightly disheartening. Seniors were robbed of their time honored tradition to walk side by side with their fellow classmates after four long years. In the midst of the unseasonal showers, the University unveiled its $200,000 renovations to Franklin Field for the commencement exercises. The rain masked any illusions of grandeur that were associated with the large scale project. Better luck next year. But it was the renown graduation speakers that helped compensate for the other shortcomings. Arizona Senator John McCain, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination last year, encouraged the students that the way to make a positive contribution was to be a leader, not a follower. What McCain says comes as no shock -- you have been hearing it since you got your first Penn T-shirt while you were in diapers. The school graduations also featured notable speakers, such as Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., Class of 1992 and Philadelphia Mayor John Street. President Judith Rodin, in her speech, emphasized that now it is time for the students to give back to their community. Seniors, your President has called on you to fullfill your duty. As adults entering the real world it is time to leave your mark. For the last four years, Penn has given you a place to call home and a lifetime of memories. Remain active alumni and do not forget us -- a few donations could not hurt either. So congratulations and best of luck to the Class of 2001. We hope your accomplishments will make future classes proud.

Valuing achievement

(03/08/01 10:00am)

As college students, we would all like a high grade point average. We want to prove to our parents and friends that the hours spent studying in the library or staying awake during lecture have somehow paid off. We want big-name companies to take notice of our knowledge and potential -- and then we want them to offer us lucrative internships and full-time jobs. Most of all, we just want to be the best. We want to score higher than the student sitting next to us during the Chemistry exam or handing in the Management project. And we want to have that slight edge when decisions are made regarding honor societies, awards and employment. Unfortunately, just too many of us are competing for those high grades. And an even greater number, it now seems, are running home to their parents with near-perfect transcripts. Grade inflation is a trend that has taken America's top-tier colleges and universities by storm. According to recent studies, students at Ivy League universities now routinely receive higher marks than their counterparts 20 years ago. That kind of leap may be attributed to the advanced study options available at universities today. It may be linked to the growth of the Internet as a study tool. And it may, some say, just be the result of a harder-working generation of students. But a more plausible explanation is that students today -- embroiled in tighter competition for jobs and graduate school admission -- are more adept at persuading professors to augment their grades or offer higher marks to classes as a whole. Such practices are inherently dangerous, for they establish an artificial bar of achievement that makes it difficult for any employer or admissions committee to identify real accomplishment or potential. It also undermines the legitimacy and integrity of the grading process, which should be based on an established set of distributed requirements. Obviously, each professor or instructor is entitled to establish his or her own system of evaluation. And some of those systems, naturally, are going to be more generous when it comes to high grades. But that type of variation shouldn't stop concerned parties from taking action. Administrators, professors and students at universities as a whole should work to identify just how prevalent grade inflation really is. And then those same groups must take steps to eliminate it. Only then will we have a real measure of achievement to take home to mom and dad.

Pioneering technology

(03/06/01 10:00am)

Just two years ago, the word "Napster" didn't exist. Metallica and Dr. Dre hadn't yet found their calling as legal vanguards -- they were simply performers. And college students around the world were forced to get their music through the same old channel: the music store. Oh, how things have changed. This week, the world of online music distribution was dealt a serious blow when a federal appellate court forced Napster -- a popular file-sharing service -- to begin restricting access to thousands of copyrighted songs that it had been making available for free exchange. In legal terms, the decision represents an enormous short-term victory for the big music labels. They have been vigorously arguing, and rightfully so, that Napster presents its users with an opportunity to obtain copyrighted music without compensating the artist or distributor. The recording companies may be right. In its current form, Napster's service may in fact infringe upon established laws concerning intellectual property. But that interpretation does little to account for the significant technological leap which Napster and its peers have brought to the music industry. And that development, it appears, will outlast any short-term court ruling. The simple truth is that electronic file sharing is a technology that has enormous future potential. Even if Napster is completely shut down -- which is not likely -- other companies will soon rise in its place to capitalize on the proven market and the proven technological platform. Great possibility also exists in file sharing as a means of promoting new and unheard musical acts. And even some popular performers -- such as Dave Matthews and Moby -- have decried the decision against Napster as a move against intellectual freedom. The recording labels would stand to benefit by embracing the technology which Napster has pioneered, instead of condemning it. To do otherwise risks continued music piracy, further legal battles and a stagnation of innovation in the industry that relies upon it the most.

A sweet championship

(02/26/01 10:00am)

When Kelly Greenberg came to Penn just two years ago to take the coaching reins of the women's basketball team, she encountered a program with a long history of futility. In 30 years as a team, in fact, the Quakers had amassed a paltry 289-440 record. They had never won a Big 5 championship. They had never been to the NCAA Tournament. They had never won an Ivy League championship. On Saturday night, inside an enemy arena in Boston, Mass., Greenberg and the Quakers turned almost all those fortunes upside down. The Pennsylvania Quakers are the 2000-01 Ivy League Women's Basketball Champions. To the entire team, we extend our congratulations for an amazing season and an incredible turnaround. By defeating Harvard this weekend, the Quakers have become the first team -- of all the men's and women's teams in the nation -- to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Such a feat is certainly a great accomplishment, and deserves the applause of an admiring campus. The Quakers likewise show little sign of slowing down, as their current 18-game winning streak is tops in all of women's basketball. How wonderful it would be to see such a streak continue into the tense, single-elimination days of March Madness. Winning an Ivy League title -- especially the first -- is an incredible accomplishment. It takes the contributions of an entire team, and that entire team is worthy of recognition. But in this case, one player is especially deserving. And for that, we congratulate Diana Caramanico for a stellar season -- and a stellar career -- during which she led the Red and Blue and put together more points than any other women's basketball player in Ivy League history. Caramanico's success, as well as that of Greenberg and Erin Ladley -- who joined the elite 1,000-point club this weekend -- are all part of the new winning tradition that is Penn women's basketball. We wish them all nothing but the best as they wrap up their season and prepare for the NCAAs.

The universal measure

(02/20/01 10:00am)

The SAT has never been particularly popular. Millions of students fear taking the college placement test every year. Civil rights advocates decry it as discriminating against those of lower economic standing. And some college administrators say that it is an inherently flawed means of measuring academic potential. But despite all the opposition, one fact about the SAT is true -- it remains the most universally accepted measure of student ability in our country. This week, the president of the University of California made waves in academia by recommending that the state's system of colleges and universities drop its reliance on the SAT as a factor in its admissions process. Should the California regents and faculty accept the president's sweeping suggestion, the nation's largest state-controlled higher education system would be the first to abandon the oldest and most relied-upon measure of student potential. And that move, should it become reality, could be harmful. As college admissions becomes an increasingly competetive enterprise, the importance of consistent measures of ability and promise is going to grow even more prevalent. High school grades, recommendations and activity reports are all useful and necessary components of the admissions application. But the circumstances and standards surrounding these criteria vary tremendously, and demand an additional means of objective perspective. That's where the SAT -- despite its flaws -- still provides value. No test can predict academic performance perfectly. And, to be certain, there still exist many inherent flaws in the application and makeup of the SAT. But rather than dismantling the framework entirely, academic leaders would benefit from reworking the assessment -- rather than abandoning a measure that generally provides a clear picture of student abilities. To go in any other direction -- in California, at Penn and anywhere in between -- could threaten the integrity of a balanced admissions process.

From where we stood

(01/19/01 10:00am)

A year ago, we came to our positions as editors and managers of The Daily Pennsylvanian with the mandate to produce, night in and night out, a newspaper worthy of this University and of you, our readers. We aimed to reach new heights -- in writing and reporting, in photography and design, in Web site design and content -- while adhering to our time-honored commitment informing the University community and honoring the sacred principles of fairness and accuracy. And while we hope we have succeeded, we realize now that this enterprise is about much more than paper and ink. It is about the awesome responsibility that a free press, with its credibility on the line each day, has to the people it serves. It is about about the people who toil through the night for little pay and less recognition. And it is about hard work and team efforts and the inherent value of a job well done. We have been tested many times over the past year. The sun rose the morning after the historic November elections with no clear winner in sight, and to a nation in confusion. Controversies over gene therapy, labor rights and Penn's position in West Philadelphia have pushed our staffs to dig deeper into stories that weren't always popular but were always central to the mission of this University. Throughout, we have operated on the dual premises that the faculty, students and staff of the University have the right to know what is happening on campus and that such information should be presented without bias or judgment. At times we have failed. We promise that we've done our best and have appreciated your feedback, positive and negative, over the past 12 months. Our time here done, we leave this newspaper -- this institution -- in the hands of as capable and committed a slate of young journalists and businesspeople as we could have hoped. Good luck and godspeed to our friends on the 117th Board of Editors and Managers. We can only hope that one year from now, you feel the same sense of accomplishment and camaraderie that we do today. And to our readers, thank you for making our time in these windowless confines worthwhile. Never forget that this is your University, and that neither this school nor this newspaper can prosper absent your active involvement.

Welcome back, Billybob

(01/18/01 10:00am)

When "Best of Billybob" quietly and mysteriously shut its doors over the summer of 2000, many in the Penn community wondered what would become of the famous cheesesteak emporium at the corner of 40th and Spruce streets. To generations of Penn students, Billybob was as much a part of this campus as College Hall or Ben on a Bench. Famous for its greasy cheesesteaks and ecclectic late-night atmosphere, the establishment catered to University students and West Philadelphians alike, and prided itself on remaining open 24 hours -- a considerable rarity where most restaurants start shutting their doors around 10 p.m. Without doubt, the departure of Billybob left a void in Penn's retail landscape last fall. Gone was one of just a pair of 24-hour campus food stops, and gone too -- especially considering the pink-and-teal interior that came along with a 1999 renovation -- was one of the University's most colorful hangouts. That's why it is so welcoming to hear that Billybob will likely open its doors yet again sometime in the coming weeks. Though the details are still unclear -- especially in terms of the new menu -- it is good to know that Penn students will once again have a place to go for cold beer and snacks when the hands of the clock swing past midnight. The anticipated return of Billybob also provides much needed competition for El Diner, the University's new 24-hour restaurant on Walnut Street. By providing an additional outlet for hungry late-night diners, the new Billybob will likely help to ensure that El Diner keeps to its intended standards -- including quality offerings and low prices -- even after the initial rush of student patrons wears off.

Opening the dialogue

(12/08/00 10:00am)

Race. It's the elephant in the corner, the crazy aunt in the basement, the 800-pound gorilla that everyone knows is there but no one wants to talk about. But on an increasingly diverse campus in a racially divided city in a country known as the great melting pot, it's time we started talking about race. Over the last 10 days, in a series of articles and on the editorial page, we have joined with you in an exploration of the ways in which race defines community at Penn. We have set out to better understand ourselves. The results of our snapshots of campus life conform to the realities we all encounter on a daily basis. We interact with members of our own race to a greater extent than we do with members of other races. We participate in groups that are defined by race, and in groups that are defined by other interests but remain racially homogenous. And we choose mentors, friends and housemates of the same race as ourselves, even if we do not choose them for that reason. Some have read this exploration as an indictment of race-based groups. It is not. We have sought to understand the reasons people hew to racial lines, not to judge those reasons. Wherever we looked, we found two broad forces shaping our segregated reality: a perception that we benefit from race-based association, and a perception that our choices are made under external pressure. Equally, we found that students are of two minds about the implications of segregation: most see both benefits and costs to division along racial lines. But the most important thing we found was silence. Most students neither consider these facts nor weigh their consequences. Race has a valid place in our lives; discrimination does not. And we will never know the difference until we start talking about it.

A salute to a scholar

(12/06/00 10:00am)

For the second year in a row, one of Penn's brightest will soon be heading to the United Kingdom as a Marshall Scholar. Our congratulations go to College senior Ari Alexander, who recently earned the high academic honor and who next year will study world ethnic conflict in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Marshall Scholarship is one of the nation's highest undergraduate honors, and provides its recipients with two full years of paid study at a university in the U.K. Obviously, the competition for one of just 40 spots is always ferocious. Alexander deserves recognition for overcoming such tremendous odds. After all, he did prevail in a pool of more than 1,000 of America's most gifted and enterprising undergraduates. But his award is also much more meaningful. In a broader sense, a Marshall Scholarship is a victory for the University, as Alexander now becomes the second Penn student in the last two years to win the award after a decade-long drought. Andrew March, a 1999 College graduate, was a recipient last year. The recognition also speaks well for the future of undergraduate research initiatives at Penn. Alexander's honor is a feather in the cap of the new Center for Undergraduate Research Fellowships, and likewise a tribute to the work of CURF Director Art Casciato and Associate Director Claire Cowen. But more than anything else, Alexander's success should act as incentive for other Penn undergrads who have research ambitions. Over the last few years, the University has seen the caliber of its student body skyrocket. But as our acceptance rate continues to fall, major academic recognitions -- like the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships -- haven't been as plentiful. Those students who may have an interest in doing research -- and thus taking the most active role in their own education -- should follow Alexander's lead. That's why this award is so significant, both for him and for the University. Good job, Ari.

Snack around the clock

(11/29/00 10:00am)

Several years ago, the student body asked the University for an all-night campus diner offering affordable fare and a comfortable atmosphere. The administration responded with Eat at Joe's, and students soon learned to close their wallets to the ill-conceived and poorly executed exercise in corporatized kitsch. Now, however, it appears that Penn officials have learned from that mistake. And we -- and our stomachs -- hope to be very pleased by the end result. The new El Diner restaurant is scheduled to open in the teal-and-chrome vacancy at 3925 Walnut Street in mid-January. It promises to stay open 24 hours a day, offer a menu of inexpensive items and bring about the ultimate demise of Eat at Joe's faux '50s interior. Should it open on time -- hardly a given in light of the University's recent track record with retail -- and deliver on these counts, we will be very pleased. Indeed, if the reality lives up to the hype, El Diner will represent a clear case of the administration eventually listening to the concerns of the student body. As we again embark on a period of term paper deadlines and pre-exam cram sessions, the need for a place to get a cup of coffee at four in the morning will become all the more obvious to the student body. Here's to hoping for cheap, all-hours dining on campus at this time next semester.