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No penalty too severe

(11/29/00 10:00am)

Four years ago, while on the staff of Harvard Medical School, Penn Ophthalmology Professor Evan Dreyer falsified data in a grant application to the National Institutes of Health. For that blatant act of misconduct, Dreyer agreed to a 10-year ban on federal research funding earlier this month, but that penalty is not sufficient. He should also lose his job at Penn. As the recent controversy in the University's beleaguered Institute for Human Gene Therapy demonstrates, a researcher's inclination to play fast and loose with protocol can have grave consequences. Penn needs to have a zero-tolerance policy on flagrant, willful research misconduct, and on that basis, Dreyer must go. We are further troubled by the fact that when Dreyer was hired by Penn in 1997, he was already the subject of a federal investigation over his NIH funding request. Health System spokeswoman Rebecca Harmon said that the University was unaware of the charges at the time. This, however, evidences the same kind of lax institutional oversight that we witnessed in the IHGT affair. Just as the Medical School's Institutional Review Board fail to readily observe the misconduct in Director James M. Wilson's gene therapy trials, so too did someone drop the ball by not thoroughly vetting a potential addition to the faculty. Researchers, especially in the field of medicine, hold the lives of patients in their hands, and no violation of this public trust can be condoned.


Dividers, not uniters

(11/28/00 10:00am)

If anyone had any doubts that our politicians are dysfunctional, the rhetorical tone of the current election controversy in the state of Florida should put those thoughts to rest. For the last three weeks, we've watched and waited as the votes were counted and recounted and counted again. All the while, it has become increasingly apparent that no one representing either major party is interested in a fair and accurate count indicative of the people's will. Rather, party leaders have focused on getting their man in the White House by hook or by crook, regardless of who actually won more votes. Both Al Gore and George W. Bush are supremely confident that they won the Florida vote and hence the election, and both have solid foundations for their beliefs. But no degree of certainty merits rhetoric that distorts reality or attempts to delegitimize the electoral process. Who doubts, that should their roles be reversed, Bush supporters would fight tooth and nail for every dimpled chad? And that Gore voters would argue that the integrity of the initial vote should be respected in the face of attempts to steal the election through endless hand recounts? Members of the two major parties fight and argue; that is to be expected. What saddens us, though, is that they have ceased to argue over matters of principle or policy, but instead bicker over an electoral process in which partisan concerns have no place. No one is trying to hammer out a sensible, nonpartisan solution to the current impasse. The elder statesmen of both parties -- Robert Dole and James Baker for the Republicans, George Mitchell and Warren Christopher for the Democrats -- have abandoned their statesman-like postures for the low road of sound bite politics. These diplomats are behaving quite undiplomatically. If nothing else, this election evidences an electorate more divided than at any point in decades. The divisive tone of both parties during the recount process only pours salt into these wounds, squandering an opportunity for national healing.


Congrats to the champs

(11/20/00 10:00am)

Congratulations to the Pennsylvania Quakers football team for securing its second Ivy League title in three seasons. Saturday's 45-15 championship victory over Cornell was decisive, a welcome relief for Quakers fans who had grown accustomed to the team's frequent last-minute heroics. We thought a win couldn't get any sweeter after the come-from-behind victory at Princeton. We remember thinking that the stunning Parents' Weekend defeat of Brown was insurmountable, too. And despite the resilience of one stubborn goal post, last week's 36-35 Homecoming squeaker over Harvard forced all fans of the Red and Blue to rethink how amazing a single victory could be. But on all those occasions, we were wrong. Those wins were tremendous, but they weren't for the title. And so today, even as two goal posts stand intact on the turf at Franklin Field, we salute the champions who made the 2000 season truly one for the books. We recognize Kris Ryan, whose 243-yard, four-touchdown performance made Saturday's win possible. We congratulate Rob Milanese, whose nine catches and 117 receiving yards against the Big Red put him into the Penn record books with new single-season marks in both categories. And we salute quarterback Gavin Hoffman, who shook off a shaky 1999 campaign to lead this team to the title, shattering every major team passing mark in the process. Most importantly, we thank all the Quakers football players who gave evertything they had every Saturday this fall, who helped leave that unique taste of victory with yet another generation of Penn students. Thanks for giving us a season to remember.


Sun sets on Sundance

(11/17/00 10:00am)

The University staked its revitalization strategy for the 40th Street corridor on the premise that once its anchor tenants -- a movie theater and a supermarket -- were in place, the retail floodgates would open. But the Sundance Cinemas project at 40th and Walnut streets, after months of delays, is finally dead. And the viability of Penn's vision for the area where campus meets community is now seriously in doubt. We still believe that a movie theater represents an attractive, student-friendly option for the site. However, finding a new operating partner may well be impossible. In a saturated national market, chains are closing theaters, not opening them. Ritz, the major local chain, has expressed zero interest. And with Cinemagic 3 down the street, operators offering mainstream fare may be reluctant to enter the market. Penn should give due diligence to its search for a new movie partner. But it also has to consider alternative uses for the location. Neither campus sentiment nor business interests will tolerate a dormant construction site for long. And the University will have to settle the site's status soon if it wants to attract new tenants to the area, even if it means that it has to settle for someone less photogenic than Robert Redford to sell its vision. In a broader sense, the demise of Sundance Cinemas reflects the risk inherent in the University's development strategy. By replacing indigenous retail with national chains, Penn faces the prospect of stores fleeing a community in which they have little invested in the event of an industry-specific downturn, of which this is the case, or a general recession. The University's plans for 40th Street were grand in scope and steeped in the optimism that a single coup, like Sundance, could spark a virtuous cycle of business growth. That dream is now largely in shambles. We hope that the University can pick up the pieces -- and quickly -- to see at least some measure of its vision realized.


Women in the sciences

(11/16/00 10:00am)

Female professors in the University's hard-sciences departments -- Physics, Biology and Chemistry -- are few and far between. Such a problem should clearly be addressed. The solutions here are not easy ones. At major research universities across the nation, where publishing is the main determinant of scholarly prestige, women comprise only a small minority of tenured science faculty, thanks largely to the dearth of women enrolled in graduate programs decades ago. In the recruitment and retention of female professors, Penn is no better and no worse than its peers. Focusing our efforts on trying to hire away the small number of professors teaching elsewhere would only spark a bidding war the University can't win. What the University can and should do, however, is work to increase the number of women entering the hard sciences and better support those already on the faculty, lest they follow the beaten path to less-research-oriented liberal arts colleges. To the first end, professors of all stripes should encourage young women to pursue graduate work in the traditionally male-dominated hard sciences. Female professors who have successfully navigated this course should serve as able mentors to the next generation of academics. And to support those who have already courageously chosen to enter the ivory tower, the University should encourage the formation and expansion of support networks among female professors and graduate students at Penn and other research universities. Many such groups have been successful in letting women know that while they may be the minority in their departments, they are definitely not alone. Opening up once-limited academic disciplines to young women should be among the University's goals. Let's hope it pays dividends down the road with increased female representation in the science faculty.


A swing and amiss?

(11/15/00 10:00am)

Bowing to pressure from City Council and local residents, Mayor Street finally abandoned his quixotic quest for a new downtown baseball stadium on Monday. We frankly could not be more disappointed that no side -- not the city, not the state, not the teams -- has taken the initiative to get this deal done. No side has presented a vision of how the city's sports teams should fit into the larger landscape. And thanks to the utter lack of constructive dialogue on this issue, we're right back where we started. With every other conceivable location less than an hour away from City Hall having been rejected, it appears that new stadiums for the Phillies and Eagles will, some day, be built in the vast concrete oceans of South Philadelphia. But these facilities, as much of an improvement as they will be over the eyesore that is Veterans Stadium, will not revitalize one square block of the city. They will not increase pedestrian traffic in the city. They will not spur one iota of new business growth in the city. And for those reasons, the city should minimize its share of the costs. Under its current agreement with the teams, Philadelphia will pay one third of the construction costs for two single-sport stadiums. But before the first brick is laid, the Street administration should fix what the contribution will be with the teams. When the cost overruns come -- and if the last decade's national ball park bonanza serves as any guide, they will -- the city should not pay a dime more. Ball parks are not a spending priority for any city. Things like public schools and crime fighting are, and the city should not be concentrating its funds on projects, like stadiums, from which few stand to benefit.


Far from a bold choice

(11/13/00 10:00am)

On Thursday, the University's Committee on Manufacturer Responsibility recommended that Penn join both rival sweatshop-monitoring organizations, the Fair Labor Association and the Worker Rights Consortium. If accepted by President Rodin, the decision would represent a choice of practicality over ideological boldness. Unfortunately, that is a decision that University had to make. By straddling the fence -- just as 13 other schools, including Columbia and Brown, have done -- Penn would ensure membership in whichever organization proves most capable of monitoring Third World factory conditions, which is important. But the move would also underscore Penn's continued unwillingness to be a leader in the anti-sweatshop movement. On a practical level, we endorse this recommendation. Joining both organizations provides the best chance that labor conditions at factories producing Penn apparel will be monitored at some point in the near future. But on an ideological level, however, we continue to support the WRC. We have long supported the organization because of its foundation in human rights groups and its support for a living wage, a feature of Penn's own Code of Conduct but not the FLA charter. While the University is obviously following the most expedient route, we are troubled by its inability to explain itself. In explaining the body's recommendation, Committee Chairman Gregory Possehl cited the "complementarity" of the two organizations. This, too, is puzzling. The FLA and the WRC do not support each other, and neither feels the other has a need to exist. The whole equals no more than the sum of its parts. We hope that President Rodin will be able to communicate a convincing rationale for her decision to accept or reject the committee's recommendation. Ultimately, whatever Rodin decides, this issue has most definitely not been put to rest. Effective monitoring will come from the one organization that gets business, labor, human rights groups and universities to sit down at the same table, which they are not doing currently. But as long as that table belongs to the FLA or the WRC, at least Penn -- even if it refuses to abide by an ideological stand -- will have a seat.


The endowment blues

(11/10/00 10:00am)

Last year was a banner year for college endowments. Harvard increased 32.3 percent. Yale soared 41 percent. Princeton went up 35.5 percent. Duke skyrocketed 58.8 percent. The combined value of these four endowments increased $10.75 billion. And the University of Pennsylvania? In the best year in history for institutions of higher education, in the midst of a booming economy, it lost 1.8 percent, or about $60 million, continuing a recent pattern of underperformance. Over the last year, it fell from the 12th to 18th largest endowment in the country, and on a per-student basis, it isn't even in the same league as its peers. The University dropped the ball, and it did so in a big way. In 1979, former Investment Board Chairman John Neff inherited a woefully small endowment. Following a "value" philosophy, which emphasizes stocks undervalued by the market, he gave Penn one of the best-performing portfolios of the 1980s and early '90s. The salad days of value investing ended in the mid-1990s, replaced by the emergence of growth stocks, which as their name implies, augment shareholder value through continued earnings growth. The big-name media and technology stocks of our generation -- Time Warner, Intel, America Online -- all fall into this category and have rewarded other schools quite handsomely. Many schools also entered the venture capital markets early, yielding impressive results. Twelve of the top 20 schools for which data is known returned more than 30 percent on their endowments last year, largely on the strength of their VC holdings. Certainly, none lost money. All the while, the managers of Penn's portfolio were stuck in the past. Like Galileo's inquisitors, who insisted the earth stood at the center of the universe, they have clung to their trusted -- but fundamentally obsolete -- model of the investment universe. Recognizing its folly, Penn now plans to move aggressively into growth stocks and alternative investments, but the fact is it may be too late. Penn missed out on unprecedented growth in the stock market and will suffer as a latecomer to a sated VC market. And as a result of this short-sightedness, future generations of Penn students and faculty will suffer. We recognize that the men and women who manage Penn's endowment work for -- or in some cases, run -- some of the largest investment banks and brokerages in the country. But if they produced these returns for their clients in the midst of the greatest prosperity this country's investors have ever known, there's no doubt they'd be out on the street in no time. In a recent memo to his fellow Trustees, current Investment Board Chairman Howard Marks wrote "We wish we'd invested in venture capital.... We wish we'd invested more in growth stocks." Us, too.


An election for the ages

(11/09/00 10:00am)

With the current uncertainty over who will become the next president of the United States, we are engaged in a moment in history that will not soon be forgotten. While emotions are running high, we would encourage all sides to remain calm as the electoral process runs its course. The recount of more than six million Florida votes should be completed this afternoon. Overseas absentee ballots should be tabulated over the next 10 days, and a hand count may then be held. Then, and only then, will we know for sure which candidate has won the state's popular vote and its 25 electors. We hope that both candidates and their partisans accept the result of this process and that concerns over the fairness and accuracy of Florida's electoral procedures are resolved in an expeditious manner. It is important that whoever wins, we acknowledge the legitimacy of the election and America's rule of law. Furthermore, the new president must recognize that while he has won the election, he has not captured a mandate to impose his will on a divided electorate. We would encourage whoever should win to make bipartisanship the hallmark of his administration, bringing members of the opposing party into his Cabinet and working constructively with congressional leaders of all stripes. The closeness of the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush nationally and in many key states is proof of the fact that every vote really does matter. We hope whoever emerges as the new president recognizes that fact, and makes our votes count for something.


Unionizing grad students

(11/06/00 10:00am)

Last week's ruling from the National Labor Relations Board paves the way for graduate student teaching assistants at private colleges across the country to unionize for the purposes of collective bargaining. Fortunately, this ruling is unlikely to have an immediate impact here, where TAs have expressed general satisfaction with their compensation and working conditions. But it should nevertheless send a message to Penn and other universities around the country that they now have less leverage in talks with their graduate students. In denying their collective bargaining rights, college administrators have said graduate students attend an institution primarily to prepare for academic careers and that their TA duties are secondary. Students counter that they often bear the same teaching burdens as faculty members but lack any of the same rights. Still, the important thing administrators should take from this ruling is that graduate students should be accommodated, within reason, to the point where union formation and action is not necessary. No one -- nor any institution's academic mission -- is well served by conflicts such as those which afflicted Yale University in the early and mid-1990s. There, more than 1,400 graduate students went on strike at any one time over issues ranging from pay and health benefits to collective bargaining rights and the impartiality of grievance procedures. Classes were cancelled, professors were divided over whether they should cross picket lines and the general educational climate of the university suffered. These lessons should certainly not be lost on University President Judith Rodin, who was dean of Yale's graduate school during strikes in 1991 and 1992. We hope that her office and those of the individual school deans remain responsive to the needs and grievances of graduate students to head off conflicts in the future.


The end of a nightmare

(11/06/00 10:00am)

As expected, the University settled out of court last week the lawsuit filed six weeks ago by the family of Jesse Gelsinger, the Arizona teenager who died last year during the course of a Penn gene therapy trial. We hope that the settlement brings to an end the Gelsinger family's long nightmare. We cannot imagine how difficult it was to endure not only Jesse's premature and tragic death, but the great uncertainty that followed as Penn officials and federal regulators traded shots over alleged violations of research protocol in the University's gene therapy program. But even as the University coarsely refuses to apologize for its role in your son's death, our heartfelt sympathy goes out to you. We also hope that the University has learned its lesson from this whole sordid affair. Researchers should know that they cannot ignore matters of protocol, no matter how minor or seemingly inconsequential. They carry the lives of the innocent in their hands. They should know that they must always be honest and forthright about their mistakes. The University's months of bickering with the Food and Drug Administration only tainted its image further as it provided weak, incomplete responses to serious federal charges. And they should know that financial considerations should never supersede their primary responsibility to patient care. As the settlement demonstrates, disregard for human life will only have negative consequences at the end of the day. Ultimately, with the case of Gelsinger v. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania never going to trial, researchers and those with the responsibility for oversight of their work will never have to answer to charges in a public forum. It is perhaps a fitting, though unsatisfying conclusion for a long nightmare that began as Jesse Gelsinger, his lungs failing him, passed away in similar silence.


Al Gore for president

(11/02/00 10:00am)

By virtue of his experience, leadership, fiscal responsibility and concern for the welfare of the American people, we encourage you to vote for Al Gore as president of the United States on November 7. Over the last eight years, Gore has proven himself a capable deputy to President Clinton, redefining the role of the vice president in the process. For all his flaws, he has ably emerged from Clinton's shadow and outlined a plan for the American people that will best perpetuate this period of prosperity and provide for those left behind by the currents of the new economy. Votes for Gore are particularly crucial in Pennsylvania, a swing state where Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush are running neck-and-neck in the polls. Its 23 electoral votes may determine who inherits the Oval Office. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader is popular in Pennsylvania and on college campuses nationwide, but if you're thinking about voting for Nader, don't. Consider if you want to jeopardize the environment, consumer safety and abortion rights by tipping the electoral vote to Governor Bush. Voters may respect Nader's integrity and be wooed by Bush's charm, but Gore is the only candidate to bring to the table a socially and fiscally responsible vision for America in the 21st century. Economists are predicting budget surpluses above $4 trillion over the next decade, and each candidate has promised a combination of tax relief, increased spending and entitlement support. But while Bush would spend a hefty $1.3 trillion on a tax cut favoring the wealthiest Americans, Gore intends to put our fiscal house in order -- to see that this bounty benefits future generations -- by retiring the $3.6 trillion national debt. Eight years ago, our staggering debt threatened to overwhelm the national treasury as interest payments came to consume one out of every 10 federal budget dollars. Today, we have the chance to relieve ourselves and future generations of this burden, and it is an opportunity we must not squander. Gore also presents the more responsible stance on social policy. He would continue the fight to keep guns off the street. He stands in opposition to school prayer and in support of affirmative action and a woman's right to choose. And with his emphasis on ecologically friendly development, Gore may successfully bridge the competing imperatives of economic growth and environmental protection. Bush does deserve credit for his recognition that in our nation's deteriorating public schools, desperate times call for desperate measures. While the government's emphasis on local control may only exacerbate the inequality between rich and poor, his willingness to experiment with bold and innovative solutions should be embraced by the next administration. But in the realm of foreign affairs, Bush has not proven himself worthy of the highest elected office in the land. He plans to compensate for his utter lack of knowledge by taking on wise advisers, but we need a commander-in-chief who leads, not follows. Gore, who has taken the lead on national security issues over the last eight years and represented our interests abroad, has the necessary experience and judgment to handle the uncertainties and opportunities of this era of globalization. Al Gore is not a perfect man, nor a perfect candidate. His tendency to stretch the truth and his involvement in recent fundraising scandals are troubling. But Gore has demonstrated a willingness to transcend the mistakes of the past; what is important is not that he improperly raised funds in 1996, but that campaign finance reform would be his top legislative priority in 2001. Bush, on the other hand, has a history of glibly neglecting the details of his own proposals and deferring to the judgment of his subordinates. In his six years as governor of Texas, health care and the environment have suffered terribly. What's worse, Bush's idea of governance is to focus on a handful of issues to the detriment of other concerns; the president does not have that luxury. History will judge this period by how well we capitalize on unprecedented prosperity at home and confront an increasingly interdependent but volatile world. In this campaign, Gore has most clearly and articulately defined a vision of how America will face these twin challenges. For that, he deserves your vote.


Managing prosperity

(10/31/00 10:00am)

If the Congressional Budget Office is correct, the federal government will realize a whopping $4.3 trillion in budget surpluses over the next decade. This presents the United States with an unprecedented opportunity to put its fiscal house in order. Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush believes that this is the people's money, and that the surplus should be returned to them. The Democratic nominee, Al Gore, insists that the government can do a better job spending this money, and where it gives money back to the people, it should do so to further its policy goals. Bush's plan is to give much of the surplus -- essentially, the difference between what people and corporations pay in taxes and what the government spends -- back to the American people. His $1.3 trillion across-the-board tax cut, as Gore has repeatedly said, would go overwhelmingly to the richest Americans, who also now pay the heaviest share of taxes and would continue to do so; the plan would also remove many poorer Americans from the tax rolls. His spending plans are modest in comparison to the vice president's, focusing on pet issues like education and military preparedness. Gore plans to use the surplus as a tool of social policy. Tax breaks, instead of being across the board, would be targeted to those bearing the costs of health insurance, long-term care and college tuition. Money would help create retirement accounts for poor people, also furthering Gore's social policy goals, and domestic social spending in areas like the environment and education would receive substantial boosts. Gore has also pledged to use much of the surplus to pay down the government's $3.6 trillion in publicly held debt, the interest on which currently consumes more than a dime of every federal budget dollar. Gore would then invest those savings in Social Security and other programs. Bush has made no pledge to make substantial debt repayment a priority. Of course, the good times may not last forever. Congress is already eating into future surpluses, and should the economy falter, the projections may never materialize. Should that be the case, a commitment to tax cuts today may actually increase the national debt down the road. For voters, the issue comes down to whether they want the government to give its surplus back to them or to spend it on programs and pay down the national debt.


Time to name names

(10/26/00 9:00am)

It has been one year since the University set out to decide whether Penn should release the names of students convicted by the University judicial system of violent offenses or non-violent sexual offenses. The process was triggered by a change in the federal law that had once prohibited such disclosure on the grounds that it violated student privacy. Now that federal law no longer stands in the way, it is Penn's moral and ethical obligation to release the names of convicted student offenders. All Americans have a right to privacy. All Americans have a responsibility to obey the law. And all Americans -- except college students -- forfeit their right to privacy when they break the law. The logical reason for this is that rights and responsibilities are part and parcel. You can't have one without the other. The common sense reasons include: public humiliation as a deterrent to breaking the law in the first place; society's right to know who among us might break the law again; and the open courts as a guarantor of due process. Committee Chair Richard Beeman, dean of the College, has said early and often that the judicial system at Penn should not be considered equivalent to the American judicial system, where defendants names are always made public, because "we do have an obligation... to protect the privacy of our students." But Beeman has failed to explain why the rationale underlying the American legal system should not apply to Penn's legal system, too. Perhaps he thinks that mistakes made in college should not follow a person through life. When it comes to some mistakes, so does Congress. That is why Penn is legally barred from releasing the names of students convicted of a whole range of offenses ranging from cheating to damaging property. We'll not take issue with Congress in this space, though some might find it disturbing that this legal loophole shields only those who can afford to attend college. But we challenge Dean Beeman to explain why Penn students convicted of violent offenses or non-violent sexual offenses should not be held to the same standard as everyone else.


Standing up for Penn

(10/25/00 9:00am)

Few displays of student body unity are more visceral than when the Red and Blue faithful, standing at rapt attention, rattle the Palestra rafters with their eardrum-pounding chants during Penn men's basketball games. And few University policies last year were more ludicrous than the Athletic Department's decision to force those die-hard fannies back into their seats. In that light, the department's decision to reapportion seats in the coveted chairback section represents a necessary compromise. Under the plan, the three dozen adult season-ticket holders in Section 115 will be moved courtside, creating lines of sight for those seated in Sections 114 and 214 to see the action on the court without having to join the students on their feet. And the students, having sacrificed some of the best seats in the house, will now all be allowed to stand for the entirety of the contest. The perennial discord between the students and the adults -- whose views of the court are often blocked by standing students -- put Athletic Director Steve Bilsky in an uncomfortable position. On one side are the adult ticket buyers, many of whom have held their seats for decades, whose wallets help keep Penn's sports teams afloat. And on the other are the students, whose vocal support has propelled the Quakers to many a home victory. While we regret that many of the best seats once reserved for students are no longer available to undergraduates, this compromise was necessary. The optimal solution -- a Duke Blue Devils-style arrangement with students on one side of the court and adults on the other -- would have displaced hundreds of current season-ticket holders from their seats. We are happy that students will again be allowed to cheer for the Quakers in a way they only know how and that this matter has been finally put to rest.


American federalism

(10/24/00 9:00am)

During this presidential election season, you probably haven't given too much thought to the issue of federalism, the relationship between the states and the federal government. But no issue divides Al Gore and George W. Bush more than on which levels of government power should lie. The question before voters, while complicated, is whether the federal government should retain the vast powers it has today or if more should be left to the states and the free market. The issue permeates most facets of American life, from who determines educational standards for our schools to whether the federal government is allowed to prosecute certain crimes. At its heart, this is a constitutional matter. The nation's founding document enumerates certain rights for the federal government, such as waging war and regulating interstate commerce, while reserving the remainder to the individual states. It wasn't until the 1930s that the federal government first assumed its current activist role in American life. Gore, the Democratic nominee, is in many ways the heir to Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson and his current boss as a supporter of the modern regulatory state. Relying on a loose interpretation of the Constitution, the current administration has legislated vast new federal protections in areas once reserved for the states, such as gun control and domestic violence. Gore endorses federal regulatory powers over the environment and products like tobacco, and his Supreme Court would protect personal privacy rights -- including that to an abortion -- even though no such rights are mentioned in the Constitution. By his constant reminders that he trusts "the people," not Washington, GOP hopeful Bush would devolve much federal authority to states, individuals, faith-based organizations and the private sector. Should Bush win and the Republicans retain control of Congress, the legislature and the courts would be empowered to undertake the first major rollback of federal regulatory legislation in areas like the environment and consumer protection. This process has been underway in the judiciary since 1995, as strict constructionalists have overturned federal legislation like the Gun-Free School Zones and Violence Against Women acts, ruling that those issue areas belonged to the states. Bush has said he favors strict constructionalist justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and his new appointees would only speed up this trend. In essence, Gore would maintain active regulation at the federal level, while Bush would have the federal government dissolve many of its laws and give the states and local governments the option to reconstitute them individually.


Peter Traber, gone too soon

(08/31/00 9:00am)

"It's good for the organization to have permanent leadership to move forward." Peter Traber said those words in March, just after the "interim" was dropped from his title as interim CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. And we couldn't agree more. That is why it's all the more disheartening and disappointing that only four months later, Traber abruptly left the position he seemed poised to tackle. University President Judith Rodin appointed Traber to replace the beleaguered William Kelley as the Health System confronted mounting budget deficits approaching $300 million. Traber made a commitment -- indeed, he said he relished the opportunity -- to see the system through its remediation strategy. His personal manner and sense of purpose buoyed the morale of a staff that had suffered under Kelley. In that light, his decision to leave -- albeit for untold fortunes and professional opportunities at pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline -- was irresponsible. We don't know what other motivations led Traber to pack up his office in the Penn Tower Hotel. He was a shoo-in to be named dean of the Medical School, a position he had on an interim basis, and the Health System's finances were improving under his watch. But those forces could not have been so great as to lead him to sacrifice his personal credibility by abandoning a job he had sought for so long and held for so short a time


Welcome (back) to Penn

(08/31/00 9:00am)

Some things, it seems, will never change. Every year, a new freshman class arrives to the plaudits of administrators -- once again, it is the most accomplished class ever to enter the University -- and the amusement of upperclassmen seeing images of their former selves. Every year, we marvel at the progress made to the campus' physical and intellectual infrastructure over the summer and lament those areas where the University has fallen short. And every year, this being no exception, we welcome you -- back or for the first time -- to a campus in transition. As in each of the last several years, construction dominates the headlines -- and sidewalks -- at the University of Pennsylvania. At the very least, the oft-delayed Sundance Cinemas and Freshgrocer.com projects on 40th Street promise new entertainment and nourishment options for students before the end of the academic year. And at most, they may spur the revitalization of the corridor that historically has served as the dividing line between campus and community. In the heart of campus, work is progressing on Huntsman Hall, the state-of-the-art academic center that will house much of the Wharton School upon completion in 2002. Meanwhile, work winds down on the Perelman Quadrangle and the newly opened Houston Hall is poised to reclaim its role as the center of student life. Academic life at Penn will also undergo its own renovations this year. Two hundred students will test the first revision of the College's general education requirement in more than a decade, while at the same time Penn's largest undergraduate school experiments with an overhaul of its notoriously dysfunctional advising system. Two deanships -- Nursing and Medicine -- remain vacant, and committees are or will soon be in place to plug those holes. The added catch is that with the resignation of Peter Traber, Penn is looking for a single candidate to head both the Medical School and the Health System, whose beleaguered finances should concern all members of the school community. Other issues that will earn attention this year include the state of Penn's alcohol policy, the travails of the Political Science Department and the deliberations over the faculty's intellectual-property rights. And of course, our men's basketball team has an Ivy title to defend. We hope this issue serves as an introduction to Penn for new students and a catalog of the summer's changes for those returning. For our part, we'll strive to uphold the highest standards of fairness and accuracy in everything we print. Over the course of the year, we hope that you'll continue to turn to The Daily Pennsylvanian for news that matters to you, and to this page for editorials and columns that shed new light on the issues. Every day, you'll see the editors of the DP take a stance in the staff editorial appearing at the top of this page, and weekly columnists will give their views on life and events at the University. But this page is also for you -- for you to share your views on major issues, to offer praise and level criticism, to offer wisdom that we may not be privy to inside these walls. Let us know when you think we've done something well or when we can be doing our jobs better. Welcome, and we wish you a successful year


Investigation raises dorm security issue

(04/21/00 9:00am)

The fate of McGinn Security Services' agreement with the University to provide guard service in residence halls will be announced tomorrow by acting Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum. A report released by a committee of University officials, students and staff members earlier this week lists three courses of actions the University can take. One option is to terminate the contract with McGinn within 30 days. Another possibility is for the University to place the security firm on a 90-day probationary period. If there are any performance standard violations during this period, the agreement would be immediately terminated. Finally, the University can terminate the contract on June 30 of this year, four years earlier than when the contract is set to expire. If this is done, McGinn would have to rebid, along with other security firms, in order to receive the contract. Regardless of what McCoullum decides concerning McGinn, problems with residential security have been highlighted during the process and must still be addressed. Simply firing McGinn, if this is what the University decides to do, is not the ultimate solution to residential security problems, University Police Commissioner John Kuprevich has said repeatedly throughout the investigation. It still remains to be seen whether any other guard firm in the area will be able to provide better services for the University if the current residential security policy remains the same. A team of independent security consultants, in a report prepared for the Department of Public Safety, recommended that "the security function be re-organized and that security management, operators, programs and career development responsibilities be transferred to the Department of Public Safety." Residential security issues are currently handled by the Residential Living Department. And it was Residential Living, and not McGinn Security Services, that refused to allow guards to eat or drink at guard posts. Richard Schwab, a sleep expert at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in a report that this policy is a mistake and actually increases the likelihood that guards will fall asleep. Guards are now allowed to eat and drink at their posts as a result of these findings. Another concern with residential security is the fact that the security guards really only have one function, to check identification cards. Director of Public Safety George Clisby said guards should be given more responsibilities, such as patrolling student floors and the exteriors of buildings. If the University decides to have McGinn and other firms bid for a new contract, it will need to amend the contract to make sure specific guidelines for performance standards and responsibilities for the guards are explicitly stated. "Clearly no contract will be purchased with anyone that has no reference to performance standards," Interim President Claire Fagin said earlier this week. And McCoullum has said in the past month that the University has been looking into the possibility of investing in new technology such as the installation of ID scanners on the outside of buildings. She also said that it is important that the funding necessary for the improvement of residential security is raised. Last year, when Residential Living wanted to hire another roving guard from McGinn to patrol all the residences, it found there was no money in its budget to pay for this. Joseph McGinn Sr., president of McGinn Security Services, wound up paying for the additional guard at his own expense, Residential Living Director Gigi Simeone said. But McCoullum said Monday that regardless of the cost, improving residential security is a priority.


COLUMN: But what do you think?

(09/23/99 9:00am)

From Kent Malmros', "Everything Old is New Again," Fall '99 From Kent Malmros', "Everything Old is New Again," Fall '99Every day, we print 14,000 copies of The Daily Pennsylvanian, and you read them. Historically, there has been very little communication between our readers and our staff. You can write letters to the editor or call our offices to applaud or complain about something we have done. But we never truly ask you to give us feedback about our layout or our coverage. It is time to change that. As the executive editor of the DP, I spend a good deal of time discussing the way we operate and our reasons for doing certain things. Unfortunately, most of those discussions are with a couple dozen student leaders and administrators. But there are 24,000 other members of the Penn community reading our paper on a daily basis and your opinions are important to us. So from now on, I want to give you a way to make yourselves heard. Every Thursday night, I will put aside an hour, beginning at 7 p.m., to discuss the DP as much as you would like. I will be at Chats and I will be at your disposal. Take a look at my headcut and come introduce yourself to me. We as a staff have a responsibility to report the news in the clearest and most objective manner possible. We have a responsibility to provide a forum for ideas and free expression. And we have a responsibility to keep getting better as we do these things. Most of you probably take for granted that we work hard to get better. We continually look inward to find innovative ways to make our newspaper as good as it can be. But we need to start looking outward to our readership, giving them the chance to tell us what they like about us -- and what they don't like about us. For example, I may learn that spelling errors are people's greatest source of frustration when reading the news pages. Or there may be larger concerns. Students may have the opportunity to simply talk about their disappointment with lack of minority coverage in the DP or the lack of feature writing. By opening such channels of conversation, I will be able to identify problems that may have escaped our attention and talk with you about solutions that may not have occurred to us. If you know about a student who is of interest, we might not. Surely, there will be some of you who might want to just come and sit down with me and complain about issues that have bothered you for months, or even years. That's fine, too. For my part, the dialogue will give me the chance to explain how journalists work and what we try to accomplish. Such a conversation will provide me the opportunity to educate you about our product while you are educating me. Though such conversations may not lead to resolutions, they will lead to better understanding -- and that may be the beginning of positive change. I want to spend this semester trying to find out what students, faculty, staff and administrators want out of the DP. By setting a weekly meeting time, I hope to create a forum for conversation that will examine not only our coverage of issues but also your perceptions of media coverage on a larger scale. This will allow us to learn from you and it may give you the opportunity to understand just a little better what it is that we are trying to do. This semester will be one of change and improvement. We certainly will not be perfect -- no newspaper is. But don't ignore us when we make a mistake. Come find me tonight and help us find the solutions.