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`Insider' tips on integrity

(10/24/00 9:00am)

For all those who were wondering: Yes, he would do it again. Jeffrey Wigand, the former tobacco industry scientist whose interview was spiked from 60 Minutes and was then the subject of the 1999 film The Insider, spoke to a packed house at Houston Hall yesterday to kick off Penn's inaugural Academic Integrity Week. Wigand discussed his experiences in the tobacco industry, focusing on business ethics in an attempt to "create some fires" among the several hundred students in attendance. The lecture was co-sponsored by the Provost Spotlight Series. Wigand is best known for breaking a confidentiality agreement with Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation and disclosing that tobacco executives have long known that nicotine was addictive. He was interviewed by Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes in 1995 regarding his knowledge about the cigarette industry, and he testified before Congress in 1996, contradicting the testimony of the CEO of his former company. Wigand's story became more dramatic and high-profile, though, when CBS initially refused to air Wallace's interview with him because of fears over a threatened multi-billion dollar lawsuit, igniting a storm of controversy in the journalistic world. CBS eventually did air the interview, but not until the story had become public and The Wall Street Journal had run their own version. "I came forward because my moral compass told me to do so," Wigand said. "I believed that the truth would save me." The week-long academic integrity series will include a presentation of The Insider, in which Wigand is played by Academy Award nominee Russell Crowe. Wigand, who was originally hesitant about the movie, said he was pleased with the final product, which was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. "I was afraid that the movie wouldn't be consistent with the actual events," Wigand said. "But everyone involved did a phenomenal job." The lecture was attended by a standing-room-only variety of students and faculty members. Reasons for attendance were as diverse as the audience itself. "I'm here because I'm interested in the legal issues of confidentiality," College senior Brad Moore said. "Dr. Wigand has a more personal approach than a legal expert would." "I want to see how he feels in retrospect," College sophomore Trip Clattenburg added. "It's interesting to see the moral dilemma he faced and why he chose to come forward." Wigand blamed many of the problems with tobacco on the lack of government regulation of the industry. He also chided the companies themselves for marketing their products to young children. His talk did mention some of the dramatic moments depicted in the film, such as the anonymous death threats he received for his role as a "whistleblower" -- a term he says he hates -- and his heated battle with CBS executives over his story. But he largely focused his talk on the dangers of nicotine and its marketing. "Children barely out of diapers become addicted to a substance just as addictive as cocaine," Wigand said. "It's an addiction that starts out as an image and leads up to a chemical substance." Wigand was one of 51 teachers in the nation awarded the Sally May Teacher of the Year award in 1996. Since he "reluctantly" stopped teaching in 1998, Wigand has founded Smoke-Free Kids, a non-profit organization intended to teach kids about the dangers of nicotine at a young age. Wigand charged the students in attendance with analyzing the case themselves to determine the truth about nicotine addiction. He also implored the audience to make a difference in the world. When asked about his decision to break his legal agreement with Brown and Williamson, Wigand was clear in his message. "I'm not asking for empathy or sympathy. I would do it again without compunction," he said. Wigand's talk opened the first annual Academic Integrity Week. Other events that will occur in the next several days include an ethics panel tomorrow afternoon and a speech by Mayor John Street on Friday. "The goal of this series of events is to promote awareness of academic integrity at Penn, and to let people know that we take it seriously," Council Chairwoman Rikki Tannenbaum said.

Scholar talks welfare reform

(10/09/00 9:00am)

Attempting to correct "fundamental assumptions about welfare and welfare families" in America, Harvard University professor William Julius Wilson spoke to a standing-room-only crowd in Logan Hall on Friday afternoon. In his hour-long lecture, entitled "Welfare: Children and Families," Wilson discussed the changing face of welfare reform in today's society. Wilson gave the fourth annual Sackler Lecture, an event sponsored by a Penn alumnus and produced by the Sociology Department. "The lecture is intended to raise the profile of the social sciences and make people aware of its relevance in all fields," Sociology Department Chairman Doug Massey said. Wilson, a former colleague of Massey's at the University of Chicago, has been highly recognized as a distinguished scholar in the field of welfare reform. He has written numerous books that have led to massive changes in the welfare field, and he has worked extensively with President Clinton on welfare legislation. "It is premature to declare welfare reform a successful experiment," Wilson said. "We still must resolve the problems that will return when we return to normal economic times." He then noted, "the United States has no comprehensive program to protect the social rights of its citizens." As a result, he compared the nation unfavorably to Canada and many Western European countries. "Americans are far more concerned with the social obligations of the poor than with their social rights," he added. Wilson's words extended past University gates. The lecture brought together colleagues of Wilson, alumni, professionals in the welfare field and Penn students. He also fought through technical difficulties to get his message across. Midway through the lecture, after minutes of fading in and out of the sound system, the professor was forced to pause and change microphones. Still, audio problems notwithstanding, Wilson made it clear that a different type of reform was needed. "Efforts should be made to facilitate the transition from welfare to work," Wilson said. "Right now, it would not be in the best interest of many welfare recipients to enter the labor market." Students were largely impressed with the professor's distinctive -- if not controversial -- take on the subject. "He has a lot of innovative ideas in his work," College senior Jennifer Pettit said. "I've read his books, but I want to hear it from him." Raising consciousness was Wilson's intention in giving the lecture. "There are a lot of people here who will become leaders or who will be in the position to address these problems in the near future," Wilson said.

La creme de la crepe

(10/02/00 9:00am)

On the surface, there is absolutely nothing majestic about La Petite Creperie. The taxicab-yellow canopy that drapes over the silver cart has been tarnished by months of rain, snow and the occasional bird. The cart is wedged in place by an ominous rock that fits underneath one of the rusting, tricycle-sized wheels, and it's tucked away in a veritable no-man's-land outside Gimbel Gymnasium. Fine, but these physical obstacles mean little when you're the king of the Penn food cart scene, when you revitalize a snooty European delicacy and when you're swarmed by hundreds of customers every day. Since its inception only two years ago, La Petite Creperie has become both a local and citywide sensation. The cart has been featured in Philadelphia Magazine's "Best of Philadelphia" issue for each of the past two years. The crepes are legendary on Penn's campus, and the stand packs half-hour long waits from opening at 11 a.m. to closing at 8:30 p.m. So what's the deal? Why all the attention? Try this: "Escape the ordinary." It's the phrase that's written on every single crepe box, explains Andreas Andoniadies, the owner of the cart. "Nobody else does what we do. That's why I started this business. People come out of curiosity." On a typical day, Andoniadies can be found standing directly in the middle of the compact rectangular stand in his green-collared shirt, taking orders and beckoning customers to pick up their steaming meals. He is flanked by two men who fry the savory "French-style" pancake, and one chef who prepares the assorted ingredients for their future home. "We produce so much food in so little space. It's amazing," Andoniadies says. Prior to creating this exotic station, Andoniadies owned three different businesses, including the pizza stand at the food court in the basement of the old Houston Hall. When renovations began on the student union two years ago, he lost his station and was left with two choices. "I could have started another pizza or Chinese food stand, but there were so many of them. So I decided to do something completely different," he says. To fully appreciate the lunchtime meal he provides, it's necessary to begin when some students are first going to sleep. The average day for Andoniadies starts at 5 a.m., when he and his team begin to prepare the goods. The fruits, vegetables and meats run through the gauntlet of cleanliness. The crepe batter is molded from scratch each day. It's this, his crack-of-dawn ritual, to which Andoniadies credits the quality of his product. "The key to success is freshness," Andoniadies says. "Every day, all of the ingredients have to be fresh. That is what makes the crepes so tasty." The success certainly is not reflective of the location. La Petite Creperie is situated on 37th and Walnut streets, sandwiched between what Andoniadies calls his worst enemies: a parking garage and Gimbel Gym. Still, the daunting line that forms in front of the cart each day is visible from the street. And usually, especially on sunny days, a long wait is hardly a deterrent. "A true sign of our success is our location," Andoniadies says. "People have to walk a couple of blocks just to get here, and they still come." And walk they do. "When I need a break from fast food, I'll go over to the crepe stand no matter where I'm headed next," College freshman Miriam Bloom says. "It's completely worth it." Not that making a crepe is an arduous task. In fact, it takes just two minutes to make the average one with assorted fillings. But customers lounge patiently in the cart's shadow for up to an hour at times for an overstuffed pastry. "If I have an hour to kill between classes, I bring some work and come here for lunch," College sophomore Ariel Amdur says. Just don't expect the neighbors to share in the glory. All of the praise that La Petite Creperie receives has begun to wear on some of the other food carts in the region. In some cases, the competing cart owners express resentment toward the popularity of Andoniadies' enterprise. Even as they helplessly watch their lines dwindle in comparison to that of the crepe cart, most rival owners maintain that they're no less revered. Take, for example, the administrator of the Quaker Shaker -- a stand devoted to traditional grilled entrees -- who had only this to say when asked about La Petite Creperie: "What makes you think that he does any better business than I do?" One hidden secret of the super-stand is that the food is surprisingly healthy. In creating the batter for the crepes, Andoniadies and his staff do not use sugar at all. In addition, three crepes are made per egg used. The remainder of the ingredients -- butter, natural flour, and water -- are what help make the crepe "very light and crispy," Andoniadies says. "The appearance of being healthy and different has really contributed to its appeal," second-year Wharton graduate student Emily Cohen says. Regardless of the reasons, La Petite Creperie remains the standard by which all other food carts are measured at Penn. Andoniadies beams as he shows off his newspaper clippings that shroud the counter in front of the cash register and proclaim him "Best Vendor in the City." "It could have been a huge success or a huge failure," he says. "We were successful from day one."

Phila. students party at Convention Center

(09/18/00 9:00am)

Free stuff: every college student's dream. This weekend, students from the Philadelphia area got the chance to have their dreams realized. The first-ever Student Splash convention took place at the Pennsylvania Convention Center yesterday and Saturday. From T-shirts to movie passes to bookbags, local high school and college students were given the opportunity to load up their drawers and closets for the small price of having their e-mail boxes filled with junk mail from dozens of companies, both local and national. Several hundred area college students turned out for the two-day party, though the Penn turnout was scarce. "We wanted to create an event for students that was entertaining, and at the same time give companies the chance to market their products to a teenage audience," said Brad Broker, an organizer for the event. Companies such as Gateway, K2 Skating and AT&T; had booths on the floor of the convention center, as did the WB17 television station and dozens of Internet sites. "I had a great time, but I've got so many T-shirts I don't know what to do with them," College freshman Kate Lehman said. The free goods, for many, was reason enough to go downtown. But others were drawn by the chance to meet their favorite television stars. Dr. Drew Pinsky, host of the syndicated radio talk show and MTV late-night show Loveline, hosted a question-and-answer segment for students who dared to ask questions about their health, both physical and mental. He offered his opinions on the differences between men and women and discussed the ever-increasing role of sex in America's youth. "I love getting the chance to talk to young people about important health issues that can help them throughout the rest of their lives," Pinsky said. Another major attraction was the New York Comedy Film Festival, sponsored by the Burly Bear Network. In addition to showing short films by A-list celebrities Chris Rock and Conan O'Brien, stand-up comedians such as Sherrod Small and Jim Gaffigan performed for the audience. "It's fun to perform for college kids. They're always a receptive crowd," Small said following his performance in front of about 40 students. Broker said that in addition to groups like MTV volunteering their services, the organizers polled local students to determine which speakers, bands and comedians they would like to see perform. Guests such as Bryce Johnson, star of the WB show Popular, and current Real World cast members Melissa, Danny and Matt made the trip to Philadelphia for the weekend. All three nouveau celebrities attended on behalf of Contiki Tours, the same group that sponsored the New Orleans housemates' trip to South Africa. "I always enjoy these events. It makes people happy, so it's worthwhile," said Matt, who also hosted a question-and-answer session. Jimmie's Chicken Shack, an underground group from Annapolis, Md., performed after popular response gained them an invitation. Drummer Mike Sipple said the band was "surprised to be asked. We were in the studio recording our next CD, and we weren't even on tour. But we love playing different cities, meeting new people and showing our fans a good time." The reasons for attending were as diverse as the lineup itself. Still, whether they came to meet Dr. Drew or to take home a Dr. Drew keychain, most everyone agreed that it was worth the trip. "It's great because it gives us something to do on a weekend aside from study," Temple University sophomore Sara Ironman said.