To the University Community

We are pleased to release two reports that will help guide the University in improving the residential system for undergraduates. The commissioning of these reports was part of the continuing work of the 21st Century Project for the Undergraduate Experience, a major initiative of the Agenda for Excellence. One of the principal goals of the Project is to integrate residential living into the intellectual and cultural life of the University and especially to link residential programming, where appropriate, with the academic activities of the schools. These reports will help us further these aims.

The first report was produced by a committee chaired by Professor David Brownlee (Art History, SAS). The committee was charged by the Council of Undergraduate Deans, chaired by the Provost, to design the Programmatic aspects of a residential system that would achieve the goals of the 21st Century Project. The Council also was concerned that Penn undergraduates be given greater choice in their living arrangements and that the fraternities and sororities be included in the conception of a new system.

The second report was commissioned by the Executive Vice President and the Provost to assess the physical and financial condition of Penn residences, including the graduate residences. The residential facilities assessment was carried out by the firm of Biddison Hier in close coordination with VPUL Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum and Vice President for Business Services Steve Murray. The Biddison Hier preliminary report provides a summary project update that will help inform the renovation and expansion of Penn's residential facilities.

Between now and September, the partnership of the VPUL and Business Services--representing the Provost and Executive Vice President --will create detailed implementation plans for a residential system based on the Brownlee committee recommendations as well as those from Biddison Hier. We look forward to discussing these plans with the community in the Fall.

-- Stanley Chodorow, Provost, and John Fry, Executive Vice President

Choosing Community

Report of the Residential Planning Committee of the 21st Century Project
April 15, 1997


Academic work and academic life are a seamless whole, and the University's residential system should foster communities that serve our students' overlapping academic, co-curricular, social, and personal needs. Real human community and face-to-face contact remain vitally important to intellectual life even--and perhaps especially--in this age of virtual realities and electronic communication. This report adopts as its foundation the powerful arguments which have been employed in the past to support the making of such communities. It also makes concrete recommendations for the fulfillment of this long held vision, although it does not include consideration of funding or management.

Our central recommendation is that undergraduate housing at the University of Pennsylvania should be organized as multi-year "Residential Communities," which include faculty and graduate students. The communities must attract and accommodate undergraduates throughout their years of study and further the central academic mission of the University. To accomplish this, the housing system must be broad and flexible, and means must be found to sustain the Community affiliation of those students who live off-campus or in fraternities and sororities. The Residential Communities must offer a variety of housing options to meet the different preferences of students at different times in their academic careers, and they must support academic and co-curricular programming whose variety and varying intensity matches the range of student needs and interests.


Penn's Residential Communities must support the variety of activities for which the residences are the most effective location and out of which the collocation of residents of different ages, interests, and experiences will naturally arise. Students in every Residential Community (and, insofar as possible, off-campus residents as well) should be guaranteed access to core services that are essential to their education. Some of the Residential Communities will support additional programming.

Core Functions (to be provided in all Communities)

Additional Functions (to be provided in some Communities)

Some of the Residential Communities should support more intensive programming, including programming that serves thematic curricular and extra-curricular interests. Some of the Communities may be entirely devoted to thematic activities (like the present thematic College Houses), while smaller groups of students interested in thematic activity can be accommodated within the unspecialized Residential Communities (like the present Living-Learning programs). The residential system must possess sufficient flexibility so that such special-interest programs can form, grow, shrink, and even pass out of existence.

The more intensively programmed Communities will provide additional, specialized advising where appropriate and additional academic support to meet the needs and interests of their residents. They may, in cooperation with the schools, mount credit-bearing courses. These Communities will also support special extra- and co-curricular interests, in such areas as art and theater.


The University's Residential Communities will need a variety of facilities--many of which are already in place--to serve the functions outlined above. Many core functions must be served by facilities located in each Community, while the plethora of possible additional functions will depend on specialized facilities scattered throughout the residential system and in program "Hubs." Some functions--both core and other--can be served most efficiently by shared facilities. We expect that specific architectural solutions will vary widely among the Residential Communities.

Facilities Located in All Communities

Facilities Located in Some Communities

Centrally Located, Shared Facilities

Population and Personnel

Penn should establish a comprehensive system of Residential Communities that preserves the present College Houses and establishes new Communities of approximately 400-500 undergraduate members in all other residential buildings. Each of the resulting 16 Communities should include two faculty members (one of whom is the Master), a Residence Dean, a number of Graduate Associates (approximately one for every fifty undergraduates), and a staff of undergraduate Resident Advisors (RAs), managers, and Information Technology Advisors (ITAs) comparable to present levels. Those Communities which support more intensive programming may require additional personnel. New construction should create additional Residential Communities with these characteristics.

Phasing and Implementation

The University can implement the recommendations outlined above throughout its residential system beginning in September 1998. We believe that the entire system should be reorganized at once in the interest of fairness, intelligibility, and confidence-building. These recommendations are sufficiently broad and the proposed system sufficiently flexible to allow for extensive refinement and development. But it is important to establish the framework as soon as possible.

Residential Communities can be readily and swiftly created in the current College Houses and Kings Court/English House. This requires only the reduction of undergraduate capacity (in order to create more attractive upperclass housing), the appointment of Residence Deans, and the assignment of Graduate Associates to Kings Court/English House. In the medium-term, deferred maintenance work should include physical alterations designed to increase room variety in these residences.

It is imperative that planning go ahead rapidly for the creation of Residential Communities in the Quad and High Rises, identifying acceptable short-term arrangements while paving the way for medium-term, capital-intensive renovation. In both the Quadrangle and High Rises, the Residential Communities should make efficient use of the substantial existing common space and, in the Quad, the existing faculty/staff apartments. Renovations necessary to provide the Communities with other essential facilities should be made. Communal dining space for the Quad and High Rise Communities should be arranged in Stouffer Commons and the Class of 1920 Commons, in conjunction with the implementation of recommendations stemming from the general study of dining services. (If the two Commons lack sufficient capacity, other existing large dining facilities should be considered for temporary use--e.g., Alumni Hall in the Faculty Club, the Gold Standard cafeteria in the Christian Association.) In the medium term, deferred maintenance campaigns in the Quad, High Rises, and their associated dining commons should enhance the identity of the several Communities, increase room variety, and better adapt the dining halls for Community use.

The phasing of new construction will depend largely on the availability of capital resources and may be coincident with the short- and medium-term work on older buildings. New construction should create additional 400-to-500-member Communities and the necessary dining facilities.

The summer of 1997 and AY 1997-1998 should be devoted to detailed planning and implementation of the short-term agenda. Faculty Masters (selected from all the schools) and client committees (including staff and students) should be appointed for each Community. Architectural and food service consultants should be hired to guide the short-term implementation strategy and define the mid- and long-term projects.

Implementation should be undertaken under the direction of the Provost and the Executive Vice President. They should be advised by an implementation committee, comprising representatives of the Council of Undergraduate Deans (CUD) and of the expanded, 16-member Residential Faculty Council (RFC).

The Residential Planning Committee of the 21st Century Project

David B. Brownlee, SAS (chair)
Rachael Goldfarb, Student Committee on Undergraduate Education
Christopher Dennis, Academic Programs in Residence
Wanda Mohr, Nursing
David P. Pope, SEAS
Gino Segre, SAS
Joseph Sun, Wharton
Roshini Thayaparan, Residential Advisory Board
Susan Albertine, 21st Century Project

University of Pennsylvania
Preliminary Housing Redevelopment Plan

Summary Project Update

April 1, 1997


In August of 1996, the University of Pennsylvania engaged Biddison Hier, Ltd. assist in creating a Housing Redevelopment Plan for the repair, modernization and reconfiguration of the University's student housing. This summary has been prepared as an update on that plan.

Composition of the housing system
The University's housing system is comprised of 14 on-campus residence halls concentrated in three campus precincts:

I. Western precinct (Hamilton Village, formerly "Superblock" area, between 38th and 40th Street)

II. Southern precinct (including the Quadrangle and Stouffer)

III. Northern precinct (including Graduate Towers and undergraduate housing at King' Court, English and Hill houses)

Capacity of the housing system
Current capacity of the housing system is approximately 1,252 beds of graduate housing and 5,873 beds of undergraduate housing.

Goals of the Study

I. Develop a plan for reinvesting in Penn's housing that supports andstrengthens Penn's residential colleges by providing housing that enriches the development of Penn students and complements formal, in-class learning.

II. Develop a comprehensive physical inventory data set which the University can use in subsequent projects to physically upgrade and modernize residences.

III. Utilize indoor and outdoor space more effectively to enliven the campus and to integrate housing with other on-campus venues, such as Perelman Quad, food service, retail and recreation, for social and academic life.

The five major areas of the study are as follows:

I. Market Research

A. Qualitative (student focus groups and interviews with faculty, administrators, University committees)

B. Quantitative (professional, graduate and undergraduate student surveys)

C. Competitive context (local market--West Philadelphia and Center City--and peer institutions)

II. Program Review and coordination with other program initiatives (e.g., Brownlee Committee)

III. Physical Condition Assessment

IV. Operations and Management Review

V. Financial Analysis and Phasing/Funding Strategy

Preliminary Summary of Findings

Findings are derived from information provided in student focus groups, various on-campus interviews, undergraduate, professional and graduate student surveys, and a review of facilities conditions.


Housing capacity reduced over time
The capacity of Penn's housing system has been adjusted downward (there were approximately 1,100 fewer on-campus beds in 1996 than there were in 1981), reflecting both changing student preferences for unit types and diminished demand.

System-wide occupancy under 90%
The combination of these factors plus the availability of off-campus housing result in on campus occupancy of about 88% for undergraduate students and 84% for graduate and professional students. Desirable occupancy levels would be in the 95% or better range.

Aging housing
The most recent residential construction was in the early 1970s, when over 50% of Penn's housing was constructed. The remaining housing is even older and the entire system is due for substantial reinvestment in the upgrading and replacement of aging building systems, furnishings, new guideline and code requirements, etc.

Declining physical conditions
The majority of students' qualitative comments about housing concerned the physical condition of the buildings--poorly functioning building systems, out-of-date furnishings and timeliness of response to requests for repairs.

Robust academic and student leadership
Through the Residential Faculty Council (faculty) and Residential Advisory Board (students), closely partnered by staff, there is active and vibrant stewardship of the residential living and academic program components, which are a model for the nation.

Graduate/Professional Students

Interest in on-campus housing, especially during first year graduate and professional students support the idea of on-campus housing, with interest strongest for the first year.

I. Apartments are the unit of choice.

II. Students prefer to live alone (51%), or with one other person (42%).

III. Graduate and professional students interested in on-campus housing, while valuing the convenience, still seek a sense of separation of "work and play."

Strong "word-of-mouth" network for disseminating housing information
Much of the information that students use to make housing decisions comes by word of mouth, even in advance of arriving on campus. Importance of personal safety in housing decision Graduate and professional students attach importance to personal safety(attaching a higher value to perceptions of safety over convenience in many cases) and independent living.

Convenient leasing a plus
On-campus housing has appeal to professional students for the lease term options and to incoming students for the "hassle free" rent-up process.

Undergraduate Students

Why undergrads remain on-campus
Surveys indicate that the significant factors in undergraduate students' decisions to remain on-campus are, in order:

I. convenience (85%)

II. ResNet (53%)

III. feel safer (53%)

IV. opportunities to make friends (43%)

V. an important part of the collegiate experience (41%), and

VI. parental or family preferences (34%).

Why they move off
Significant reasons to live off-campus are:

I. housing is a "better value"; to live with friends; and size of rooms (tied at 67% each)

II. to have a more "independent living" situation (62%)

III. kitchen (53%)

IV. more privacy (50%), and

V. better and/or more amenities (53%).

Strong continuing interest in on-campus living among sophomore residents
A high percentage of students who remain on campus sophomore year expect to remain on campus one or more additional year (70% of Sophomores; 61% of Juniors).

Strong interest in new/renovated housing
A substantial percentage (86%) of all undergraduate students, both on and off campus, would consider living in new or renovated on-campus housing.

Amenity preferences
Preferred amenities associated with residences, are, in order:

I. computer room and support (80%)

II. fitness/exercise space (65%)

III. informal lounges/group study spaces (tied at 55% each), and

IV. a TV/game room.

Penn residential culture has roots in "communities"
Living in "communities" is especially important to Penn undergraduates (nearly 50% would elect to live with 4 or more students), but after freshman year, the majority of students prefer single occupancy bedrooms (60% of sophomores and 80% each of juniors and seniors).

Off-campus undergraduates retain connection to campus
Undergraduate students who move off-campus tend to retain a sense of connection to Penn, and move almost exclusively into the nearby neighborhoods of West Philadelphia.

Diversity is key for Penn students
There is great diversity of opinion about what is a "good" residential experience among Penn students, varying from student to student and by developmental stage.


Condition Audit

Comprehensive physical assessment of residences
Over a period of 4 months, a comprehensive physical inspection of all residence halls was conducted by the Atlanta-based firm of ISES, including an examination of site issues, condition of the building exteriors, interior finishes, compliance with ADA accessibility guidelines, fire and life safety issues and condition of building systems(heating, ventilating, air conditioning, electrical and plumbing).

Base-line renovation costs established
The ISES assessment provided a comprehensive catalogue of major repairs and investments that could be made in the buildings. This data, which identifies base-line costs for renovations, has been provided to Penn's Vice President for Facilities Management and the Residential Operations and Maintenance unit to create a data base which can be used to inform program and capital investment projects. Most of the base-line investments required are for the replacement of out-worn or outmoded building systems and in the refurbishing of the interiors.

Other program investments will be required
Additional investments (base-line costs do not include costs that may be incurred for unit reconfigurations, renovating common space, etc.) will be needed for both graduate and undergraduate housing.

Summary of Operational and Management Issues

Faculty and staff perform both programmatic and operational functions
Penn is one of the few Ivy League universities that has a combined residence life-housing management operation, and many residential faculty and staff currently perform a mix of program and operational functions. Academic program and residential living program components are exemplary.

Maintenance is the major operational issue for students
Residential maintenance issues received the second highest number of comments in focus groups (second after physical condition), with students generally unhappy about the current system of residential maintenance and operations.

Complexity of room types and rates
The current system is characterized by complexity in room types and room rates (approximately 60 discrete room codes for undergraduate room types and 13 for graduate room or unit types).

Preliminary Recommendations


Choice and options
Penn's housing system should be structured physically and programmatically to provide some reasonable range of choice to students and accommodate differing needs and interests.

Residences should physically support communities
Physically configure housing inventory to accommodate three primary types of communities: (1) high structure, (2) medium structure, and (3) low structure.

Primary community attributes

Primary attributes of communities are:

High Structure Communities
Primary community for students is within the residence; rich offerings of programs, activities and large amount of community space; communities have faculty and graduate fellows in residence and either a dining facility in the residence or a dedicated space and time within a nearby dining facility. High structure communities are targeted to comprise approximately 42% of undergraduate housing.

Proposed locations for high structure communities: (programs currently located within buildings may need to be relocated during renovation and /or new construction periods)

I. Class of 1925

II. Hill

III. King's Court/English

IV. Low Rise North

V. Stouffer

VI. Quadrangle

VII. Van Pelt

VIII. Ware

IX. portion of one or more high rises if required

Medium Structure Communities
Community for students is both within the residence and the wider Penn community; programs and activities tend to be student-directed; communities would have less common space than high structure communities, but would have provisions for technology and technology support services. Medium structure communities targeted to comprise approximately 29% of undergraduate housing.

Medium structure communities:

I. High rises

II. Fraternities and Sororities

Low Structure Communities
Communities are characterized by loose, informal affiliations of residents; common space and provisions for meal preparation would typically be included within the housing unit; provisions for a base level of technology support would be provided. Low structure communities are targeted to comprise approximately 29% of undergraduate housing.

Low structure communities:

I. High rises

II. Any new housing to be constructed

Redevelopment Recommendations

Northeast Precinct

Graduate Towers ("Sansom" Towers)
Graduate Towers are renovated as full apartments, assumed to be one bedroom units, as a part of the creation of Sansom Common.

Sansom Common
Sansom Common, which includes construction of a new Penn bookstore, an inn, new food service and retail options, will offer amenities attractive to graduate and professional students.

The Sheraton is used in the near to mid-term as swing space to house students (may be undergraduate or graduate, depending on need and timing) during housing renovations and is available over the long term for additional housing or other institutional uses.

Base-line investments and upgrades
The requisite deferred maintenance and upgrades are performed for Hill and King's Court/English.

Western Precinct

New construction
Western edge of campus is revitalized through development of new in fill "low structure" housing, assumed to be apartments, on the Hamilton Village site (site studies are currently in progress to determine site capacity, massing, etc.) and through enhancements to existing 40th Street retail.

Renovate high rises
High rise residence halls are refurbished and common areas revitalized to provide services and amenities (technology support centers, recreational opportunities, etc.) that cannot be found in off-campus housing.

Southern Precinct

Quad renovated and program space added
Quadrangle is fully renovated and program space required to support high structure communities is added.

Stouffer removed from housing system
Stouffer is removed from service as housing and becomes available for other institutional uses. (If this option is chosen, the Stouffer High Structure community would be relocated to another residence.)

Operations and Management

Retain and expand the faculty, student and staff oversight of the residential living and academic programs. Separate the operational functions of the residence halls from the programmatic.

Next Steps

Next steps are to provide the above recommendations to the Brownlee Committee for consideration.


Volume 43 Number 32
April 29, 1997

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