COUNCIL 1999-2000 Year-End Committee Reports
September 3, 2000
Discussed at Council on April 26, 2000
The University Council Committee on Community Relations met eight times during the 1999-2000 academic year to hear reports and conduct discussions within the framework of the following charge:
Over the past several years, the University has developed, with community input, a number of initiatives that seek to strengthen its relationship with its neighbors. Continue to maintain oversight of the University's impact on the community, giving special attention to real estate developments and transactions, the planned preK-8 school at the Divinity School, and the Center for Community Partnerships. Conduct meetings with selected neighborhood organizations and their leaders and other residents to determine their perception of the University's relationship with the community.
Expand the scope of the Committee's review to include the University's overall relationship with the City of Philadelphia.
At the beginning of each year this committee faces the challenge of ensuring that its members are adequately informed on the University's various programs and activities before it can usefully address its mandate--possibly a greater challenge than for other committees because of the sheer number and diversity of the University's relations with the community and the complexity of its history. The challenge is made more difficult by the fact that many of the members of the committee, representing (as they should) the interests of residents of different specific neighborhoods of West Philadelphia, have to balance their personal interests with the larger concern of the committee. In order to meet this challenge the committee usually spends a significant proportion of its time listening to briefings, leaving most of its information--gathering in the community to informal sampling of members. The existence of "Penn Faculty and Staff for Neighborhood Issues" (PFSNI), with its active listserv, while providing a welcome source of information, makes it more difficult for the Committee assess public opinion at large in the community.
Organization of Work
After discussing the charge the committee decided that since issues relating to University City and West Philadelphia were more immediate and information about them more accessible, and since much time would necessarily be taken up by briefing there would not be sufficient time to deal with the second paragraph. Briefings were organized in order to inform the members of the Committee on the following subjects:
Discussions arising from these briefings dealt with the following issues:
One subcommittee met at intervals through the year for the purpose of working out better ways to monitor perceptions beyond the opinions that were readily available in the local neighborhood press, the Inquirer and the Penn Faculty and Staff for Neighborhood Issues (PFSNI) listserv. The subcommittee addressed both the problem of perception of West Philadelphia in the University and in Center City, and the problem of perceptions of the University in West Philadelphia.
Overall the Committee found that concern about crime and danger on the streets appears to have decreased markedly over recent years, specifically since the University program of investing in the community became known. Attention now is focused rather on what appears to be disregard of local interests on the part of both public services and business interests. Although these may have no relationship to the University, nevertheless the University's image tends to suffer, because of the general impression that the University is powerful enough to make a difference, and if it is not involved it should be. Although in many cases these may have nothing to do with the University, for understandable reasons the University tends to be implicated in local perceptions. Reasoning tends to follow the logic that even if the University is not behind a particular enterprise or project, since it is involved in so many things it could also take a hand in this for the better.
The Committee was not able to attain closure on all of these issues but wishes to offer the following recommendations:
--Brian Spooner, Chair
Chair: Brian Spooner, anthro; Faculty: Janet Abrahm, medicine; Peter Dodson, animal biology; Lois K. Evans, nursing; Klaus Krippendorff, communication; Christopher Looby, English; Lyn Harper Mozley, psychiatry; Richard Womer, pediatrics; Graduate/professional students: Kristina Baumli, GAS; Darin Toliver, SW; Undergraduate students: Paige Kollock, Col; Rashmi Bhat, Col; PPSA: Jody Kolodzey, Development and Alumni Relations; Karlene Burrell-McRae, Greenfield Intercultural Ctr; Namrata Narain, Population Studies Ctr.; Tchet Dereic Dorman, Educ Opportunity Ctr; A-3: Barbara Holmes, Off-Campus Living; Regina Cantave, ISC; Ex officio: Jeanne Arnold, African American Res Ctr; Glenn Bryan, community relations; Vinnie Curren, WXPN; Michael Diorka, recreation; Lee D. Nunery, bus svcs for exec vice president; Pam Robinson, College Houses; Michael Rose, Annenberg Center.
Almanac, Vol. 47, No. 5, September 26, 2000