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COUNCIL Committee 2001-2002 Year-end Reports

Report of the Committee on Community Relations

April 25, 2002

Discussed at Council April 24, 2002


The Committee on Community Relations of the University Council was charged this year with three specific tasks: (1) to assess the current state of communications between the University and the local communities of West Philadelphia and University City and to recommend how these communications might be improved, (2) to work with the administration to develop protocols for communications across the University on projects that involve outreach from the campus or have an affect on the adjacent local community, and (3) to review the Community Service Directory produced by the Center for Community Partnerships. In addition, the Committee has a standing general charge that will be discussed further below. Most of the Committee’s work " including seven meetings of the Committee during the 2001-2002 academic year" focused on the first of our specific charges: assessing the University’s communications with the local community.

University Communications with the Local Community

Our method as a Committee acting as a whole was to invite various officers of the administration who have responsibilities related to communications with the local community to present their perspectives. We then engaged in a back-and-forth, question-and-answer discussions with these representatives. Many members of the Committee live in the local community. The following representatives of the University were invited to join us to discuss their activities and views at specific meetings: Glenn Bryan, Assistant to the Vice President for Government, Community, and Public Affairs and Director of City and Community Relations; Lori Doyle, Director of University Communications; Lucy Kerman, Special Projects Coordinator for the President’s Office; Thomas Lussenhop, Managing Director of Institutional Real Estate; Thomas Rambo, Chief of the University of Pennsylvania Police and Public Safety; Pedro Ramos, Vice President and Chief of Staff; and Stefany Williams-Jones, Director of Community Housing. The chair of the Committee chair met separately with Glenn Bryan, Pedro Ramos, and Omar Blaik, the Vice President for Facilities and Real Estate Services.

In general, the Committee found that the University takes its responsibility of communicating effectively with the local community very seriously. Each of the administrators with whom we talked seemed to be working hard in this respect. Our overall assessment is therefore positive. In the past, Penn has not always had a good reputation in terms of its relationships with its local community neighbors. Recently, however, at least under President Rodin’s watch and probably before, an institutional change has taken place that has begun to put the University in much better overall standing with its local neighbors. Our Committee nevertheless found some areas in need of improvement. The challenge for the future is to build on positive communication policies and processes that have been adopted in some of the University’s activities and establish them more broadly. Good practices of communication with Penn’s local communities should be continued and further institutionalized.

The Office of City and Community Relations: New Community Service Directory

The Office of City and Community Relations is one point of contact between the University and various local community groups. It is involved in five West Philadelphia Initiatives. (For a description of them, see Glenn Bryan serves as the director of City and Community Relations and reports to the University’s Vice President for Government, Community, and Public Affairs. Mr. Bryan reviewed the office’s activities and goals with the Committee and provided periodic updates through the year. The office meets regularly with local community umbrella associations (including Cedar Park Neighbors, Garden Court Community Association, Powelton Village Civic Association, Squirrel Hill Community Association, Spruce Hill Community Association, and Walnut Hill Community Association), as well as other community organizations such as the University City District, local faith-based institutions, educational institutions, and the City of Philadelphia. The office fields telephone calls that include complaints as well as requests for information. Approximately 40 to 50 calls are logged daily. One recent innovation in local communications has been the establishment of a monthly "First Thursday" morning information session. These sessions are open to all members of the community who may come to ask questions, discuss particular concerns, and learn about new developments. The Committee strongly recommended that these sessions continue in the future.

The Office of City and Community Relations is also responsible, together with the Center for Community Partnerships, for the publication of the Community Service Directory, which was published this year and unveiled at a special ceremony presided over by President Rodin in February 2002. The Committee reviewed the new Directory and found it to be excellently done and useful. For updated information, the Community Service Directory is best consulted online.

Contact information for the Office of City and Community Relations: Phone: (215) 898-3565. Web:

Website for Community Services Directory:

University Communication Strategy and Policy: New Penn Internet Design

University communications with the local community must be understood as part of the broader context of the University’s mission. The Director of University Communications, Lori Doyle, joined the Committee to present and discuss the University’s Communications Strategic Plan.

Penn’s current communication strategy is designed to follow the institutional goals outlined by the Agenda for Excellence. In pursuing these goals, the strategy aims to burnish the reputation, image, and brand of the University of Pennsylvania. Its objectives include: positioning Penn as one of the world’s leading universities; increasing international visibility; managing major issues and crisis situations; supporting fundraising; and, importantly from our Committee’s perspective, gaining recognition for the University as a good corporate citizen committed to the betterment of the surrounding community and the City of Philadelphia.

Some of the messages and positioning statements that guide the current communications strategy are the following:

• Penn has a world-renowned faculty committed to teaching and research and attracts outstanding students from around the world.

•  Penn is a world-class research institution.

• Penn is an international university with global perspective.

• Penn creates leaders through its undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs.

• Penn is unique in that all of its schools and programs are located on one campus, which encourages interdisciplinary learning and research.

• Penn is a beautiful university located in a great and livable city.

• Penn plays a leadership role in the local community to enhance the quality of life for all citizens.

From this selection, it is clear that the priority of communications with the local community highlighted by the last of these statements must be balanced with other priorities.

Penn’s communication strategy focuses on all media. Although Americans get their news mainly from television, followed by newspapers, and radio, a recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that more and more Americans are turning to the Internet for information. The web is an increasingly important source of information for prospective students, potential faculty and staff, donors, and others. It provides many with their first impression of Penn. A priority for Penn’s communication strategy is therefore to develop a comprehensive University web management program, including a redesign of the University’s Internet presence. Mr. Donald Deutsch, a Penn alumnus and chairman and former CEO of the leading advertising firm, Deutsch, Inc., agreed to work pro bono with a Penn team on redesigning its brand and website. The University plans to launch its new website by the end of June 2002.

The Committee’s recommendations focused primarily on the University’s plans for its website redesign. The Committee recommended that the web redesign should make communications with the local community a high priority, in keeping with the positioning statement to this effect. The Committee drafted, approved, and sent a formal letter to Ms. Doyle on February 11, 2002. Specifically, the Committee found that the University’s website does not currently present the user with a prominent enough link to news and information about the University’s programs and other activities which affect the local community of West Philadelphia. In the website redesign, the Committee recommended that prominent links to community initiatives and relationships should be easily accessible by a first-time or unsophisticated user. A user should be able to get to a relevant menu through only one or two clicks from the main menu. The Committee observed that the search engine for Penn’s current webpages is also not very efficient. Searches for a site too often yield a disorganized list of irrelevant links, and the first links on the list given are often irrelevant to those seeking basic information. The Committee felt that fixing this problem should also be emphasized in the redesign process. In response, Ms. Doyle reported that the letter and views of the Committee had been passed along to the Web Advisory Council for consideration. As of this writing, the Web Advisory Council was debating the final design of the new Penn homepage and other issues.

With respect to other media, the primary focus of Penn’s communications strategy is to improve the University’s reputation by generating positive news and minimizing negative coverage. There is a concerted effort to generate media coverage of West Philadelphia-related initiatives, and the communications strategy aims to emphasize the positive attributes of Philadelphia. One reason is that student surveys have shown Penn’s urban location to be an important attraction, along with its beautiful campus, its flexible curriculum, and its reputation as "the friendly Ivy."

One concern relates to heightened media interest in incidents of campus crime. Many students, staff, and faculty continue to perceive the West Philadelphia neighborhood to be an unsafe and undesirable place to live. In this connection, the Community found room for improvement in the perceptions as well as the reality of the benefits and risks of living in West Philadelphia.

Contact information: Suggestions for Penn’s new web design may be sent to Deni Kasrel, University Communications,

Penn Police and Public Safety

Perhaps the most visible representatives of the University to most people in the local community are the members of the University Police Department. Thomas Rambo, Chief of the Penn Police, discussed police communication policies with the Committee.

Penn Police is part of the Division of Public Safety. Internally, the Division of Public Safety maintains a communications and control center " PennComm" which is similar to New York City’s computer-based crime mapping system known as CommStat. PennComm tracks and dispatches all calls for service, and it monitors all campus alarms and closed circuit television systems. PennComm is also coordinated with the Philadelphia Police Department’s equivalent of Commstat.

Communications with the local community occur both formally and informally. Formally, Penn Police communicates with the campus community through published statistics and information in the Almanac as well as the Daily Pennsylvanian. Penn Police representatives meet with the Daily Pennsylvanian regularly and discuss the logbook of recent crimes. In addition, the Division of Public Safety maintains a website, which includes crime alerts, press releases, and other information. See

Informal communications between the Penn Police and the local community are an ongoing and coordinated effort. One officer, for example, is assigned to work with building administrators to address crime trends and adopt preventative measures. A monthly newsletter is posted in each building and in elevators around campus. A Community Relations unit within the Penn Police Department has one full-time dedicated officer and one part-time officer. The Penn Police has also established the Penn Public Safety Institute, which was developed to introduce anyone who has an interest to the work and services of the Division of Public Safety. The Institute conducts an interactive brown-bag lunch program open to the public on Wednesday afternoons.

Communications and coordination between Penn Police and the Philadelphia Police Department are also important. The primary patrol boundaries for the Penn Police are between the Schuylkill River and 43rd Street and between Market Street and Baltimore Avenue, extending to Powelton Avenue and the Presbyterian Medical Center. Some thought has been given to extending the jurisdiction further west of 43rd Street; however, such an expansion would require additional resources. In an agreement with the City of Philadelphia, Penn Police has primary jurisdiction in its defined area with the exception of sex crimes and homicides. In its jurisdiction, Penn Police takes 911 calls and often responds to them first. Penn Police also works with security services of Drexel University, the University of the Sciences, and the University City District. A meeting of all University City security leaders is held monthly to discuss upcoming challenges, such as big sporting events.

The Penn Police participates in the City of Philadelphia’s Community Court. This program blends criminal justice and social service agencies in a comprehensive response to quality-of-life crimes. It emphasizes community service and behavioral treatment programs, rather than jail time, for low-level offenses such as criminal mischief, vandalism, petty theft, panhandling, and disorderly conduct. Instead of scheduling cases weeks or months after offenses are committed, defendants’ cases are heard quickly in Community Court, usually within 36 hours of arrest. On-site social workers and medical personnel provide direct connections to needed services in order to address the underlying causes of the criminal behavior. The sentences emphasize community service and restitution to the community for the harm done. The program is based on a pilot one in New York City, and Penn Police is monitoring the results.

In partnership with the Philadelphia Police, Penn Police sponsors the Tucker Police Athletic League (PAL) Center at 4614 Woodland Avenue. PAL programs, in addition to sports-related clubs and teams, include homework clubs, educational games, computer labs, and personal development programs.

With respect to communications with students and other residents, Penn Police maintains close relationships with local landlords and holds regular meetings with them. Civil violations issued for minor violations (such as loud parties) begin with relatively small fines. But because notices of violations are passed along to the University for follow-up action, they tend to be effective.

Overall, the Committee found the Penn Police Department’s communications policies and practices to be praiseworthy. One recommendation is that the Penn Police should include information about its boundaries on its website and provide a link to the Philadelphia Police Department for citizens outside of Penn’s jurisdiction. In addition, the Committee recommended that the Public Safety website should be given prominence on Penn’s homepage, given the importance of the information to the local community. We advised Chief Rambo to contact the Web Advisory Board and petition for an appropriate place in the redesigned website.

For information about the Penn Police, see www.publicsafety.upenn.


For emergencies: dial 511 from a campus phone, pick up a blue light phone located on campus, or dial (215) 573-3333 from an off-campus phone or cell phone.

Penn-Assisted Public Schools

One important recent project supported by Penn in the local community is the Penn-assisted public school under construction between 42nd and 43rd Streets between Locust and Spruce. Lucy Kerman, the Special Projects Coordinator for the President’s Office, and Thomas Lussenhop, Managing Director of Institutional Real Estate, joined the Committee for discussion of some of the communications issues surrounding the Penn-assisted public schools project. The Committee received and reviewed a new brochure on the "University of Pennsylvania Partnerships with West Philadelphia Public Schools."

The Penn-assisted public school opened for kindergarten and first grade in the fall of 2001. The Parent Infant Center continues to operate during the new construction, and the new building will include an atrium from which WXPN will periodically broadcast and a "gymnatorium" for other events. Seventy-six kindergarten and first-grade children of diverse backgrounds are currently enrolled in the school. Forty-one percent are international, with ten children learning English as their second language. Second, fifth, and sixth grades will be added in the fall of 2002, with other grades to be added in future years. The new school will serve as a hub for local community activity, with goals of enhancing the community’s vitality and increasing neighborhood services. Access to the school facilities will be provided for community-wide programs. In collaboration with the Graduate School of Education (GSE), the public school will also serve as a professional development site for the school district. GSE is working with other West Philadelphia schools on training of new teachers, research on teaching and learning, and professional and curriculum development. The University has promised to pay a subsidy of $1,000 per student at the new public school, up to a maximum of $700,000 in annual operating support for the school in a ten-year renewable term. The school will have a capacity of 700 students.

The Committee focused on communication issues concerning the local community’s knowledge about the school. Current enrollment in the kindergarten class is full, but the first grade is not. Dr. Kerman attributed the shortfall to lack of awareness about the school’s opening, even though a thorough leafleting campaign had been conducted within the catchment area of the school. A new neighborhood home and school association may help to address some local communication issues. The Committee’s discussion, however, revealed a need to better communicate with the local community about various elements of the new school, including its educational mission, plans for the future, and options that students would have for high school. The consensus was that a more active communications strategy needed to be developed for the project. As of the writing of this report, Penn has been named a partner for three additional elementary schools in West Philadelphia. This development underlines the need for an expanded and focused strategy for communications about Penn’s role in local community public schools.

Another concern addressed by the Committee concerned parking and traffic flow around the new school. Mr. Lussenhop reported that a planning committee was being formed to tackle these issues. Traffic lights are also planned at the corners of the new school. The Committee advised that deliberations about parking alternatives should be made public, and every effort should be made to include local neighborhood residents in the process.

For further information, see

The Office of Community Housing

The Office of Community Housing coordinates several programs that affect the local community. The Guaranteed Mortgage Program is open to eligible Penn employees who purchase family homes for their principal residence in West Philadelphia within the boundaries of the Schuylkill River, Cobbs Creek Parkway, City Line Avenue, and Woodland Avenue. Penn helps applicants finance through certain lenders the total cost of the purchase price and up to 5% of closing costs. An additional 15% of the purchase price maybe borrowed for rehabilitation. The Enhanced Mortgage Program offers the same features and allows an applicant to apply for up to $15,000 in housing-related expenses paid directly as a lump sum. Eligibility for this additional subsidy is limited to new home purchasers within the more restricted boundaries of the Schuylkill River, 49th Street, Market Street, and Woodland Avenue. Currently, through the Enhanced Mortgage Program, 283 loans have been approved out of 300 authorized. A Home Improvement Program covering the same area is also administered by the Office of Community Housing.

Ms. Stefany Williams-Jones, Director of Community Housing, joined the Committee discuss the office’s programs and communications about them. The Outreach Coordinator, Paulette Adams, has primary responsibility for disseminating information about these programs to the community. Ms. Adams met regularly with the Committee throughout the year. Methods of communication include bulletins, flyers, an annual housing fair, word of mouth, and a website. The Office of Community Housing also offers workshops for prospective homeowners.

The Committee discussed the effectiveness of communications about the Community Housing programs, as well as their substantive scope. But it made no specific recommendations.

Website for Community Housing:

The Big Picture

Vice President and Chief of Staff Pedro Ramos joined the Committee for its last meeting of the year to share some of his thoughts about local communications issues. Mr. Ramos came to Penn in January 2002. He had previously been a partner with Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll in Philadelphia and served on the Philadelphia school board. He now reports directly to President Rodin and plays a key role in decision making on short- and long-term issues.

The decentralized organizational structure of the University is both a strength and a challenge with regard to communications. A unified strategy is needed to help coordinate policies and messages. At the same time, the University in fact acts in the local community as many different somewhat autonomous parts. The content of communications is therefore not easily governed.

One unusual characteristic of the University City community noted by Mr. Ramos is the sheer number of neighborhood associations. Based on his experience working for the Philadelphia School Board, Mr. Ramos stated that the University City area has more of these neighborhood associations than anywhere else in the city. The gradual emergence of new pockets of growth and residential blocks that have not yet organized associations may pose special challenges for future communication strategies.

Overall, Mr. Ramos believes that the University has changed local perceptions of it in the local community. He emphasized the importance of actions as well as words in communicating with the local community.

Focus for the Future: Real Estate and Revisiting the Standing Charge to the Committee

As discussed above, the Committee gives an overall positive assessment of the communications polices and practices that the University has adopted toward the many different groups that make up the local community. The general problem, however, is obviously more complex than various peeks that the Committee was able to take behind the curtains of the University’s operations this year. In general, maintaining good local communications remains an important issue, and the Committee urges the University and its representatives to continue to improve its practices and protocols in this regard. The Committee also discovered a couple of areas that deserve special attention.

1. Penn’s communications to the local community by Internet. As discussed above, the Committee made recommendations to the Director of Communications for making the local community a priority in Penn’s web redesign. Next year, the Committee might usefully review and provide feedback about how the new web design scheduled to be online in the summer of 2002 actually affects communications with the local community.

2. Construction. A number of Committee members who live in the local community voiced continuing and repeated concerns about the University’s communications about its various construction projects. In the Committee’s judgment, this problem should also be singled out for special treatment next year. The University has a number of construction projects in progress (especially in recent years), and the Committee feels that information about ongoing construction plans and policies should be made centrally and more widely available, perhaps on a redesigned website of the Division of Facilities Services. (This site has a link to "current construction," but it does not currently provide detailed information about construction policies and plans. See Information that should be easily available include schedules for construction (time of day and days of the week), planned completion dates, traffic changes, and phone numbers to get information, report complaints, and discuss problems.

In part given local community concerns about construction issues, but also for other reasons "including a worry among some local community residents about rising rental and housing prices, continued direct involvement by Penn in the local housing market, policies with respect to local landlords, etc." the Committee recommends that the University Council give a special charge to next year’s Committee to address these issues. Retail development plans might also be usefully included in this charge.

3. Revisiting the standing charge: real estate and ex officio members. Given the ever increasing complexity of the University’s various operations that affect the local community, the Committee recommends that two issues should be considered next year relating to its standing charge.

First, with respect to real estate, the standing charge currently directs the Chair of the Committee to "have cognizance of pending real estate activities of concern to the community" and to "meet quarterly or more often, if needed, with the executive vice president or his or her designee for real estate to be informed of impending real estate activities that affect the community." This year’s chair did not find it possible to meet this burden fully, and the scope of the University’s real estate activities may have outrun the practicability of this part of the Committee’s standing charge. In any case, the Committee believes that this aspect of the standing charge should be reconsidered.

Second, the standing charge provides a list of non-voting ex officio members of the Committee who are invited (and expected) to attend. Given that an evolving norm seems to be developing that the Committee will focus on different issues each year, it may make sense for the standing charge to delete a number of ex officio members (some of whom do not attend the Committee’s meeting in any event). It may be more sensible and more effective to name ex officio members each year, depending on what the Committee is expected to do. For example, this year it made sense for the director of WXPN, Vincent Curran, to attend the meetings because of the focus on communications. But next year, if the focus is primarily real estate policy, his regular presence should probably not be required. Including administrators with decision making responsibility for real estate decisions and planning would naturally make more sense.

4. Community relations and the natural environment. Another possibility for the future would be for the Committee to focus on issues related to the relationship between the University and the local community as seen through the lens of their shared natural environment and the need to sustain, improve, and appreciate it. This topic might serve as a primary focus for the Committee sometime in the future. Next year, perhaps an "environmental scan" proposed by the Office of Community Relations would play a useful role in a review of the University’s real estate policies and practices.

–Eric W. Orts, Chair

Community Relations Commitee Members 2001-2002

Chair: Eric Orts (Legal Studies) Faculty: Aravind Joshi (CIS), Cristle Collins Judd (Music), Yvonne Paterson (Microbio/Med), Margaret Beale Spencer (Educ), Robert Vitalis (Poli Sci), Robert Zimmerman (Radiol at CHOP); Graduate/professional students: Leah Glickman (SAS), Mike Stevens (Wharton); Undergraduate students: Dina Gordon (COL’04), Vincent Montalto (COL’03); PPSA: Christine Brisson (College Houses & Academic Svcs), Valerie Hayes (Affirmative Action), Lisa Lord (Wharton Real Estate Dept.), Jerome Smalls (Office of General Counsel); A-3: Regina Cantave (ISC), Mindy Ehrhart (SAS); Ex-officio: Jeanne Arnold (dir, African American Resource Ctr), Glenn Bryan (dir, Community Relations), Vinnie Curren (mgr, WXPN), Michael Rose (managing dir, Annenberg Ctr), Stefany Williams-Jones (dir, Community Housing).

Almanac, Vol. 48, No. 34, May 21, 2002


May 21, 2002
Volume 48 Number 34

A National Medal of Science for a pioneering Penn physicist.

SEAS selects two recipients for its annual awards.
Wharton gives awards to dozens of its faculty.
The concern about bicyclists on campus picks up momentum.
Search Committees are formed to advise on selecting two new deans.
Next Tuesday is PPSA's annual meeting and election.
Baccalaureate and Commencement speeches and photographs.
University Council committee year-end reports on Bookstores, Communications, and Community Relations.
The largest voluntary canine blood donor program in the US gets new wheels.

Recognized Holidays for faculty and staff, and revisions to the Academic Calendar.

A dozen new CCTV locations for public spaces are added to those previously approved.