COUNCIL Committee 2001-2002 Year-end Reports
Report of the
Committee on Community Relations
at Council April 24, 2002
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
Committees work " including seven meetings of the Committee
during the 2001-2002 academic year" focused on the first of
our specific charges: assessing the Universitys communications
with the local community.
with the Local Community
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 Presidents
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
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 Rodins 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 Universitys activities and establish them more broadly.
Good practices of communication with Penns local communities
should be continued and further institutionalized.
The Office of
City and Community Relations: New Community Service Directory
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 www.upenn.edu/president/westphilly/). Glenn Bryan
serves as the director of City and Community Relations and reports
to the Universitys Vice President for Government, Community,
and Public Affairs. Mr. Bryan reviewed the offices 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.
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.
information for the Office of City and Community Relations: Phone:
(215) 898-3565. Web: www.upenn.edu/ogcpa/cityindex.html.
for Community Services Directory: www.upenn.edu/csd/.
Strategy and Policy: New Penn Internet Design
communications with the local community must be understood as part
of the broader context of the Universitys mission. The Director
of University Communications, Lori Doyle, joined the Committee to
present and discuss the Universitys Communications Strategic
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 worlds leading universities;
increasing international visibility; managing major issues and crisis
situations; supporting fundraising; and, importantly from our Committees
perspective, gaining recognition for the University as a good corporate
citizen committed to the betterment of the surrounding community
and the City of Philadelphia.
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.
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
Penn is a beautiful university located in a great and livable
Penn plays a leadership role in the local community to enhance
the quality of life for all citizens.
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.
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 Penns
communication strategy is therefore to develop a comprehensive University
web management program, including a redesign of the Universitys
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
Committees recommendations focused primarily on the Universitys
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 Universitys website does not currently present the
user with a prominent enough link to news and information about
the Universitys 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 Penns 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.
respect to other media, the primary focus of Penns communications
strategy is to improve the Universitys 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 Penns
urban location to be an important attraction, along with its beautiful
campus, its flexible curriculum, and its reputation as "the
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.
information: Suggestions for Penns new web design may be sent
to Deni Kasrel, University Communications, email@example.com.
and Public Safety
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.
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 Citys
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 Departments
equivalent of Commstat.
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 www.publicsafety.upenn.edu.
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.
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.
Penn Police participates in the City of Philadelphias 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.
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
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.
the Committee found the Penn Police Departments 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 Penns jurisdiction. In addition, the
Committee recommended that the Public Safety website should be given
prominence on Penns 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.
information about the Penn Police, see www.publicsafety.upenn.
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.
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 Presidents 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."
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 communitys 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.
Committee focused on communication issues concerning the local communitys
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 schools 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 Committees 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 Penns role in
local community public schools.
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.
further information, see www.upenn.edu/president/westphilly/education.htm.
The Office of
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
Stefany Williams-Jones, Director of Community Housing, joined the
Committee discuss the offices 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.
Committee discussed the effectiveness of communications about the
Community Housing programs, as well as their substantive scope.
But it made no specific recommendations.
for Community Housing: www.business-services.upenn.edu/communityhousing/.
The Big Picture
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.
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.
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
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
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 Universitys 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
Penns 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 Penns
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
Construction. A number of Committee members who live in the
local community voiced continuing and repeated concerns about the
Universitys communications about its various construction
projects. In the Committees 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 www.facilities.upenn.edu/). 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.
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 years
Committee to address these issues. Retail development plans might
also be usefully included in this charge.
Revisiting the standing charge: real estate and ex officio members.
Given the ever increasing complexity of the Universitys
various operations that affect the local community, the Committee
recommends that two issues should be considered next year relating
to its standing charge.
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 years
chair did not find it possible to meet this burden fully, and the
scope of the Universitys real estate activities may have outrun
the practicability of this part of the Committees standing
charge. In any case, the Committee believes that this aspect of
the standing charge should be reconsidered.
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 Committees 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.
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 Universitys real estate policies and practices.
W. Orts, Chair
Relations Commitee Members 2001-2002
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);
Dina Gordon (COL04), Vincent Montalto (COL03); 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);
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
Almanac, Vol. 48, No. 34, May 21, 2002
May 21, 2002
Volume 48 Number 34