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Speaking Out

BioPond Shrinking

We understand that the University is undertaking plans to build a new Life Science building near the edge of the BioPond Garden. The plans suggest that the area of the construction will affect a large part of the garden. The garden just keeps shrinking. It was last built on in the late 1980s, when the Mudd building was constructed.

As students, and again as West Philadelphia residents, we have found the BioPond to be a campus oasis. Can we hope that the construction plans for the new building could be modified to leave the BioPond intact?

–Julie Hunter, Nu ’85 G Nu ’98
–Larry W. Hunter W ’84, Asst. Prof.,
The Wharton School

A Campus Oasis

In response to the letter from Julie Hunter and Larry W. Hunter, I can only say that the School of Arts and Sciences agrees that the BioPond and Garden is and should remain a ‘campus oasis.’ That is why the School, assisted by the generosity of the Kaskey family, has over the past two years made a substantial investment in improving this invaluable campus resource. Throughout the planning process for the new building we have emphasized the need to preserve the garden, including, for example, restricting the height of the building to maintain an appropriate level of sunlight in the garden.

As I have indicated before, the faculty of the Department of Biology, whose research laboratories will occupy the new building, have consistently displayed sensitivity to the needs of the garden, which plays an important role in the department’s educational programs, and have been strong advocates for preservation of essential elements in it. A research university on an urban campus must inevitably balance the needs for laboratory and educational spaces with the need for green space. The plans for the Life Sciences building have consistently respected this balance and will continue to do so.

–David P. Balamuth, Associate Dean,
SAS Chairman, Life Sciences Building Committee

Misuse of Identity Information?

We have been subjected to a blizzard of official University warnings of Identity Fraud. Implausibly[and inexcusably] however, this year the University has provided or facilitated Caremark, our prescription drug plan provider, with OUR SOCIAL SECURITY #’s for them to use as our "Participant’s Penn ID Number," emblazoned on our plastic wallet card! Our previous Caremark wallet ID’s had no such identifiable information [the # was a random one, or at least not a S.S.#]

Would someone in the University Administration try to explain this egregious and unacceptable misuse of our identity information?

–David S. McDevitt, Professor of Anatomy[Development]
School of Veterinary Medicine


Thank you for the opportunity to respond to concerns raised about privacy and the recently re-issued Caremark prescription drug card. First and foremost, we want to assure the University community that the issuance of Caremark cards bearing enrollees’ Social Security numbers was the result of an unfortunate error — and one that has been corrected. The University has NOT changed the Penn ID as the identification number for Caremark, nor has Caremark sought to do so on its own. Further, we believe that there has been no interruption in the provision of benefits to enrollees based on problems with the ID cards. We understand that over the years an individual’s Social Security Number (SSN) has become an increasingly sensitive piece of personal data and the University has been engaged in significant efforts to bolster the privacy and security of individuals’ SSNs. Caremark has been Penn’s prescription drug vendor since July 1, 2000 and has, until several weeks ago, consistently issued ID cards using the Penn ID number. In fact, Caremark was the first benefits vendor the University partnered with that agreed to discontinue using individuals’ SSNs as an identifier and to instead use the Penn ID.

In Caremark’s recent re-issuance of ID cards, unfortunately a programming error occurred which resulted in SSNs, rather than Penn IDs, appearing on the face of the new cards. As soon as this error was brought to our attention, we immediately contacted Caremark. Caremark apologized for its mistake, emphasized the value of its relationship with Penn, and moved quickly to correct the problem.

During the week of July 1, Caremark sent to all enrollees an apology letter and new cards bearing the Penn ID number, along with a message to enrollees urging them to destroy the previously issued cards bearing SSNs. Also, in connection with this effort, Caremark assigned a responsible person to thoroughly review the new cards before they were released to ensure use of the Penn ID.

The protection of personal privacy is an important priority at Penn. This message has been clearly conveyed to all of our vendors, and we continue to work with them with the objective of having the SSN removed as an identifier.

– Leny Bader, Executive Director
Human Resources, Benefits

Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions. Short, timely letters on University issues will be accepted by Thursday at noon for the following Tuesday’s issue, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated. –Eds.


Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 1, July 16, 2002


July 16, 2002
Volume 49 Number 1

Dr. Marvin Lazerson gets a new Endowed Chair in Education.
The annual GSE Awards are presented.
The Penn Cancer Center is renamed.
The Faculty Senate's Slate of nominees for the Senate Executive Committee.
PPSA's 2002-2003 Board has been elected.
The A-3 Assembly's officers invite all A-3 employees to a July meeting.
The Trustees held their full board meetings last month.
The report of the Council Committee on Facilities deals with classrooms, Campus Development Plan, and Transportation.
Graduate Medical Education has a new director.
Speaking Out about the future of the BioPond and protecting personal privacy.
Honors for faculty, staff, students, and HUP
Research Foundation Awards for Spring 2002.
Research Roundup: Sumerian Dictionary, Smallpox, Alzheimer's Disease, and Schizophrenia.
New challenges, more efforts to conserve energy and control energy costs.
Business Services: Parking Rates; Children's Center; Mail Service; Dining Services; Customized Penn merchandise; Directory Update; Computer Connection.
New Security Measures for Penn's Networked Systems will require replacing PennNet ID and password PennKeys and passwords.