want to thank Professor
Ann Elizabeth Mayer and Almanac for speaking out
on bicycle safety. About a month ago I was walking on Spruce
Street (on the sidewalk) between 36th and 37th Street when
I was hit from behind. I was hit hard enough that I fell backwards
onto the bike as she crashed to the ground. My pants were ripped
and I ended up bruised and sore for a week. When I realized
that I had just been run over and turned to check on the rider,
she indicated to me that I should not have walked in front
of her. This person did not give me any warning at all before
she slammed into me from behind so I could not even get out
of the way. I'd like to point out that there was a bike lane
a few feet from me on the street.
is my understanding that pedestrians have the right of way
on sidewalks. Isn't there a law
in Philadelphia that states that bicycles are not allowed
on city sidewalks? Is the policy different for Penn?
Ameika, Gift Coordinator, External
Affairs, Wharton School
On "Biked" and
the record, there have been serious injuries to pedestrians
on the Penn campus from collisions with bicycles. One of my
colleagues suffered a broken ankle from such an accident which
occurred behind the library on the Walnut Street sidewalk.
The injury required surgery to repair. Because my colleague
is not litigious, no legal proceeding followed. Even though
the bicyclist stopped and University Police came, no summons
for the offense was issued. These incidents are swept
under the rug.
of Police Rambo's response leaves much to be desired.
It does not even speak to the University's responsibility
Commonwealth law concerning riding bikes on the sidewalk
in a commercial area and/or where a bike lane is provided.
the suggestion that an offense be reported from the nearest
Blue Light emergency phone is ridiculous. By the time the call
gets through and the police respond the "perp" could
be in Center City.
Michael Wisniewski, Library Acquisitions Bookkeeper, Secretary/Treasurer,
AFSCME Local 590
Rambo's response (October 15) to Professor Mayer's concern
for pedestrian safety in the face of bicycle traffic in prohibited
areas bore no relation to reality, at least as I experienced
it on the same day it was published, as well as on many other
days. I observed 3 cyclists riding down Locust Walk at noon
with nary a patrolman in sight to enforce the "Bicycle
Policy." I dare say hundreds of pedestrians could come
forth with stories of near misses as a cyclist swished by on
the campus walks or sidewalks. How many times I have thought
over the years that a sudden change in direction could have
resulted in serious harm to me or to the cyclist--not to mention
harm in the form of a lawsuit against the University. I speak,
of course, of quality of life "crimes," control of
which did much for New York City.
R. Morrison, Professor
of Behavioral Neuroscience
Division of Public Safety was offered an opportunity to respond
to the preceding letters and was informed by Maureen Rush,
the Vice President for Public Safety, that she " will
ask the University Council's Safety and Security Committee
to examine the entire issue of Bicycle/Pedestrian safety issues."
mid October, across the Ivy League and in most northeastern
private colleges, the institution of "Fall Break" takes
place, usually after 6 or 7 weeks of instruction. Fall Break
got its start at Princeton in 1971, when the faculty decided
to cancel a week's classes in October so that students could
go home and work in a political campaign if they wished. It
was a sound educational decision which most eastern private
colleges and universities have imitated. But not Penn.
Penn, the "Fall Break" has never been genuinely serious;
throughout the 1980s and '90s, it consisted of a Monday-Tuesday
in October, usually around Columbus Day. It wasn't much--nothing
like that at schools that take education seriously--but it
was something. However, sometime in 1999-2000, abruptly and
without notice Penn's Fall Break vanished. No Monday-Tuesday
break, but in its place the administration created a one-day
so-called Fall Break that covers a Friday (last Friday in fact),
a day when there are almost no classes at Penn anyway. So from
a two-day break that affected everybody, that gave almost all
students and faculty a brief respite in the 12 weeks of instruction
between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, Penn has moved to a "break" on
the one possible day of the week when almost no classes meet.
best, Friday is a day when 5 percent of classes take place.
In my department, English, for example, we have only 7 scheduled
hours of instruction on Fridays out of a total of 291 hours
of classes per week--two and one-half percent. And some departments
appear to have no classes at all on Fridays. So Penn has a
one-day Fall Break but it's virtually meaningless.
the situation with Fall Break at the other Ivies? Harvard has
a 12-week semester and a 3-week reading period at the end,
so it really doesn't need a break (Penn's reading period is
four days). Dartmouth has a quarter system, three 10-week semesters
with 3 weeks between each one, so it really doesn't need a
break, either. Brown has 3 days (one in October, 2 in November
before and after Thanksgiving break; Columbia/Barnard had 2
days in November; Cornell has 2 days in October; Princeton
and Yale each have a full 5-day week in October). Penn has
about other private colleges? The three Philadelphia-area colleges
with whom we cooperate--Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Swarthmore--each
have a full 5-day week in October. One might well wonder how
we can offer meaningful cooperation with these schools when
our academic calendar is completely inconsistent with theirs.
The Connecticut Valley colleges--Amherst, Hampshire, Mount
Holyoke, Smith--each have 2 days in October; Williams has 3
days (two in October, one in November; Williams also has a
2-week spring break). And a meaningful Fall Break can be found
at almost every other private college in the northeast that
has two 14-week semesters (Notre Dame, for example, has a 5-day
week full break). But not Penn.
school, anywhere, appears to have one-day break on a meaningless
is responsible for the Penn academic calendar? The answer is,
or seems to be, the Provost's Office. The office of the deputy
provost is deeply evasive about the process of making up and
changing the calendar. The cancellation of Penn's long-established
Fall Break took place sometime in 1999-2000, but the Provost's
Office has evaded all my questions as to who actually did this,
whom they consulted with and what the educational purpose of
the change might have been. There is absolutely no evidence
that the provost consulted with any student or faculty groups.
There were no announcements that the matter was under consideration;
the first anyone heard of a possible change was the publication
of a new calendar in May 2000. The Council of Undergraduate
Deans may have been involved, but it is a secretive committee--one
cannot consult its agenda, there can be no observers at meetings,
the minutes of this committee are "not available for consultation".
Provost's Office seems to believe that the fact that it has
lengthened the orientation period for first-year students from
4 to 7 days makes it necessary to cancel our two-day Fall Break.
It is difficult to see any connection between orientation for
new students and the education of everybody else. But when
this office cancelled our two-day Fall Break, one would expect
that we could then shorten the fall term by two days;
yet the fall semester's length is unchanged. Surely after a
7-day orientation period we need a 5-day break, not virtually
meaningless Friday. Most schools approach the idea of Fall
Break with sound educational thinking. Why is Penn incapable
of such thought?
first of President Wilson's famous Fourteen Points was this: "Open
covenants openly arrived at" Wilson wished to overcome
the long-held belief that diplomacy consisted of "Secret
deals secretly connived at." Penn has always been proud
of its openness on important educational issues. But in this
matter of the cancellation of Fall Break we are very far from
President Wilson's noble ideal.
Paul J. Korshin, Professor of English
to Calendar Query
course, not all universities and colleges even have a fall
break, and the length varies quite dramatically among those
that do. Columbia, which Professor Korshin does not mention,
has a one-day break. Yale, which he does mention, in fact has
no fall break at all (he refers to five days in October), but
does close for the whole of Thanksgiving week.
Council of Undergraduate Deans (CUD) is charged with establishing
the academic calendar each year. The fall semester, as all
of our faculty are acutely aware, is already substantially
shorter than the spring term. That complicates the design of
the fall calendar, as does the annual movement of Labor Day,
which in turn affects the length of the reading period. (The
reading period itself, by the way, has not uniformly been four
days, as Professor Korshin says, but has varied in length.)
The expansion of New Student Orientation, three years ago,
which has enabled us to provide our incoming students with
a far richer academic introduction to Penn, has put additional
pressure on the fall schedule. Suffice it to say that CUD does
its best to build a calendar that supports all of the diverse
imperatives of the University's academic mission. There is
nothing secret about that goal or its relevance to the complex
task of determining the academic calendar.
Conn, Deputy Provost
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. 9, October 22, 2002