Click for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Forecast


Print This Issue
Front Page
All About Teaching
Subscribe to E-Alamanc!

Speaking Out

How Much to Lose a Vowel?

It may come as a surprise to many in the University community that one of the biggest obstacles to our continued success is, apparently, a single vowel. That's right folks, it's the ‘u' in that is holding us back and keeps confusing everyone. Branding isn't just for cattle any more, and certain ad-wizards have determined that if only our domain name matched our t-shirts, this would be a better educational institution. Surely people are less likely to confuse us with Penn State if we are PENN.EDU rather than UPENN.EDU. That's the power of consistent branding. Errr. ok.

So, why should you care? While it's patently silly, the change to doesn't seem particularly harmful. What would have to change? E-mail servers, web servers, stationery . . . It still doesn't seem like a big deal, right? There are committees meeting to estimate the IT cost for such a change. You can bet it won't be cheap. IT staff will spend months of man-hours just to make sure that when this change is completed nothing is worse than it was before. That's tens of thousands of dollars in salaries so that your IT staff can try to change almost 20 years of UPENN heresy rather than concentrating on your new projects or fixing things which are broken.

So, why should you care? Your e-mail address will change. Your research published on the web and then referred to in multitudinous external websites and published papers will cease to be available as published. Your business cards and office publications will be wrong, and worse, harmful to the University's branding strategy.

Alumni, trustees, students, faculty, and staff, please let the administration know that you're happy with U!

--Name Withheld


At the Penn Board of Trustees meeting last June, a trustee raised his hand and asked this question. "If Penn has been branding as Penn and not UPenn for the last 20 years, and the University owns both domain names, why is the University's electronic name upenn and not penn?" This is a very logical question especially from a person with an external view.

When this question is asked again at the trustee meeting this June, we intend to be able to provide the trustees with a well researched and thoughtful answer based on facts and not emotion.

An ISC team is working to identify the technical options and, in consultation with IT management in schools and centers, will develop the pros and cons of switching the University's electronic address to If the facts show that the costs of this transition are not worth the benefits, then the switch will not be made. However, if the task force concludes that there may be partial solutions that would be worth considering in terms of time, cost and benefit then those alternatives will be identified.

Decisions such as this are not made on a whim. They are only made after a careful evaluation is done. And that is the process on-going at this time. Since the question on the table involves technology, Information Services and Computing has been asked to evaluate the facts and implications of this proposed change for Penn and offer a recommendation to the President.

As part of this process we are seeking input from the various constituencies at Penn who would be affected by this change. The writer of this letter should feel free to contact either one of us directly if he or she would like to discuss specific concerns.

--Lori Doyle, VP, Communications
--Robin Beck,VP, ISC


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 tosubmit is appreciated. --Eds.

  Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 33, May 13, 2003