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COUNCIL 2002-2003 Year-end Committee Report

Interim Report on Community Relations

Scheduled for Discussion at Council on September 24, 2003

Charges and Preamble

The Committee on Community Relations received three specific charges from University Council for the academic year 2002-2003.

1.  Clarify the role of this committee in understanding and giving advice on the real estate activities of the University.

2.  Continue to assess the state of University communications with the local community, University City and adjacent West Philadelphia. Do those who live and work in the area know where to turn within the University to ask questions or express concerns about the impact of University actions on the local community? Can communications be improved?

3.  Continue to work with the administration to develop protocols for communication across the University on projects that involve outreach from campus, or that have an impact on the community.

The committee was somewhat hampered in meeting these charges because they were not received until the middle of October. In addition the membership of the committee was not finalized until then. Thus, we were only able to meet once during the fall semester on November 26th. At that meeting the general consensus was to begin our focus on the issue of how well the University is communicating with the community. The committee was able to meet only four more times, all during the spring semester on January13, 2003, March 20, 2003, April 10, 2003 and May 1, 2003. Nevertheless the committee arrived at some concrete suggestions as to how the University could become more accessible to local residents.                           

This interim report will focus on charges 2 and 3 above. During the last semester, the Steering Committee of University Council restructured its advisory committees by dividing them into two groups, one group starting at the usual time in September and presenting reports by the end of the academic year, the other group starting in January and presenting reports by the following December. Our committee was placed in the second group and for this transitional year, we will continue meeting until the end of the fall semester. Thus, in the next (and last) semester we will focus on charge 1.

University Communications with the Local Community

At our first meeting we discussed whether the University had adequately addressed concerns that had been expressed in last year's report concerning Penn's new web site and whether the committee's recommendations to Vice President for University Communications Lori Doyle had been implemented. The report prepared by Professor Orts last year suggested,  " In the web site 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."

Our committee decided to revisit the newly designed web site to determine whether it was now a user-friendly resource for the community. It was felt that there are many web sites related to community relations, but that there was no central location with current information on the Penn web site.  After subsequent meetings where members had had time to look at the new web site there was a general agreement that although the newly designed web site was now much easier for faculty, staff and students to use it was still not adequately addressing the needs of the community. In the web site redesign, the Committee had previously recommended that prominent links to community initiatives and relationships should be easily accessible by a first-time or unsophisticated user. A community user should be able to get to a relevant menu through only one or two clicks from the main menu. This was simply not the case.

In order to address this problem, the committee decided that we would attempt to re-design the web site ourselves and give concrete suggestions to the Web Advisory Council. We, therefore held a meeting (04/10/03)  in the Meyerson Conference Center, Van Pelt Dietrich Library, where we had access to a large-screen computer display. This meeting was very well attended (11 members of the committee were present).

It became very obvious at this meeting that minor consideration had been given to community needs in designing the web site. Thus a local resident in the community when entering the web site would probably click on "Campus in the City" site (located at But this site seemed to be geared towards students. There was a lot of useful information for local residents on the web site, but it was buried. In view of these deficits the committee has put together the following recommendations.

There should be a new link placed on the home page under "Highlights for:" entitled, "Local Residents." So that this side bar would now read:

Highlights for:
Prospective Students
Current Students
Family & Friends
Faculty & Staff
Local Residents

Thus local residents can click on this and go directly to a page that would have relevant sites for them. This page could be called "Community Related Sites" with subtitles organized in the following manner:

Community Related Sites

I) Office of City and Community Relations
II) University City District (
III) West Philadelphia Partnership
IV) Community Services
V) Local Housing Options
VI) Schools and Educational Resources
VII) Business Development
VIII) Recreation
IX) Shopping and Services
X) Safety and Security
XI) Events and Meeting Calendar (for Community postings)
XII) Transportation, Travel and Parking

Clicking on one of these headings would take the visitor directly to a web site (e.g. University City District) or to another tier of options such as those given below.

IV) Community Services
a) Penn Community Service Directory
b) Center for Community Partnerships (
c) Community Organizations (
V) Local Housing Options
a) Rental Housing
b) Purchasing Homes
c) Philadelphia Neighborhood Information
d) Penn's Office of Community Housing
VI) Schools and Educational Resources
a) Archdiocesan
b) Public (including a link to the Sadie Tanner Mossell  Alexander University of Pennsylvania Partnership School)
c) Daycare (PIC etc.)
d) Tutoring Opportunities
e) Adult Literacy
d) Community Schools
VII) Business Development
a) Philadelphia Community Development Directory
VIII) Recreation
b) University Arts League
c) PENN events (
d) The Bridge Cinema (
e) Dining out (by a link to  Zagat  and/or UCNET)
IX) Shopping and Services
a) UC Net directory of shopping and entertainment  (
b) Directory of Goods and Services in University City (
X) Safety and Security
a) Emergency telephone numbers
XI) Local Events, news and bulletins
a) Local events (
b) University Bulletins (
c) Daily Pennsylvanian (
d) Almanac (
e) WXPN (

This list is not meant to be exhaustive. Neither does any member of our committee profess a special ability in web design. Rather it is intended to give the Web Advisory Council a road map that will help local residents in our community to access current information on the web site, in addition to some useful new links. The committee also feels that rendering the web site more accessible to community residents will provide added benefit to the University in recruiting new staff and faculty to the neighborhood. With these suggestions, the committee feels that it has fulfilled its charges regarding improving communications with the community, for this year. 

The Role of our Committee in Monitoring University Real Estate Activities

We have also begun to address charge number 1: "Clarify the role of this committee in understanding and giving advice on the real estate activities of the University."

The committee met with Vice President for Facilities and Real Estate Services Omar Blaik and Vice President for Government and Public Affairs Carol Scheman from whom we received an update on local initiatives. We questioned Mr. Blaik and Ms. Scheman what a useful role would be for our committee. It seemed that the crisis to force the University to do the right thing was over, and fear of complacency was feared.  Mr. Blaik noted that different administrators want different things and there may be a time when the committee needs to become a watchdog. It was suggested that the committee play an advocacy role for the local community.

We also discussed the role of our committee in real estate activities with the Director of City and Community Relations, Glenn Bryan. He reported on the 2002-03 goals and objectives of the Office of City and Community Relations and the specific community related activities for 2002-03. Mr. Bryan also proposed an advocacy role for the committee with respect to his office.

At the end of the spring semester the committee felt that the best way to work on the real estate charge next year would be by becoming informed through a series of meetings.

Some suggested consultants were:

Clifford L. Stanley, the Executive Vice President who is responsible for furthering the University's revitalization initiative for West Philadelphia.

Dennis Culhane, Associate Professor of Social Welfare Policy at the School of Social Work who is the author of Neighborhoodbase: A Web-based Application for Analyzing Neighborhood Conditions in Philadelphia (

Local community group representatives such as Melanie Lamond, local realtor and member of the University City Community Coalition (representing Cedar Park Neighbors, Garden Court Community Association, Powelton Village Civic Association, Saunders Park Neighbors, Squirrel Hill Community Association, and Walnut Hill Community Association) and possibly other representatives of districts in University City such as Lisa Lord (Garden Court) and Maureen Tate (Cedar Park).

John McGary, Director of Real Estate Brokerage, Facilities and Real Estate Services for the University.

2002-2003 Committee Members

Chair: Yvonne Paterson (microbiology/medicine); Faculty: Judith A. Fisher (family practice & commmunity medicine), Aravind Joshi (CIS), Cristle Collins Judd (music), Lynn Lees (history), Yvonne Paterson (microbiology/medicine), Holly Pittman (history of art), Georgette Poindexter (real estate), Robert Zimmerman (radiology at CHOP); Graduate students: Leah Glickman; Undergraduate students: Mary Braun (COL'03), Ophelia Roman (COL'05); PPSA: Valerie Hayes (Affirmative Action), Jerome Smalls (OGC), Mark Stuart (Development & Alumni Relations/Vet); WPSA: Sylvia Beauvais (Wharton); Ex officio:  Jeanne Arnold (director, African American Resource Center), Glenn Bryan (director, community relations), Michael Diorka (director, recreation), Sara Gallagher (director, operations-Office of EVP), David Grossman (director, Civic House), Ira Harkavy (director, Center for Community Partnerships), Michael Rose (managing director, Annenberg Center), Stefany Williams-Jones (director, community housing).


  Almanac, Vol. 50, No. 5, September 23, 2003