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Council Coverage

President Judith Rodin's report stated that both she and Chaplain Will Gipson, have "encouraged the University community's active participation in exploring the challenges that we face as we continue to build a diverse, inclusive environment that makes Penn an exemplary place to study, teach, work and learn. In the weeks to come, we will explore the interests that define the varied positions of our Penn constituents, and the solutions that may address them and alleviate the racially charged tensions that have concerned so many of us." As for Study Abroad, by the end of the semester, "we will effect revisions to the University policy regarding study abroad options available to students in countries for which the U.S. State Department has issued travel warnings." Penn's West Philadelphia Initiatives won a 2003 Award for Excellence from the Urban Land Institute.

Provost Robert Barchi said he wanted to emphasize how grateful he is for the generous gift from Evan Thompson, W '64, to endow a professorship that recognizes teaching excellence. Dr. Barchi said that nominations will be accepted until December 15 (Almanac November 11, 2003).

The annual Open Forum included two topics this year: concerns of the graduate students, and the undergraduate housing policy. The GET-UP presentation was made by Joanna Kempner, a 6th-year graduate who is expecting her Ph.D. in the spring. She expressed the group's concern that the administration has not recognized the union's position that graduate students who are teaching assistants are employees and should be compensated as such. Some undergraduate students suggested that a dialogue needs to happen to determine if unionization would affect the quality of undergraduate education. President Rodin commented that the lives of both graduate and undergraduate students would be differentially altered; these are very complicated issues. She said she has a discussion planned with the GET-UP leadership for December 17.  Since Council is a deliberative body, intended to discuss topics and make recommendations, it does not have the power to authorize actions. President Rodin said the unionization issue is in an administrative proceeding with the NLRB, which will make a ruling.

The topic of co-ed undergraduate on-campus housing was presented by undergrad Bradley Breuer, who said that the current policy is "outdated, heterosexist, and homophobic" and wants more inclusive options. Dr. Lance Donaldson-Evans, Senate Chair, said that this is currently under consideration by the Pluralism Committee.

Dr. Edward (Ned) Lally, the chair of the Committee on Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics, gave an interim report. He suggested using mid-semester warnings more to alert students who were not doing well. He noted that the intramural fields need grass; Omar Blaik replied that Facilities would grow grass, although he couldn't ensure how quickly it would grow.

The interim report of the Libraries Committee was presented by Dr. Edward Peters, who noted that they  were "strongly impressed" with the interim  management of the library. One issue that the committee has grappled with is study space, especially during reading days and finals. VPUL Val  Cade noted that Perelman Quadis open 24-hours during reading days and suggested that the LGBT Center might be another option.

Vice President of Facilities Omar Blaik addressed recent misconceptions about the Fresh Food Plazas, especially their hours of operation. After City Council passed an ordinance pertaining to food trucks in 1997, Penn built five plazas for the vendors. This provides the vendors with electrical hook-ups and the patrons with seating. There were 24 vendors who signed five-year leases with Penn at that time; then their leases went on an annual basis and they would start paying rent to cover some of the maintenance costs. This August  Penn entered into negotiations with the vendors and all leases have been signed. The hours they are allowed to operate, based on the lease, is 6 a.m.-6 p.m., and Penn has recently been enforcing this.

One factor to be considered in allowing longer hours, at the plaza near Pottruck, is the need for access to the Chiller, which is feasible when the trucks are not there. He responded to students' concerned about patronizing the trucks in the evening. He said he hopes to have this resolved by the beginning of next semester.


  Almanac, Vol. 50, No. 15, December 9, 2003