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Poverty, Racism, and Crime in West Philadelphia and What Should Penn do to Democratically Overcome Them?
November 14, 2006, Volume 53, No. 12

A new interdisciplinary faculty-student research seminar, Poverty, Racism, and Crime in West Philadelphia and What Should Penn do to Democratically Overcome Them? (CPLN 506/URBS 403) will have a unique structure and significant academic resources to study a real and vibrant community, West Philadelphia. From the Schuylkill River to 63rd Street, to Hook Road in Eastwick to City Line in Overbrook, this is an area of about 30 square miles, more than 210,000 residents, and more than 55,000 jobs.

Faculty from across the University are currently collaborating in this seminar, which will analyze the area as an ecological system and suggest policies that Penn can initiate to reduce poverty, racism and crime.

There will be six core instructors (A.R. Tomazinis, Henry Teune, Ira Harkavy, Lee Benson, Van McMurtry, and Richard Gelles), who will be supported by over two dozen collaborating scholars from Penn, as well as professionals from the City and a number of community leaders. At a recent meeting of collaborating faculty, Dr. Tomazinis stressed, “this seminar is designed to bring together some of Penn’s best minds, both faculty and students, to work with members of the community to help solve enormously complex problems facing much of West Philadelphia.”

The approach of the faculty-student research seminar will be a mix of in-class lectures and dialogues and field work by student teams, focused on five specific communities and two systemic community-wide systems, services and processes. The six teams—with the support of seminar faculty and two or three of the collaborating scholars—will research their subject matter and present a mid-semester report. The students will also present and discuss their findings of the problems and recommendations for problem alleviation at a final jury. Through the Office of the Vice President for Government and Community Affairs, the recommendations proposed by the seminar will be submitted to President Amy Gutmann for consideration and action.

The students are expected to spend considerable time in the field, visiting the target community and meeting with community and City officials. Each team will arrange additional meetings among themselves, and additional readings pertinent to their subject matter. The faculty of the seminar will assign weekly readings and will be available for consultation.

This interdisciplinary seminar will be a mix of actual field research work undertaken by the participating students under the guidance of experienced faculty members and theoretical discussions in the classroom with teams of faculty members.

The seminar will be divided into two time periods and two focus points. The first period of six weeks will focus on classroom theoretical discussions and data collection and analysis. The second period of six weeks will be devoted to discussion of proposals for improvements in the study area. At the end of each period there will be presentations of the students’ work, findings and proposals.

Faculty interested in participating are encouraged to contact any of the seminar’s core faculty or Jason Min, the Center for Community Partnership’s academically-based community service coordinator, and the seminar’s TA at (215) 898-4704 or e-mail him at minjason@gmail.com.

—Anthony Tomazinis, Professor Emeritus,
City and Regional Planning

—Ira Harkavy, Associate Vice President, & Director, Center for Community Partnerships

Almanac - November 14, 2006, Volume 53, No. 12