Making a Commitment
to Residential Life

Now that the massive, four-year renovation of the Quadrangle has been completed, the University has received an $11.5 million commitment from Alan Hassenfeld C’70 and Jerome Fisher W’53 and his wife, Anne, to help pay for the Quad’s transformation into three College Houses. In recognition of their joint gift, one of the College Houses will be named Fisher-Hassenfeld College House, and the Memorial Tower Gate—dedicated to the memory of Pennsylvanians who died in the Spanish-American War—will be renamed Fisher-Hassenfeld Memorial Tower Gate.

Penn President Judith Rodin hailed the joint gift as a “magnificent investment in undergraduate life at Penn,” and predicted that “generations of students will share our gratitude for their generosity.”

The Quad Renewal Project was completed this past September, and the old dormitories—designed by Cope and Sewardson and built between 1895 and 1900—have been reconfigured to create spaces supporting College House life. They have new lobbies, computer labs, fitness rooms, music-practice rooms, lounges with kitchens, libraries and seminar rooms, and faculty master residences. The architectural features have been restored and the systems have been updated (including air-conditioning). The landscaping has also been enhanced. Fisher-Hassenfeld College House, in the oldest, westernmost part of the Quad, has undergone the most dramatic improvements, and now has extensive common spaces.


Building a Better Homepage

Penn’s Web site ( was cutting-edge when it launched five years ago, but “1997 in Internet time is ancient history,” says Deni Kasrel, the University’s manager of Web and publishing services. The site was overdue for a major renovation, and after eight months of work last spring and summer, it got one.

The result, launched at the start of the fall semester, offers a lot more than the online equivalent of a new coat of paint. Links have been streamlined and neatly organized, with clear descriptions of the information to be found at each. The static navy-blue background has been replaced with a design that features a large seasonal photo of College Green and the University’s recently redesigned logo, plus frequently updated links to news, Penn events, and photographs.

It is, in short, a lot more attractive and easy to use—a “window to the University,” as envisioned by Deutsch, Inc., a New York-based advertising agency, whose Web division collaborated on the project with the University. (Donald Deutsch W’79, chairman and CEO, donated the agency’s services to the project.)

“A lot of research was done on our side,” says Kasrel. Her department conducted interviews with administrators, trustees, faculty, staff, students, prospective students, alumni, and high-school guidance counselors to gain their impressions of Penn’s old homepage—and also received more than 2,000 responses to an online survey that asked Penn Web-users to discuss the pros and cons of the page. Finally, the University performed a competitive analysis of the homepages of the top 28 universities in the country, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report.

They found that Penn’s homepage design was primitive compared with those of its peer institutions, and it wasn’t particularly user-friendly—as evidenced by the fact that Penn’s Webmaster was unable to keep up with the constant flow of e-mails from dissatisfied surfers. Finally—and perhaps most important—the old page did not provide a clear representation of Penn to the outside world.

Response to the new site has been positive, both from within the University and outside. The number of e-mails received from dissatisfied users has been greatly reduced. “All in all,” says Kasrel, “it’s just a much more informative site.”

—Matthew Grady C’04

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AROUND CAMPUS Speaking Out Against War “The brakes on this runaway train, this runaway history, can be applied, should be applied, and now,” said Dr. Walter Licht, standing at a podium in Huntsman Hall as faculty, staff, and students continued pressing into the crowded classroom, seating themselves in aisles and on the floor near his feet. Continued...

Photo by Jacques-Jean Tiziou

Students Are Employees
In a major victory for the unionizing organization known as Graduate Employees Together-University of Pennsylvania (GET-UP), the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that certain graduate students at Penn are indeed employees when they are teaching and acting as research assistants. Dorothy Moore-Duncan, the regional director, also directed that an election be held sometime in early 2003 to determine if a majority of those graduate students want to be represented by a union. Continued...

STUDENT LIFE Assault Allegations Shock Campus Five Penn students face criminal charges for the alleged assault of a Princeton University student who was visiting the campus in November for a debate tournament. The students reportedly entered a Quadrangle lounge where Princeton student John Brantl was sleeping at 4:15 a.m. on Saturday, November 16; poured motor oil on him; and flicked a lit cigarette at him. Continued...

Photo by Tommy Leonardi

SYMPOSIUM ‘Summit’ Highlights Alumni Presence in Media Jobs are scarce, competition fierce, bosses often shortsighted and paranoid, and the balance between creativity and commerce weighted heavily toward the latter, but the 200-plus alumni gathered in New York in November for the first Penn Media Summit were in agreement that the media world—encompassing news and entertainment, print, movies, TV, radio, music, and the Internet —is a great place to work. (Besides, as one participant said, isn’t every business like that?) Continued...

BRICKS AND MORTAR Huntsman Hall: Wharton’s New Nerve Center Dr. Patrick Harker CE’81 GCE’81 Gr’83, dean of the Wharton School, stood beneath a canopy at the Locust Walk entrance to Jon M. Huntsman Hall. Behind him, the massive new building stretched all the way to Walnut Street, its long west façade flanking 38th Street like a great red-brick locomotive, its glassy six-story circular tower commanding impressive views of West Philadelphia and Center City. Continued...

Illustration by Julia Vakser

RESEARCH More Patients + Fewer Nurses = More Deaths There’s a grim, obvious logic to the findings of a recent study by Penn researchers: More surgical patients per hospital nurse means those patients run a higher risk of dying. According to the study—led by Dr. Linda Aiken, the Leadership Professor of Nursing who serves as director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the School of Nursing—each patient added to the workload of the average hospital nurse increases the risk of death in surgical patients by seven percent. Patients who have common surgeries in hospitals with the poorest ratio of nurses to patients increase their risks of dying by up to 31 percent. Continued...

VISITORS Three’s Company During the spring semester, the Kelly Writers House Fellows Program will feature three well-known visiting Fellows: screenwriter Walter Bernstein (February 17-18), performance artist Laurie Anderson (March 24-25), and Susan Sontag, the art critic, novelist, essayist, and theorist (April 21-22). Continued...

WEST PHILADELPHIA Taking the Initiative The way Jack Shannon sees it, the recent $28 million University City Neighborhood Improvement Program put forward by Penn and Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania represents a “holistic approach” to revitalizing a sizeable chunk of West Philadelphia. Continued...

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Copyright 2003 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 01/05/03


Hamilton House Makeover

There’s no truth to the campus legend that Penn’s high-rises were built as temporary structures—in fact, until recently, it appears that even the furniture inside them was expected to last forever. But now, as part of a projected $80 million effort to renovate the three 30-plus-year-old buildings, the original desks, bureaus, tables, and chairs will be replaced by some combination of four possible design schemes.

The first high-rise to be made over is Hamilton College House. Sample furniture was installed in selected student rooms this fall, and residents were invited to vote on their favorites in November. (The results were still being tabulated and reviewed as the Gazette went to press.) The original sofas, which miraculously were still in good shape, will be reupholstered in “funky retro patterns called ‘Small Dots,’ which look like jacks, and ‘Hula Hoop,’” according to a handout from the Housing and Dining Renewal Project.

Furniture for the three buildings, which house about 800 students each, should cost $2 million. The Hamilton House renovation, which began last summer and is projected to cost $26.5 million, also includes patching and sealing exterior concrete, replacing the window/wall system; installing new sprinklers and elevators, refurbishing public spaces, and adding computer labs and other amenities, as well as landscaping designed to “bring the Hamilton Village area up to the level at the core of campus,” says art-history department chair and former College House director David Brownlee, who continues to oversee the renovation effort.

Most of the work at Hamilton House is expected to be complete by fall 2003, with the other high-rise College Houses, Harrison and Harnwell, to follow.