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Twelve Months of Penn Men

Three campus deejays strike suave poses in January. A trio of ROTC members, brawny arms folded above their fatigues, stare down the camera in June. Closing out the year in song are four a-cappella singers. What do these groups have in common? They each get a page in a 1998 calendar of Penn men. Although it may sound like an Ivy League version of Chippendales, the calendar wasn't created to stoke undergraduate hormones but to promote a new organization called Prism, which encourages interaction among diverse groups of students.
   "It's extremely tasteful," says Prism co-founder and College senior Sara Newman of the black-and-white photographs featured in the calendar. "They came dressed as they wanted to -- no Speedos."
   The club, recalls Newman, grew out of a late-night discussion with a friend and fellow College senior, Marti Speranza, last spring: "We started looking at the dynamics of how Penn's social life is so stratified. It bothered us that we could be here taking classes with so many different types of people, but not really having the opportunity to form more close friendships with them."
   In response they created Prism -- a women's social organization that tries to organize events that will attract "very different types of people -- and very subtly, in the process of working on these fun projects, friendships will form with students we otherwise wouldn't have met because of the divisions at Penn." Prism, which now meets as often as twice a week for parties, discussions, and potluck dinners, has expanded from about 15 to 100 women. The group sold some 250 calendars, at $12 apiece, on Locust Walk, donating a chunk of the proceeds to West Philadelphia's Intercultural Family Services Center.
   The male calendar "models," who posed in groups with titles like "Runners," "Greeks," and "Serious and Stylish," were selected on the basis of input from women around campus, not just Prism members. "It's an extremely diverse mix of men," says Newman. "It's everyone's friends." Wharton senior Todd Johnson sauntered onto a fire escape for the October spread, titled "Just Chillin'." "I knew a couple of people in the group and they just asked me to be in it," he says. "I don't know why I was chosen. I was flattered. I kind of jumped at the chance."

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Copyright 1998 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 4/9/98