Following the inaugural ceremony, on Friday afternoon Penn alumni, faculty, and experts from other institutions participated in five panel discussions examining issues including the communication of knowledge in an unequal world, how investments in science and medicine can improve lives, ways of educating professionals to be engaged citizens, leading and learning from local and global communities, and making the most of cultural differences. Gazette staff and freelancers fanned out across the campus and brought back the following reports. Streaming video of the panels is also available at (www.upenn.edu/inauguration/symposia.html).

Creating and Communicating Knowledge in an Unequal World

As part of his current research on how Philadelphians experience diversity in their everyday lives, Elijah Anderson, the Charles and William L. Day Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences, has sat for hours at a time in Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market, talking to people and overhearing “fascinating tidbits of conversation,” often involving strangers at a restaurant counter meeting and talking.

Located in Center City, Philadelphia’s downtown, Reading Terminal is “a heterogeneous and densely populated public space” that provides a model of what Anderson called “cosmopolitan canopies.” The terminal’s many restaurants, produce stands, and other businesses are operated by members of “seemingly every ethnic group,” and the customers come from equally varied backgrounds, he said, and they all seem to get along within its confines.

Such spaces, which range from Penn’s own campus to the local Starbucks or McDonalds, offer a “profoundly humanizing experience.” There’s an opportunity to “eavesdrop, look people over,” said Anderson. The “growing social sophistication” that results “must be good for democracy.”

Anderson and other speakers balanced this and other positive factors against a number of negatives—among them, the perceived suppression of votes in Florida in the 2000 presidential campaign, the “digital divide” limiting access of the poor and minorities to the Internet, corrosive media cynicism and increasingly divisive politics, and “chokepoints” that impede the free flow of scientific information—as they addressed the question raised at the outset by moderator Andrea Mitchell CW’67, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent and self-described “refugee from the political campaign”: How can the flow of new knowledge and information strengthen democracy, enrich individual lives, and make for a better community?

According to John DiIulio, Frederic Fox Leadership Professor of Political Science, there is no better way to fulfill the academic mission to pursue new knowledge than to get “up close and personal” with real people and problems. As one example, he described a project aimed at determining what makes people use available programs—an issue, he noted, that scholars have been “babbling over” for years. In Philadelphia alone, he said, $30 million-$40 million in Earned Income Tax Credit benefits for the working poor were left “on the table” because people failed to file for them. Through public-service announcements, approaching libraries and community groups, and other efforts to spread the word, they got $10 million in people’s hands in the first year, he said. With the Philadelphia Daily News having taken up the cause, he estimated they could hit $20 million this year. But the primary motivation, he emphasized, was “knowledge-development.”

Former Annenberg School for Communication Dean Kathleen Hall Jamieson, who still heads the Annenberg Public Policy Center, addressed the media’s role. “We know that when the media focus on strategy and tactics,” in covering politics, then “people don’t know the content” and get more cynical about the political process, she said.

As one counterweight, Jamieson offered Annenberg’s Student Voices project, which currently involves 10,000 high-school students in 12 cities. Students can “see politics at the local level” by having candidates for mayor and governor come to the schools to answer the kids’ questions—and inviting the media in to watch. In most cases, these are schools without working bathrooms, let alone up-to-date textbooks, said Jamieson; visiting gives politicians and the press a fresh insight into the conditions the students face every day.

Reporters also discover—often to their surprise—that the students are sharp questioners, an experience that “dispatches some cynicism” and generates a different type of press coverage from the standard depiction of public-school students as either “victims or perpetrators.” In turn, this can make it more likely that students will read or watch the news, that they will vote when they are eligible to do so—and someday run for office themselves, Jamieson said.

Fernando Pereira, the Andrew and Debra Rachleff Professor and chair of the department of computer and information science, focused on the way that the Internet has transformed “completely the way science is done today.” He told of turning up information related to his own research—which he never would have known otherwise—through a Google search, and offered the example of an Indian scientist who had solved a major math problem and, outside the normal channels of publishing, posted his results online. Within two days the discovery had circulated around the globe and had been verified worldwide, he said.

In contrast, Pereira attacked the “extortionate subscription cost” of journals, and showed figures estimating that the cost of publishing an article can go up to $10,000. Asserting that the “potential has been barely realized to have research shared all over the world” through the Internet, he urged universities to “take the lead in making knowledge available.”

Anderson acknowledged the importance of the “digital divide” but considered other factors to be more harmful to minority concerns. “Think about 2000, Florida, the suppression of the vote,” he said. Such incidents “encourage cynicism and undermine any notion of hope and possibility in the black community.”

On the question of whether new voting technologies will hinder or help potential voter fraud, Pereira said it was less an issue of old vs. new technologies than closed vs. open systems. “If a program is not open it can be manipulated or just gotten wrong. The democratic process should be open,” he said, “and that goes for code as much as anything else.”

This fall on Penn’s campus, many students were engaged in the political campaign, participating in various voter registration efforts and other activities, and talking about the election—with much more substance and civility than exhibited by the candidates, according to Jamieson, who called the 2004 campaign “the dirtiest, least factual in history.”

While there have always been some fierce partisans, the broad assumption once was that either nominee in a presidential election was fit to run the country. Now, Jamieson said, voters “can’t think both are good. One must be evil.” This attitude, manifest in the 2000 and 2004 campaigns, creates a situation in which “half the country thinks that the person elected is not going to be good for the country,” said Jamieson, and is “driving toward thinking that the person means to do the country harm.” —J.P.

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Improving Lives by Investing in Science and Medicine

Somewhere in rural Mali, a field researcher with a low-speed Internet connection can tap into the same database used by David Roos at Penn to search for solutions to the malaria epidemic. “For better and for worse, we live in an increasingly integrated world,” said Roos, a professor of biology and director of the Penn Genomics Institute, whose own work in malarial chemotherapy thrives on such partnerships. “Computational approaches in biomedical research have made us truly one global community. We can carry out actively collaborative research with colleagues in Nigeria, Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil and India in a way we never could have done when we were required to be physically passing a test tube from one person to the next.”

Mary Naylor, the Marion S. Ware Professor in Gerontology and associate director of the Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence at the School of Nursing, opened the discussion with a sobering assessment of global health, citing millions of uninsured children, an epidemic of obesity, and diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and AIDS that are “devouring communities.”

According to Naylor, “We face in our society and across the globe major threats to health that have the potential, if left unabated, to undermine all the tremendous progress in science and technology that we’ve achieved in recent decades.” As the SARS epidemic made clear, “no one is immune” to health-care crises. “We are all part of a borderless global village.

“The good news is I think we are uniquely positioned at Penn to play a leading catalytic role in addressing the major threats to health and well being,” Naylor said. “I think we can even do more to transform societies by focusing on the root causes of disease, with poverty and education very high on that list.”

Chemistry Professor Michael Klein made a pitch for investing in basic science even when there seem to be no immediate benefits to be gained. The competition for corporate profits places extra stress on the “university-national laboratory establishment” to support basic research, he said.

University researchers have become increasingly reliant on private funders, said Arthur Caplan, professor of medical ethics and director of the Center for Bioethics. Institutions tend to take a schizophrenic approach to these relationships—encouraging the influx of much-needed research dollars while warning faculty not to compromise their ethics. “I think we need to have better mission mandates [at our universities] to make sure we know what goals we’re striving toward,” he said, “so we don’t just go for the money.”

Caplan cited a study by the center that showed that even small gifts by pharmaceutical companies, like food and pens, influenced behavior—and added that the funder, Pfizer, had tried to get the center to withhold the report. “We want to engage with industry and change industry behavior,” Caplan said. “On the other hand, they are going to try to shape us. We’re just a little piece of a big problem that universities face, in trying to engage with and interact with the private sector.”

Barbara Weber, professor of medicine and genetics and director of the breast cancer program at the Abramson Cancer Center, discussed her research showing that deaths from breast and ovarian cancers could be dramatically reduced if high-risk women “know who they are and if they undergo certain screening procedures and simple surgical procedures,” such as ovary removal after they’ve finished having children.

But testing is “wildly underutilized,” partly because of the expense but also because of fear and misinformation, Weber said. She told of two women who, despite knowing that their families carried genetic mutations that put them at a high risk for developing cancer, were afraid to undergo individual genetic testing. In the past 12 months, they developed ovarian cancer and died, leaving behind young children. “Both of these cancers could have been prevented if we had been able to convince them that genetic testing was useful.”

The debate over stem-cell research has also been rife with misinformation, said Weber, noting that opponents link it with abortions when, in fact, the major source of stem cells would be embryos from in vitro fertilization labs. She criticized the “politicization” of this “very valuable research” and a Senate bill that would criminalize it, arguing that universities should help set the record straight and be “leading policy issues in that regard.”

If the United States doesn’t push ahead on stem-cell research, “there are plenty of countries that will, and they might not regulate it as well as we will,” warned Ralph Brinster, the Richard King Mellon Professor of Reproductive Physiology and Animal Biology in the School of Veterinary Medicine. “It’s just a dynamic time in biology, and we’re not going to stop it.”

Making the argument that science policy should be made by citizens, Roos added that, unfortunately, science education in this country is inadequate. Even many highly educated people don’t feel an obligation to be informed, he added. “I can’t talk to my colleagues in comparative literature and say, ‘Oh … books,’ but most of my colleagues, for whom I have tremendous respect, have no clue about what I do,” Roos said. “I think how to develop a rigorous understanding in the sciences is one of the real challenges for the 21st century in education.”

Speaking from the audience, Nursing School Dean Afaf Meleis returned to the theme of engagement: “I think we have a global obligation and we have a moral obligation,” she said, “not to lead the world but work with the world to advance science.”

Weber called it “an incredibly tricky balance” to provide help without imposing one’s own values. “The one thing I keep coming back to, whether it’s in genetic testing, whether it’s dealing with families in West Philadelphia, or dealing with families around the world is that the importance of really understanding and appreciating someone else’s culture cannot be overemphasized,” she said. “It is, I think, a critical point to not go into situations with assumptions based on our own cultural beliefs and knowledge.” —S.F.

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Educating Professionals as Engaged Citizens

Does professional education erode the idealism of students coming into the professions? Statistics show it might, according to Dennis Thompson, the Alfred North Whitehead Professor of Political Philosophy at Harvard University, founding director of the Center for Ethics and the Professions, and co-author with President Gutmann of two books on “deliberative democracy.”

Some 45 percent of students entering Harvard Law School, for example, say they are attracted to public interest law. When they leave, only 10 percent go into public-interest practice, said Thompson, who cited similar findings among students in medical and business school—suggesting that schools somehow “signal” that the public good is a marginal pursuit.

“Now I don’t think it should be the full-time activity of every professional,” Thompson cautioned, “but I do think that professional education should demonstrate—signal—that this is really important.” He recommended a “comprehensive education” that includes ethics courses, public service, and other requirements demonstrating that “we as professionals and professional educators owe time, effort, and attention to serving the public good.”

Laurie Olin, the Practice Professor of Landscape Architecture in Penn’s School of Design, confirmed that design students enter professional education with a similar idealism: they believe they can make the world better through their practice. “We think they’re wonderful,” said Olin, “but the problem is we feel we need to give them a little bit of skepticism.” Students come from widely different backgrounds, and upon graduation, they enter professional practice in a variety of cultural, political, and environmental contexts. “We try to give [students] the tools to operate within a situation that [they] can’t control or guarantee or predict,” he said. “We are actually trying to do what we used to talk about when we talked about education, and that is giving people tools to teach themselves.”

Professionals are connected to society in their practice through a social contract that specifies the actions and standards expected by the citizens of that society, said Sarah Kagan, the Doris R. Schwartz Term Associate Professor in Gerontological Nursing at Penn [“Sarah Kagan’s ‘Genius Idea,’” March/April]. “Professional education, therefore, should make explicit to students how they are bound as engaged citizens to uphold the contract.”

In many professions, she noted, the social contract is rendered “invisible” by an emphasis on outcomes and productivity. In the health care industry, economic priorities can drive institutions far from people’s expectation of care and compassion in their relationship with “my nurse” and “my doctor,” never circling back to the social contract as a guide for analysis, education, and practice.

“To build and extend personal understanding and a sense of accountability for the social contract, we must underwrite the teaching of technologies and systems and science with an analysis of social consequences,” Kagan said. “I believe we must shape education that respects human behavior and social context while imagining the possibilities of combining science and service in new ways.”

Headlines detailing giant corporate scandals in recent years provide clear evidence of the importance of business ethics, said Thomas Donaldson, the Mark O. Winkelman Professor at the Wharton School and director of the school’s Ph.D. program in ethics and law. The teaching of ethics in business schools has been evolving over 30 years, and today is a required part of the curriculum—though only about a third of business schools take it seriously, Donaldson said. (At Wharton, every MBA candidate must take a series of ethics courses, and 85 percent of Wharton undergraduates take at least one.)

Sometimes the courses “autopsy” big corporate scandals and pull out the predictable elements that business leaders must learn to anticipate and manage. Students are also encouraged to reflect on the function of the corporation in modern society, beyond profit-seeking. “It’s about some other stakeholders,” Donaldson said. “It’s about the community; it’s about employees, about customers.”

Panel moderator Sarah Gordon, a professor of law and history, observed that lawyers dominate our political and legal life, and that American society is deeply committed to the rule of law and the achievement of justice through law. When lawyers do their job well, she remarked, the system works in ways we often take for granted.

Lawyers are skilled at “organizing and sorting and explaining a confusing reality in ways that all the players can understand,” providing a “synthesis” of issues that helps people talk across divides rather than at cross purposes—vital to a democracy, which brings diverse people together to govern themselves. Gordon strongly recommended interdisciplinary and interprofessional training to add the “ability to talk across scholarly and professional fields” as well, calling it “key to legal practice in a fast-paced and unpredictable world.”

Speaking from the audience, Arthur Rubenstein, dean of Penn’s School of Medicine, called attention to a series of skewed priorities that work against the ideals discussed—including high debt accumulated by medical school graduates, the public’s demand for expensive medical treatments, and a political system driven by money and power. “The incentives,” he said, “are so back to front that to get everyone to do what’s right in the system is very challenging. ”

Thompson agreed that there is a crisis in medicine and in other fields, and that part of professional education ought to include the training of spokespersons who can advance change by changing structures and incentives. “Part of medical and professional education,” he said, “ought to prepare future leaders in the professions who will engage not just in the professions but with the political system.”

Donaldson argued that to change society’s misaligned incentives, the mindset of people first needs to be changed, and the best place to do that is in the educational institutions that form the professionals. —Peter Nichols

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Leading and Learning from Local and Global Communities

“On September 11, 2001, our nation learned that we must become much more aware of our world,” said Judith Buchanan, an associate professor in the dental school’s Department of Community Oral Health. “While we represent only four percent of the world’s population, our influence is enormous, in both economic and military terms.” Sharing advancements toward world health issues is a major component of Penn’s and America’s responsibility to the global community, she said.

Schools like Penn face difficulty in effecting social change, said Dennis Culhane, professor of social-welfare policy and psychology in the School of Social Work. “Given the focus of our conversation here today on the role of educational institutions,” Culhane called it “ironic” that educational disparities—which continue some 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education ended legal segregation—are among the most serious social problems undermining democratic values.

“I don’t think we can hope to effectively address these problems and the inequalities that underlie them by working in a single academic or policy domain,” he said. “We are going to have to search for the broader and the deeper social remedies just as we learn how broad and deep are these problems.”

Michael Useem, the William and Jacalyn Egan Professor of Management and director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the Wharton School, highlighted Penn’s mission to educate students to be world leaders. “My own view is that leadership can be developed in everybody,” he said. “Some seem to have a great head start, but I’m pretty certain it’s not genetic.”

Margaret Beale Spencer, who holds the Board of Overseers Professorship of Human Development and Education in the Graduate School of Education, discussed Penn’s work with the surrounding West Philadelphia community. Such involvement isn’t effective unless “[we’re] also acknowledging and questioning our own practiced identities and positions of privilege,” she added. “To really engage with others it’s important that we’re always reflecting on who we are.”

Spencer said the Graduate School of Education tries to follow W.E.B. DuBois’ notion of “engaged scholarship,” which means seeking to understand the points of view of the constituencies that Penn’s work represents.

When an audience member asked the panel to turn the focus away from the local West Philadelphia community and toward Penn’s involvement in international affairs, Buchanan observed that “local is merging into global.”

Culhane reminded the audience of the deeply interconnected nature of many social welfare problems—and their solutions. In order to address educational disparities in our city, he said, we must also understand local property taxes, regional political structures, historic patterns of residential segregation, and the local labor market—the last of which cannot be evaluated outside of a global context.

“So, in essence, the problem of failing schools in West Philly is linked to the global economy,” he said.

The panelists agreed that the United States stands to gain as much, if not more, as it has to teach in collaborations with other nations.

“We have more to learn from many of the other democracies in the world than we have to give—in terms of how to handle the social welfare system, for example,” Culhane said, citing the fact that the United States has the highest poverty rate of the advanced industrialized world.

An undergraduate student in the audience commented that the University should work harder to ensure that students interact in a personal way with Penn’s surrounding community. He said that the time he felt most connected with the community was when he shared his favorite fish recipe with a stranger in a neighborhood market.

Referring to President Gutmann’s inaugural speech, moderator Jon Huntsman W’59 Hon’96 recalled that she “suggested that diversity at Penn is a virtue, and that whatever unites us is far better than whatever could divide us.

“The world is never going to change from what we learn in a class. We can talk about reaching out locally, globally, but at the end of the day, it’s those fish recipes—or a thought or hug or a pat on the back—that bring home exactly what this University teaches best.” —Katie Haegele

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Making the Most of Our Cultural Differences

“How can an education best help individuals cope with the challenges of cultural differences? What is the role of universities in furthering democratic values and building a more cohesive and cosmopolitan world amidst multiplying differences?” These were among the opening questions from Henry Louis Gates, professor of African and African-American studies at Harvard University and chair of a symposium panel dedicated to exploring the complexity, necessity, virtues, and pitfalls of embracing cultural difference as a reality and a resource.

Barbara Savage, the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought, was concerned with particulars: How do we treat the person who cleans and maintains the building in which we work, study, or live? How do we interact with the person from whom we buy our lunch?

As a community we are no better than what these “eyeball-to-eyeball” details reveal, Savage said. Her appeal to everyone, but especially to those in positions of influence—such as hiring and promoting, and training and teaching—was to be “hyper-vigilant” as to how their day-to-day decisions and behaviors affect those around them. They must also be fiercely discerning about the decisions they make to include the rich diversity they wish to promote.

One vehicle to teach and explore diversity of all varieties is literature, which is “richer when we demand that it traffic in difference,” Gates said. “If I learn from a book that I read, it is not primarily because I see my ethnic self reflected in its pages, but also because I see populating it many people different from me.”

Penn English Professor Ania Loomba said she finds it “most effective to teach questions of race relations through my Shakespeare and Renaissance classes because it helps people understand the long and interconnected history of race, as well as making the point that there are no scholarly areas which can be sealed off from the questions of race and culture difference.”

However, “cultural difference” is not a term that Loomba celebrates. “I myself think [it] often becomes a way of avoiding the subject of race,” she said. “Thus, multiculturalism in the U.S. has to be wary of simply celebrating what it sees of another culture and thus sanctioning dominant voices within particular communities.” Instead, Loomba prefers to put the focus on tensions, which reveal the rules and dynamics that define belonging and exclusion among different segments of a nation or community.

Loomba added that a university, in addition to emphasizing the importance of cultural diversity, must also address social injustice. This includes reaching out to “historically disempowered minorities,” as well as teaching the history of colonialism so that different groups can better understand the disparity of different backgrounds. “My students are not allowed to use the word ‘culture’ in my classroom until the end of the semester when we have learned to articulate it,” she said, adding that it is better to talk about class, religion, education, geography, politics, economics, and the like, before speaking of the more abstract, and potentially alienating, notion of culture.

According to Penn Law Professor Howard F. Chang, universities must play a critical role in embracing and educating about cultural diversity because of the very nature of the society in which they are a part. The best way to do this, he said, is to assure that the population represented in a university is an accurate reflection of the society at large. In this way, students and scholars are exposed to difference, they can learn from each other, and they will find their own options broadened through being around people of different backgrounds.

K. Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy at Princeton University, emphasized the role of cultural difference in a university’s research mission—best served, he said, when the researchers are from diverse backgrounds, be it class, gender, religion, or culture. Working together, such researchers can offer a control against framing questions that are too limited, while also expanding the possible kinds of questions that are asked.

“If our interest is in finding out the truth and deepening our understanding of what it is to be human, then one thing we need access to is the range of being a human being that society has produced,” Appiah said. “One very good way to do this is when a university can have among its scholars and students not only people who study the full range of human cultures but also scholars who represent the best of the various intellectual traditions that various cultures have produced.” —Beebe Bahrami 

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2004 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 10/29/04

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A Marriage “Meant to Be”
Amy Gutmann Inaugurated
as Penn's Eighth President

November | December Contents
Gazette Home

 

 

Greetings, President Gutmann
Words of welcome from Penn’s faculty, students, administration and staff, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, learned societies, and institutions of higher education.

Inaugural Speech:
From Excellence to Eminence

Symposium:
Rising to the Challenges
of a Diverse Democracy