Ask Benny: Time to sort out all those PennTerms

Dear Benny:
I had a problem with my PennNet ID the other day, and when I gave the person who was helping me the number off my PennCard, I was told that was my Penn ID and not my PennNet ID. She also told me that I could use my Penn ID to look up my “pen name.” What’s that? I’m getting confused.
—Having an Identity Crisis

Dear John Doe (or is it Jane?),
That wasn’t a writer’s alias she was looking up. The thing she was looking up for you was your PennName.

I agree that these terms get confusing, though, and with the transition from the PennNet Authentication System to the PennKey system next month, there are even more terms to learn. I’ll do my best to sort them out for you.

Your PennName is used to create user names on many University systems, including BEN Financials, where it’s your user logon ID. It’s also used to create user names on most University e-mail systems, where it’s what comes before the @ sign in your e-mail address. And, it is also used to create your user name by both the PennNet Authentication System (PAS), Penn’s current, homegrown security system, and the PennKey Authentication System, which replaces PAS on Oct. 14. On that date, your user ID will be known as your PennKey. Until then, it is called your PennNet ID.

Please note that none of these are your Penn ID. That’s the middle, eight-digit set of numbers on your PennCard.

Dear Benny,
Why is there a large egg-shaped paving stone near the middle of the Locust Walk footbridge?

Dear Perplexed,
University Architect Charlie Newman tells me, “It’s just a design element. But it’s interesting that when the bridge reopened, people would stop and have a conversation while standing on the egg.”

Got a question for Benny? You can ask Benny about benefits, worklife issues, University history or trivia, or other matters pertaining to life at Penn. Send your questions via e-mail to or via regular mail to the Current, 200 Sansom Place East, 3600 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6106.

Originally published on September 19, 2002