Speaking Out

Who's Where on Vending?

In recent letters to Almanac (3/24/98) and elsewhere, Jack Shannon characterizes the vending controversy as a disagreement between the Penn Consumer Alliance and the adminstration, which the administration should be allowed to win.

In truth, the disagreement is between a vast array of campus groups and individuals on one side, and an isolated administration on the other:

  • On January 29 and February 5, the University-Wide Committee on Vending Regulation unanimously endorsed several principles for vending regulation, explicitly noting that these principles were not observed by the administrators' ordinance. The committee's voting members had been designated by SEC, UA, GAPSA, A-3 Assembly, unionized employees, consumers, vendors, and local neighborhood groups.
  • On February 15, the Undergraduate Assembly voted 16-2 to oppose the administrators' proposed ordinance, and to demand apologies and public negotiations from the administration.
  • On February 25, the Graduate and Professional Students Assembly adopted the same resolution by unanimous vote.
  • On March 8, the Spruce Hill Community Association strongly urged Councilwoman Blackwell to withdraw the administrators' ordinance in favor of consensus-based negotiations, again by near-unanimous vote.
  • In May 1997, over 10,000 Penn community members signed a pro-vending petition. Several hundred students, faculty, and staff acted further to preserve current vending locations, by phoning City Council, attending a town meeting at 47th Street, and rallying at June's Sansom Common ground-breaking.
  • The Daily Pennsylvanian, Almanac, and Pennsylvania Gazette have published numerous letters, columns, and editorials from non-PCA affiliates who oppose the admin-istration's plan. The administration has enjoyed no comparable show of support.

Administrators have had two years, and a substantial budget, to convince the campus that their plan will do more good than harm. They have failed to do so. It is now inappropriate for them to press ahead against the wishes of the community they serve.

-- Jason Eisner, Graduate Student of Computer Science

Responsiveness of Response

Having complied with Almanac's request that I keep my letter of last week to one third page so that there was space for an administration response,* I am rather appalled that they published Jack Shannon's response that dealt with none of the specific issue that I had raised. Although I believe that Almanac's "reply" policy is a good one, I hope that in the future that the Almanac board will insist that such responses bear some relation to the letters that are written.**

One other note-on Shannon's claim that there will be a vending plaza at 37th and Walnut: If he is referring to the plaza next to the Mod 6 garage that is in the path of the proposed expansion of Gimbel Gym, where the vendors will be located just off Sansom Street in an area with vitually no pedestrian traffic, and indeed nowhere near 37th and Walnut, why didn't he just say so? Why the need to further distort the truth?

-- Paul Lukasiak, Office Assistant, GAPSA

Response to Letters on Vending

In response to Mr. Lukasiak's letter, I believe that the use of the term "37th and Walnut Streets" in my previous letter was quite appropriate. This particular intersection is the one nearest to the Fresh Air Food Plaza being constructed between Mod 7 Garage and Gimbel Gymnasium and, thus, is a quite useful reference point for orienting readers to this particular location. Furthermore, Mr. Lukasiak is in error as to his other assertions regarding the location, since the site will (1) be freely accessible and quite visible from Walnut Street and (2) be clear of the projected path of the future expansion of Gimbel Gymnasium.

In response to Mr. Eisner's letter, I would like to once again state my belief that, after numerous hours of conversations (many of which have been moderated by Councilwoman Blackwell) and close to two years of discussions concerning this issue, it is now time for City Council to pass the Council-woman's ordinance, so that the estimated $10 to $15 million in annual sales rung up by vendors can be finally brought into the realm of properly regulated commercial activity.

-- Jack Shannon, Managing Director, Economic Development


Addendum on Almanac Policy

While the Almanac Advisory Board would make a judgment if indeed a response, if offered, were not to "bear some relation to" the issue raised, we and the editor appropriately seek to exert no more control over the details of content (or length) of responses than over the original submission(s). Perhaps Mr. Lukasiak would like to consider his position if the roles had been reversed. Suppose someone attacked him in our columns and he in turn sent us what he considered his most appropriate and effective rebuttal. Would he appreciate receiving an edict from me that it is not accepted unless he eliminates points a, b and c, and instead specifically addresses issues x, y and z?

-- Martin Pring, Associate Professor of Physiology/Med

Chair, Almanac Advisory Board

* Mr. Lukasiak was asked to shorten his letter for two reasons, though he indicates only one. Omitted is that he was advised of another letter on the same subject, which had been accepted prior to his. He was asked to keep within space limits so that the two letters, and any administrative response to both of them, could appear with minimal delay. - Ed.

** The Board chair's response appears above. As historical practice, the "right-of-reply" has always included the right not to reply, though an editor's note may be entered to assure readers that a response was sought in accordance with Almanac guidelines. Otherwise, the few controls over signed content-applied to respondents as well as to critics-were adopted by successive Boards primarily to "balance the forum" and apportion limited space as fairly as possible.(Guidelines are reached from the Almanac home page, www.upenn.edu/almanac.) The primary limitations are:

Length: Speaking Out specifies "short, timely letters,"so respondents as well as critics are often urged to condense their letters, or to accept editorial suggestions for brevity, to preserve space for others. Increasingly, both critics and respondents are maintaining web pages where they amplify what they may have had to summarize in print.

Relevance: The guidelines put a premium on "relevance to the governance and intellectual life of the University." By extension the Board has sometimes ruled that repetitive contributions may take lower priority than new information, or views not yet heard, or the letters of members of the University community not yet heard from.

Defamation: University General Counsel advises on this, and Almanac complies. -Ed.

Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions. Short, timely letters on University issues can be accepted by Thursday at noon for the following Tuesday's issue, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated.-Ed.

Almanac, Vol. 44, No. 27, March 31, 1998