Speaking Out

The Kenneth Ray Case

The following exchange began with the letter below, sent February 23 to President Rodin and later to Almanac for publication. Dr. Rodin's response is below.--Ed.

Dear President Rodin:

We are writing to you as a concerned party in the matter of Mr. Kenneth Ray. The sequence of events surrounding Mr. Ray's arrest, preliminary hearing and pending trial are deeply disturbing to us on many levels. These concerns are only elevated by the lack of information provided by Penn Police regarding the actions of the officers involved.

It is inconceivable to us that in 1999, a 61 year-old African-American male, with no criminal record, who has worked here for 38 years could find himself arrested and charged with aggravated assault on the job. Mr. Ray was leaving work at 10 p.m. on January 26 because of his dedication to Penn and his commitment to serving the needs of the medical school. This incident occurred after a long day at work when he was attempting to exit the building to reach his parking garage. To have Mr. Ray mistaken for a thief rather than recognized as the stellar employee that he is leaves us with serious questions about the judgement of those officers involved.

While our immediate concern is for the ordeal Mr. Ray is experiencing, there is also the potential for negative and lasting implications for the Penn community-at-large. Your recent joint letter OF RECORD (Almanac February 9, 1999) stated "The University is committed to maintaining a productive, civil and respectful learning, working and living environment for all faculty, students, staff and visitors. Trust and civility are cornerstones of our community, and the University cannot tolerate any behaviors or actions that violate these essential elements." We couldn't agree more and are hopeful that these beliefs will guide the handling and subsequent just resolution of the Kenneth Ray matter.

Please keep us informed of the Administration's actions toward this end. Thank you.

--Dr. Larry Gladney, Chair, African American Resource Center Advisory Board

Response to Dr. Gladney

Dear Dr. Gladney:

Thank you for your letter concerning the recent incident involving Mr. Kenneth Ray, a School of Medicine staff member. You expressed high regard for Mr. Ray and deep concern about the incident, which I understand and appreciate.

Based on the information I have received to date, Mr. Ray was arrested by University police officers after he allegedly assaulted them. Responding to a night-time report of an unauthorized intruder in the building where Mr. Ray works, the officers observed Mr. Ray leaving the premises and stopped to question him. In the course of this encounter, according to the officers' report, Mr. Ray was uncooperative, grew combative and ultimately injured one officer seriously enough that he required hospital treatment.

I understand that Mr. Ray disputes the officers' version of the encounter in several crucial respects. I also understand that he is scheduled to go on trial in the near future, unless circumstances change in the meantime.

This whole matter is extremely unfortunate. From what I understand, Mr. Ray has been a University employee for almost four decades, and I have received a number of letters attesting to his character and integrity, including yours. I am obviously concerned about the incident and his wellbeing as a valued employee.

At the same time, I am also deeply concerned about the wellbeing of our police officers, who work hard to perform a difficult job. Protecting the safety and security of the University is a complex and difficult task, and I strongly support the officers who serve us.

In the weeks ahead, I will carefully consider all new information that becomes available about this incident and look toward its just and fair resolution. Thank you again for your letter.

--Judith Rodin, President

The following letter was received after the January 26 publication of statements from Dr. Ramsden and from EVP John Fry.--Ed.

Faculty Club: A Bit of History

Perhaps adding a bit more history to Elsa Ramsden's may be of interest (besides, what should historians do but add more history?).

During my last year on the house committee, [the late Executive Vice President] Helen O'Bannon persuaded the Faculty Club to place itself under Hospitality Services and Don Jacobs. If we did this, she promised, the "deficit" would instantly disappear and never reappear. Well, it seems that in spite of Helen's promise, it didn't, and it has. This bit of history will surely influence nothing in the high and ghostly matters discussed by Elsa and Mr. Fry, but perhaps it fills out the sad recent past of the Club by just a tad.

--Edward Peters, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History

Response to Dr. Peters

The Faculty Club Board of Governors was well informed about the long and sometimes tortuous past. The documents are available for anyone to read (historians included). The original agreement between the Club and the Administration anticipated a profit each year. I could find no evidence of a profit. The terms of that agreement seem to have had great flexibility over years, to the benefit of one party or the other. The University Ad-ministration has appeared to be the "bad guy" on several occasions; however, that is not the case currently.

The Board worked over a period of four years to find facts, develop strategy, and create an agreement that both parties could live with. This was a constructive working relationship, initiated by the Board in 1994-95. The final product, now signed by both parties, is a carefully crafted two-part document that ensures continuation of the Club, assuming that the University community continues to support its use. Without a crystal ball, we will await the reactions of members and potential new members to the new facilities.

--Elsa L. Ramsden President, Board of Governors

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. 45, No. 24, March 16, 1999