Speaking Out

Safety: 'Them' and 'Us'

"We will use every available resource of this University to identify and prosecute those intent on victimizing us. We have got to send a message: 'Stay away from us here'."

--Judith Rodin, D.P. 9/27/96, "New Safety Initiatives Announced"

This is the University's view on campus crime: All of Penn's problems are not our fault, but the fault of those out there. Crimes committed by students against students are almost never reported, and never treated as serious threats to the Penn community. Unfortunately, with sexual assault and rape, this myopic view of campus crime endangers all of us because we are denied our right to be informed of the crimes that threaten us most. Without knowledge, we are unable to protect ourselves from those within our community intent on victimizing us.

To most, the thought of sexual violence brings to mind the image of some West Phil-adelphia thug hellbent on victimizing helpless Penn women walking home after a late-night, off-campus party. The University fosters this image by failing to address student-on-student sexual violence. By creating new safety measures designed to keep others out, and disregarding measures which protect us from all sexual predators, the University pits "us" against "them." At Penn, there is a long tradition of an "us vs. them" mentality.

Since 1994, The Daily Pennsylvanian has reported on 14 incidents of sexual violence that occurred on or around campus. In 13 of these, arrests were made, and the University responded immediately with heightened security. In the remaining incident--the only report of student-on-student sexual violence reported to the D.P.--the University denied that any incident was ever reported. Are we to believe that at Penn sexual violence does not occur-that Penn students just don't do that?

In 1995, student-on-student sexual violence at Penn was so underreported that, after investigating the University's crime reporting policy, the Department of Justice ordered the University to inform the Penn community of all sexual violence. In 1996, a former student filed suit against the University alleging that the University mishandled her allegation of rape (the unsolved incident above) and attempted to cover it up. As a result, the Department of Justice reopened its investigation at Penn and concluded the University had failed to report this incident, violating campus crime reporting laws. The UA was the first to react to the attempted rape of a Penn student earlier this year. By handing out "we are a target" stickers, the UA stressed that "we" are often targeted by "them." This theme was emphasized by the University when security patrols were added inside buildings and when Penn Police increased campus patrols. Additionally, the University has ordered students to wear ID's inside Penn buildings to help us identify those who don't belong.

The assaulted student also claimed the first alarm she activated failed and she had to fight her way to a second alarm to summon help. Police responded to her claim, "All of the alarms were tested on Monday and none were broken," and "We believe both of the two alarms sounded." Police disregarded any concerns regarding the reliability of alarms, installed to protect us from those within the Penn community. Several student groups researched the condition of all rape alarms and found 15 women's bathrooms not equipped with alarms, several more were visibly inoperable, and a majority of men's bathrooms had no alarms. Rodin responded to these findings, "If users of the buildings continue to prop doors open, then no action that our Public Safety Department can take will ensure all of our securities." The truth is that with every door closed and every outsider outside, sexual assault would still exist at Penn. The truth:

  • 34% of women are sexually assaulted by age 24.
  • 16% of men are sexually assaulted by age 23.
  • 92% of rapists are acquainted with their victim (boyfriend, girlfriend...)
  • 72% of rapists have raped more than once.

We must realize that we are partially responsible for the silence surrounding student-on-student sexual violence. Sexual assault and rape are frightening issues to address, and therefore we easily allow the University to divert our attention from it. We also fail to have our voices heard when the University ignores our concerns. Yet, if we don't address this issue, student-on-student sexual violence will never stop, and victims will always need to fight to be heard. If ignored, we must fight to keep our voices heard. If you believe that sexual assault and rape don't exist at Penn, listen to what others have to say. Let victims teach you about pain, sorrow, shame, and about innocence lost. Let survivors show you strength, courage, and what it means to fight to survive. Maybe by listening to what victims/survivors have to share, we would never allow the truth to be silent. Maybe we could finally start working to end sexual violence at Penn.

--Name Withheld

[Ed. Note: Almanac does not accept anonymous letters but the Guidelines provide for withholding a name under some circumstances, with the writer's identity and affiliation known to two members of the University. This writer identified himself to the editor and to the chair of the Almanac Advisory Board.]

Leaving Skinner Hall

I face the prospect of vacating the Faculty Club's premises with some trepidation. Not only my physical body is involved, but also the Faculty Club Art Gallery which bears my name.

The plan, as announced, calls for the Club to move across Walnut Street to the Inn At Penn, and to occupy certain designated spaces. The Club's Art Gallery has also been assigned a location.

Contemplating the attendant trauma usually associated with a move of this kind, I've been pondering the Faculty Club's past, present, and future role in the University --its raison d'être.

The Faculty Club, originally called the Lenape Club when it was founded 100 years ago, was conceived as an instrument to promote collegial fraternization. Membership was limited, at first, only by invitation to the professorial male elite. Later, eligibility was extended to include members of all branches of the University community except undergraduate students.

The Club offers not only a variety of dining options, but it provides a place for meetings--small and large. Whether it be for a small group exchanging ideas in an intimate setting, or for a colloquium of 100 participants discussing scholarly or other matters, all can be accommodated.

Homecoming Alumni find a welcoming place at the Faculty Club where fond memories of student days are revisited. It is also neutral ground for "town and gown" where outside community leaders can meet with Penn administrators to discuss plans.

I could cite a wide variety of social, academic, and business functions that take place on a given typical working day. To explain the Faculty Club's image one could describe it as a shining example of democracy in action, devoid of class distinction. Having made a favorable case for the Faculty Club's presence on campus, let us examine the liabilities.

As many other academic institutions have learned, there is a price tag involved in providing the amenities listed above.

The assets presumed to accrue are constantly under scrutiny by the administration and weighed in the balance against the dollar cost factor. Revenue producing events and modest membership fees do not begin to cover the costs. It is an accepted economic fact that, while contributing considerably to campus gemütlichkeit, faculty clubs are necessarily considered economic deficits.

Of present concern is the kind of future in store for Penn's Faculty Club. Will its present membership dwindle as the Club's physical image changes, from that of "Homeowner" to "Tenant"? Will its image lose what luster it presently enjoys once the honeymoon in its new quarters is over?

As one examines the architects' floor plans, it is hard to predict whether the spaces earmarked for the Faculty Club will satisfy present needs.

Looking at the positive side, perhaps the move will attract a new breed of members who previously, for whatever reason, were reluctant to join.

--Maurice S. Burrison, Director, Faculty Club Art Gallery

Housing: A Bigger Picture

As a community member for nearly 10 years, and a board member of a local community association, I was bewildered by the letter from Mr. Lukasiak that took the University's housing assistance programs as its target. The University's housing assistance programs have been providing a vital resource to the community in its struggle against housing abandonment, low homeownership rates, declining property values, and the deterioration of the housing stock. Moreover, as Ms. Wormley's report indicated, the primary beneficiaries have been non-faculty affiliates of the University. While I am sure the new buyers include some "middle and high level administrators" (and fortunately so), most of the beneficiaries are exactly the people Mr. Lukasiak thinks should be helped: staff at the University and Health System seeking affordable housing. Indeed, the data indicate that most of the buyers were renters from the neighborhood who became homeowners through the plan!

I found it puzzling that Mr. Lukasiak would criticize the "single family home" focus of the program, while decrying a "dangerously" low homeownership rate. Moreover, from a factual standpoint, the program does not preclude buyers from buying a multifamily unit, so long as they live in it-just as Mr. Lukasiak recommends they should. And why he would criticize the University for buying abandoned houses, rehabbing them and selling them to new owners is beyond me. What neighborhood wouldn't want their abandoned homes renovated, and occupied by new homeowners?

He also criticizes the expanded mortgage program, which provides a cash grant to new homebuyers from the University, as artificially driving up real estate prices, noting a $15,000 increase in the average sale price. First, as I understand it, the program requires that buyers put the cash grant into the property through rehabilitation and improvements--contributing to the long-term value of the property, and the community. Second, one cannot validly compare sale prices from a previous year when there were merely a dozen home sales, to a year when there were 85. Moreover, as one might expect, many of the houses that sold in the early part of the program were the neighborhood's largest homes, many of which sat on the inventory for a couple of a years. Lastly, a stabilization and growth in home values is a positive outcome! And, once again, most of the beneficiaries will be the community's long-time residents, the very people Mr. Lukasiak wants the University to help. Would he rather that property values decline, and homeowners lose equity?

As for the boundary issue, it is also my understanding that part of the mortgage program expansion was to extend the University's 120% financing guarantee out to Cobbs Creek to the West, City Line Avenue to the North, and Woodland to the South. How much farther does he want it extended, Media? While it is true that the cash grant program does not extend as far, most of us who have purchased homes in the neighborhood did so under the program that now covers virtually all of West Philadelphia. Moreover, as far the cash incentive is concerned, a reasonable boundary is needed in order not to dissipate the potential benefits of the program.

Other than Mr. Lukasiak, I haven't heard anyone "raise the specter of racism" related to this program, and to do so would be reckless and irresponsible. This community is diverse, both ethnically and by income, as are the new homebuyers, and the neighborhood is likely to remain so for quite some time to come. The University, as big and important as it may be, is not going to displace a community of thousands of people by insuring the mortgages on a couple hundred properties.

Finally, Mr. Lukasiak is missing the bigger picture. According to recent Census statistics, the City of Philadelphia suffered a net loss of 150,000 people since 1990. That means that about 50,000 housing units were vacated, many of them in West Philadelphia. For any neighborhood to be able to hold back the forces of housing abandonment is a major victory for all city dwellers, and, not incidentally, for opponents of the poverty concentration and racial isolation that have resulted from population out-migration. Almost anything that a Philadelphia neighborhood can do to interest people in living in the city, particularly middle income people, should be applauded-for the long-term viability of the entire city, poor, working class, and middle class alike. In our case, the University deserves a big part of the credit, and not to give it risks a turning back to the days when the University wouldn't even acknowledge the existence of "University City," fearing that use of the title implied a social obligation. Unfortunately, Mr. Lukasiak seems more interested in hurling invective, than in a promoting a genuine observance of that obligation.

--Dennis Culhane, Associate Professor, School of Social Work

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. 27, April 6, 1999