COUNCIL Year-End Reports on the April 19 Agenda

Report of the Committee on International Programs, 1999-2000

The University Council Committee on International Programs met five times during the 1999-2000 academic year and a sixth meeting is planned for later this month. We addressed the following charges to the Committee:

  • Examine the issue of an International Center
  • Continue consideration of housing for short-term international guests
  • Continue discussion of Study Abroad programs

The active membership of the Committee consisted of six faculty, a representative of the administrative staff, two GAPSA representatives and three undergraduate students. Dr. Joyce M. Randolph, Director of the Office of International Programs (OIP), attended the meetings as an ex-officio member. We also met with the following invited guests: Dr. Peter Conn, Deputy Provost; Mr. Larry Moneta, Associate Vice President for Campus Services and Mr. Geoffrey Gee, Associate Director of OIP.

Development of an International Center on Campus

The Committee continued to discuss the issue of outreach to international students and scholars, a topic that was of interest to the Committee for the past several years. The Committee feels strongly that there is insufficient integration of our international visitors in life at Penn. Although OIP does sponsor a number of successful events for visiting scholars (e.g., the once-a-month "Talk and Taste" social events and a Thanksgiving hosting program), there are few other events on campus to make our international visitors feel welcome. The Committee considered the possibility of creating an International Center on campus. This issue was a major topic of discussion at several meetings including a session with Dr. Peter Conn.

The development of an International Center, a topic considered in past years by the Committee, should be given a high priority by the University. The relative lack of integration of our international scholars and visitors into the University community is in part due to a lack of an adequate center for activities with an international focus. A number of our peer institutions have such centers (e.g., Cornell and Stanford), as do many other universities with a large international scholar presence (e.g., University of Pittsburgh, Georgetown University, Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Massachusetts at Amherst). The Committee envisions that an International Center would not only serve as a meeting place for cultural and social programs with an international focus, but could also house interdisciplinary academic programs with strong international components, as well as provide a home for internationally-oriented student organizations. The Committee suggests that such a center could serve not only as a magnet for international scholars and students, but could also provide an atmosphere to attract the rest of the student body, faculty, and staff, creating a meeting place to increase contacts between the international community and others on campus. In addition to meeting rooms and offices, the Center should have a food service component such as an International Café to provide an attractive informal atmosphere. The Committee also suggests that plans for such an International Center be coordinated with plans for a Graduate Student Center. Since a large number of graduate students are from abroad, many activities could be coordinated between the two centers. The International Center should be housed in a building at a central site on campus, preferably on Locust Walk.

It was evident to the Committee that OIP is doing an outstanding job. This office, the center for promotion and coordination of international activities throughout the University, gives a very high level of service even though hampered by inadequate facilities. Space limitations greatly dampen the otherwise welcoming atmosphere in OIP. There is insufficient office space, an inadequate reception area, and there are no facilities to host activities of internationally oriented scholar groups. The Committee strongly recommends that an expanded OIP be housed in the proposed International Center. Although the Committee believes that the University administration appreciates the needs of OIP, we disagree with plans that would move OIP away from the center of the campus. OIP not only provides international scholars and students with administrative services, but it also administers the Study Abroad program and thus provides academic services to the undergraduate student body. These functions should be housed in a new International Center located centrally, and not be moved to a distantly located building which would in practice further marginalize all international programs on campus. Moreover, if an International Center is to succeed it will need to be administered properly and OIP is the appropriate office for this task. The Committee is confident that the expertise currently at OIP would be invaluable in creating a lively atmosphere in a new International Center.

Committee Recommendation

The University should place a high priority on developing a new International Center on campus to provide meeting areas for international scholars and students, house new interdisciplinary academic programs with an international focus, serve as a center for internationally oriented student organizations, and house an expanded OIP.

Housing for Short-Term International Guests

The Committee has been concerned about the lack of adequate housing for short-term international guests. Visitors to the campus who stay for a few days can find adequate hotel accommodations and long-term visitors can rent furnished or unfurnished apartments. However, visitors to Penn who need to stay near the campus for a period of one week to several months find very little suitable housing. As a major research university, Penn should have facilities to encourage visits of research collaborators who need to be housed near campus. Laboratory research particularly requires proximity to campus since experimental work often requires late night and weekend activity in University laboratory buildings. Unfortunately, Penn short-term housing is now mostly limited to guest suites in Grad Towers at $1200 per month, a cost we think too high to be affordable for many visiting scholars and research students. The one other source of short-term housing near campus is the Divine Tracy Hotel, which although inexpensive, has dress codes which discriminate against women and a particular religious orientation, a situation not appropriate for many of our international visitors.

The Committee has reviewed a number of housing options over the past two years and is concerned that the University not only has no plans to fill the need for moderately priced short-term housing but has actually eliminated the low end units which were once available. The Committee understands that the University cannot put its resources into developing such housing unless there is a demonstrated need. In last year's Committee report, we suggested that surveys be carried out within Departments with significant research personnel to determine the current need for moderate cost short-term housing. In the absence of any such effort by the University administration, the Committee itself initiated a survey of three Departments (Biology, Economics, Electrical Engineering) and one School (Nursing) to gauge the need for short-term visitor housing. The surveys indicated a need for housing of short-term international faculty, postdoctoral, and graduate student research collaborators. Based on these surveys we estimate that in the coming academic year over 50 such scholars from these four academic units will need housing for periods of one week to several months. University-wide, we would project a need to house several hundred to more than one thousand international scholars per year for short-term periods. Moreover, the availability of such housing may itself lead to increased visits from international collaborators, thus generating additional demand.

The Committee recommended last year that the University develop a plan to provide modest but inviting units at the price range of $600-$800 per month, the number of which would be determined by appropriate surveys and market research. In our discussions with Mr. Larry Moneta, we learned that there are currently no plans at present to develop moderate cost short-term housing options. We did learn, however, that the University is considering renovating the Sheraton Hotel to create a floor of two-room suites. The monthly cost of such suites is projected to be several times what the Committee estimates visiting research scholars will be able to afford. The Committee advises the University administration to rethink plans for renovation of properties such as the Sheraton Hotel, incorporating at least some single rooms that would need to be only slightly renovated to meet the needs of short-term scholar visitors.

Committee Recommendation

The University needs to develop a plan to provide moderately priced short-term housing for international visitors. Housing at a cost affordable to student, postdoctoral, and junior research level visitors needs to be created. The number of units to be developed should be determined by appropriate surveys and market research. One appropriate site for such housing would be in the renovated Sheraton Hotel, in which single rooms could be modified to contain a kitchenette.

Study Abroad Programs

The Committee discussed a number of issues concerning Study Abroad programs. The issue of charging full tuition to undergraduate Study Abroad participants had been discussed by the Committee in the previous academic year. This year, the Committee reaffirmed that such tuition charges are justified, but only if Study Abroad programs are constantly monitored to ensure that the programs meet Penn standards. The Committee suggests that the distribution formula for these tuition funds may have to be adjusted to allow OIP and the Schools (mainly SAS) to better monitor the programs by on-site inspections by faculty and OIP staff, but also with much more input from individual departments.

The Committee was interested in the student evaluation of how Study Abroad programs were administered. OIP provided information to the Committee on how feedback from Study Abroad students is obtained. A new survey form is now being created and meetings with students are now being organized to better judge student satisfaction with the Study Abroad application and administration processes.

Committee Recommendations

Increased funds (supplied from the tuition collected from Study Abroad students) need to be provided to OIP and to the individual schools to allow increased monitoring of Study Abroad programs. A much more active review process with on-site evaluations by faculty and OIP staff should be instituted.

OIP should continue perfecting its methods of obtaining student feedback on the Study Abroad system.

We wish to thank Peter Conn, Larry Moneta and Geoffrey Gee for taking the time to meet with the Committee and provide us with valuable information and background. We greatly appreciate the valuable input from Joyce Randolph. Elva Power has served as a most effective and helpful secretary and we thank her for enabling the committee to function smoothly and for documenting our discussions so well.

--Eric S. Weinberg, Chair

1999-2000 Committee on International Programs

Faculty: Eric S. Weinberg (Chair), biology; Sandra Barnes, anthropology; Margaret Contoneo, nursing; Lance Donaldson-Evans, romance languages; Roberto Mariano, economics; Gregory L. Possehl, anthropology; Sohrab Rabii, electrical engineering; Harold F. Schiffman, South Asia regional studies. PPSA: Mary Ann Julian. Undergraduate students: David Morris (Wharton); Kirstin Vorwig (CAS); Katherine Wang (Nursing). Graduate Students: Victor Calanog (Wharton); Ju-Young Han (Education). Ex officio: Joyce Randolph, Director, OIP.

Almanac, Vol. 46, No. 29, April 18, 2000

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