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September 26, 2006, Volume 53, No. 5
April 17, 2006

The Committee’s General Charge

The Bylaws of the University Council state:

The Committee on Community Relations shall advise on the relationship of the University to the surrounding community. It shall advise the Council and help make policy with respect to the community. It shall work with the Office of City and Community Relations to assure that the University develops and maintains a constructive relationship with the community. The chair of the committee shall have cognizance of pending real estate activities of concern to the community. The chair along with the director of city and community relations shall meet quarterly or more often, if needed, with the executive vice president or his or her designee for real estate to be informed of impending real estate activities that affect the community. They shall, with discretion, discuss relevant cases with the Committee, and may inform the community as the need arises. The Committee shall consist of eight faculty members, four representatives of the Penn Professional Staff Assembly, two representatives of the Weekly-Paid Professional Staff Assembly, two graduate/professional students, and two undergraduates. At least three members shall reside in West Philadelphia. The executive vice president or his or her designee, the directors of community relations, the African-American Resource Center, the Center for Community Partnerships, and Civic House shall be non-voting ex officio members of the Committee.

Specific Charges for 2005-2006

1. Evaluate the existing general charge of the committee for appropriateness and feasibility of the committee, as well as the constituencies represented in its membership, as defined in the Bylaws of the University Council.

2. Investigate the function of the committee, its utility, competing or complementary overlaps with other bodies in the University, and obstacles to fulfilling the general charge, and make recommendations regarding the future of the committee.

3. Review the report of the committee for 2004-05 and provide an update on progress (or not) and necessary future actions.

At the request of the Faculty Senate Chair, the Committee submitted an Interim Report in December in response to the first two charges. That report is incorporated in this one. This report will address the third charge only.

The Committee met five times this year: November 9, December 7, February 2, March 2, and April 6. Our final meeting is scheduled for May 4. The meetings focused on the following topics:

Biennial Theme

Last year’s Committee recommended further discussion of a biennial University-wide theme. The idea was to bring the various Penn schools and departments together to work on a single topic of interest to the community. Examples of possible themes raised were AIDS, consumer economics, and education. The goals of the theme idea were to encourage cross-school and cross-departmental work and to encourage engagement in the community, especially by departments not normally involved in the community.

This year’s Committee repeatedly discussed the theme idea and does not believe it should be pursued. First, the theme might encourage short-term projects that would raise expectations in the surrounding community and would not necessarily follow through to provide lasting benefits. Second, the Committee saw evidence that the goals of the theme idea are being realized in many projects underway already. The Committee felt that Penn’s energies would be better spent on encouraging existing or developing projects with potential long-term benefits and dedicated resources.

Existing Programs and Projects

The Committee spent the bulk of its time learning about existing University programs and projects that involve the community.

Glenn Bryan gave periodic updates on the work of the Office of City and Community Relations, including the First Thursday meetings his office holds to facilitate communication between the University and the community as well as among community groups. Members of the Committee attended a number of First Thursday meetings and were impressed by the range of topics addressed and the number and variety of community groups and institutions represented. The community members who attend the meetings appear to appreciate the exchange of information and the networking opportunities the meetings provide. 

The Committee learned that a new Community Services Directory is planned by the Office of Government and Community Affairs and discussed the value of including in the Directory an inventory of faculty and student community projects. It was agreed this was a topic next year’s Committee should pursue.

The Committee heard reports from Ira Harkavy, Associate Vice President & Director of Center for Community Partnerships, and Cory Bowman, CCP’s Associate Director, about three CCP projects:

CCP held a community forum entitled Overcoming Poverty and Racism in West Philadelphia in conjunction with Congressman Chaka Fattah. The forum brought residents of West Philadelphia and representatives of local institutions together to evaluate the needs of the community and make recommendations to Penn. The forum follows an assessment of community needs the CCP did with State Farm in 2004. The needs assessment and the current forum should provide guidance from residents of the community for future University initiatives.

CCP’s partnership with the Sayre High School in West Philadelphia continues to expand. The Sayre Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Center focuses on improving the health of the Sayre students, their parents, and the wider community and is a model for community health. The Sayre-Beacon Afterschool program provides tutoring and activities for elementary school children after normal school hours. A community health care clinic is in the works.

Cory Bowman reported on the Skills Development Center (SDC), a new project of the Center for Community Partnerships and branches of Penn, Drexel, and the University City Science Center. The SDC will provide on-site skills training and career counseling to current employees of these institutions to prepare them for known job openings. A pilot program has been started at HUP to train employees likely to enter a number of technical jobs. The program seeks to offer cost-effective, on-site training that will allow employees to advance their careers, will provide skilled workers for the participating institutions, and will open up entry-level jobs for neighborhood residents. Eventually, the SDC will reach out to area residents not already employed at the participating institutions.

The Committee was impressed by the work of the Center for Community Partnerships and many members applauded these efforts to reach out to the broader West Philadelphia community.

The Committee also heard an update about University real estate activities from Omar Blaik, the outgoing Senior Vice President of Facilities and Real Estate Services, John McGarry, Director of Real Estate Brokerage, and Michael Coleman, Executive Director of Operations. Mr. Blaik outlined the projects currently underway, all of which have been in progress for some time. He specifically discussed the project for the 3900 block of Walnut, which has not yet broken ground and will include apartments meant primarily for students. Committee members expressed concerns that University real estate activities might be pushing out long-term residents. Mr. Blaik stated that Penn’s goal is to draw students back onto campus to free up apartments in the neighborhood. Committee members also asked about plans for the development of the postal lands, which Mr. Blaik said should be finalized by the fall. He said a presentation about the planning had been made at a First Thursday meeting and was well received.


1. The Committee urges the University to continue supporting and expanding the efforts of Civic House, the Office of City and Community Relations, and the Center for Community Partnerships.

2. The Committee recommends involving community members and the Committee in the production of a new Community Services Directory.

3. The Committee encourages the University to involve community members in future planning for the postal lands.

Language of the Penn Compact

The Committee discussed the language of The Penn Compact, and particularly the Compact’s principle of engaging locally and globally. Penn has flourished in recent years, and its increasing engagement with its immediate neighborhood has been a cornerstone of its success. There is increasing recognition that Penn’s success is tied to the well-being of the broader West Philadelphia community. The Penn Compact is an important vision for the future of the University, but the absence of a specific reference to West Philadelphia in that vision should be rectified.

The Committee believes that the language of the Compact should be revised to reflect not only the responsibility of Penn to its immediate neighborhood but also the great benefits the University can derive from engaging in West Philadelphia. Those benefits to the teaching, research, and service missions of the University can in turn benefit the world when Penn shares the knowledge it has gained.

The problems of West Philadelphia are the problems of urban areas around the world. They are also problems that require interdisciplinary collaboration. Some Penn projects discussed elsewhere in this report are a significant step in the direction of cross-departmental work. If Penn focuses more deliberately on addressing the poverty and racism in our immediate community, it will also become more internally integrated, achieving two goals of the Compact simultaneously.

Recommendation:  The Committee suggests the following language as a possible revision of or addition to the “engaging locally and globally” section of the Compact:

Penn will focus its research, teaching, and service on improving the quality of life in West Philadelphia. By addressing universal problems such as poverty, racism, substandard schooling, and inadequate health care as they are manifested locally, we will learn lessons that can be used by communities and universities across around the globe. Solving these problems will bring together our diverse schools and disciplines and will help Penn become the lead research university in a world struggling to achieve sustainable urban development.

Recommended Charges for the Next Committee

1. Advise the offices of the University that work with the community.

2. Evaluate Penn’s communication with the community and make recommendations about steps that could improve communication, including changes to the Penn website and changes to the Community Services Directory.

Community Relations Committee Members 2005-2006

Chair: Anne Kringel (Law); Faculty: Donald Kettl (SAS/Fels); Walter Licht (SAS/History); Yvonne Paterson (Microbiology/Med.); Eileen Sullivan-Marx (Nursing); Graduate students: Tarique Collins (Law); Sarah Friedman (Law); Undergraduate students: Andrew Parker (COL ’06); Jeff William (COL ’06); PPSA: Rosemary Barber (SOM); Conley Heaberlin (CCEB/CRCU); Elaine Hughes Jenson (WRDS); Omar Mitchell (Real Estate); WPSA: Deanna Cheung (Grad Center); Kuan Evans (HR); Ex-Officio: Valerie Allen (African-American Resource Center); Glenn Bryan (City and Community Relations); David Grossman (Civic House); Ira Harkavy (Center for Community Partnerships); Michael Harris (EVP).

Almanac - September 26, 2006, Volume 53, No. 5