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Pennoni Panels

Pennoni Honors College positions itself as a site for active learning, high achievement, and community. The Honors Community is invested in undergraduate research, scholar development, outreach, and interdisciplinary scholarship. Because the College is composed of students from various backgrounds, academic fields of study, and interests, the community is in a unique position to carve out space for engagement in complicated ideas, difficult topics, and insightful inquiry.

Conceived as a complement to the programs and initiatives of the College, the Pennoni Panels speaker series will allow for a certain amount of openness – the goal is to not present a one-sided perspective, nor encourage contentiousness, but to open dialogues across campus and develop a space for students to engage with complex themes.

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Pennoni Panels, Contemporary Art in Crisis

Contemporary Art in Crisis

The world of contemporary art is riddled with contradictions. The most vocal artists loudly champion identity politics and social justice; meanwhile, the global art business is increasingly dominated by elite mega-galleries, powerful auction houses, and hyper-rich collectors. Caught between these two camps are museums and universities. In the midst of all this, AI threatens to alter the very nature of art and human thought.

This virtual Pennoni Panels installment—to be recorded and produced as a later episode of the PBS-broadcast series The Civil Discourse— brings together an artist, a curator, a critic and scholar, and a collector and dealer to debate whether these tensions enrich the contemporary art world or augur its doom.

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Pennoni Panels, The Future of the University

The Future of the University

This virtual Pennoni Panels installment—to be recorded and produced as a later episode of the PBS-broadcast series The Civil Discourse—will feature the Presidents of three very different academic institutions: Nora Demleitner of St. John’s College, Annapolis; Jonathan Holloway of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; and John Fry of Drexel University. We will discuss how each of these leaders sees their mission and what they understand to be the major challenges in higher education for the 21st century.

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Is a Book Still a Book if Not a Book?

The printing press is considered one of the greatest innovations in literature – making documents and texts more easily reproduced and accessible. The physical book has been the dominant form for centuries. As digital books and audiobooks take hold, will the physical book be flushed out of existence, a remnant of what used to be? Or will it be able to maintain its place on the shelf? Does it matter?

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affordable housing

Exploring the Affordable Housing Crisis

The pandemic highlighted unresolved issues around affordable housing in metropolitan areas such as Philadelphia and communities across the country. A lack of affordable, low-income and workforce housing has been a challenge for decades but has now reached a crisis point in just about every major city, and Philadelphia — which has the highest poverty rate among the largest cities across the country — is no different. Solutions and policies to address the problem remain complex and controversial. While the challenge to address this crisis can seem daunting, efforts are underway to find long-term, sustainable solutions.

Please join us for a conversation to learn more about affordable housing issues and efforts across the country to seek solutions. This conversation has been organized by the Pennoni Honors College and the Office of University and Community Partnerships.

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Putting the Cryptic in Cryptocurrency

Since 1983, cryptocurrency has been a means for people to make and distribute currency outside of traditional banking systems. According to an NBC News poll, 20% of the population has traded in cryptocurrency with 42% of people from ages 18 to 34 trading. What once was marginal has become mainstream, even being advertised in Super Bowl commercials, with celebrity spokespeople. Yet many people still have no idea what cryptocurrency is, how to get involved with it, or why they should. This panel seeks to address the whats and hows and whys of cryptocurrency while also addressing the implications of its regulation and the degree to which the system challenges business-as-usual investing.

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labor unions

All Work & No Play: Labor Unions, Workers, and the Future of Labor

The pandemic put into question the nature of work – who is essential, what workspaces could look like, and exposed issues of inequity. The unionization of the American worker has been central to these discussions as unions for Starbucks, Medieval Times, and Amazon, places where forging a union felt insurmountable, began to make headway. This conversation will address why the time feels particularly ripe for unions, the allure and distrust of unions, and the future of the American working class.

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a new era for student-athletes: grappling with name, image and likeness

A New Era for Student-Athletes: Grappling with name, image & likeness

For years, student-athletes participated in intercollegiate athletics, and were unable to capitalize on the use of their name, image, and likeness in potentially lucrative branding deals. For the athletes, this was an inequitable arrangement, considering the millions of dollars in revenue brought in by major universities through competitive sports. In the summer of 2021, the NCAA made a momentous decision: to remove the obstacles that prevented student-athletes from making endorsement deals and being paid for appearances, autographs, or other ventures that use their name, image or likeness. Financial benefits for student-athletes were further expanded by the Supreme Court. While there is support for this decision, there remain questions: about regulation for branding opportunities; work-life balance if student-athletes become micro-influencers; and access to donors and corporate entities, resulting in an unlevel playing field. Our conversation will highlight the complications and intricacies of compensation, financial rewards, and incentives in college athletics.

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grading on the curve

The Pros & the Cons of Grading on the Curve

“The Curve” has been used as a grading tool for decades and has been particularly relied upon in STEM fields. Advocates for curved grading have noted its ability to minimize grade inflation and build competition between students who are pursuing highly competitive fields. Over the past decade, however, critics have decried this method, claiming that it does more harm than good. According to detractors, the competition fostered by curved grading discourages students from continuing in STEM fields and does not accurately measure core competencies. It also allows instructors to administer poorly designed tests that don’t reflect what has actually been taught. This panel will address the nature of grading in STEM and the utilization of curved grading in particular as it helps and hinders student success.

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exploring intersectionality

Exploring Intersectionality

Intersectionality, a concept first defined by legal scholar, Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, has become more mainstream over the past decade. The concept acknowledges that people are comprised of multiple, overlapping identities that provide unique challenges when navigating marginalization and systemic prejudice. In this conversation, panelists will discuss the concept of intersectionality, its values and pitfalls in contemporary society, their own experiences navigating various communities, and the continued work necessary to make the world more equitable.

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Academic Freedom Pennoni Panel

A Classroom Divided: Whose academic freedom is at stake?

In the midst of upheaval, higher education institutions attempt to respond. Despite racism and inequity not being new topics, the cultural confrontation with police brutality, violence against marginalized communities, and systemic racism in 2020 led to forums, panels, committees, and dialogues being held at institutions across the country. Task forces examined and evaluated policies, made recommendations, and now, some argue, institutions are expected to reframe the curriculum for inclusivity. For others, this is a topic that has been overstated and that oversight by diversity administrators is impeding the freedom of faculty to teach their subjects freely and in the fashion they wish.

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Pennoni Panel Authentic Activism

Authentic Activism or Woke Washing?

Activism can be slippery, especially when money gets involved. Corporations sponsoring Pride floats allows for more visibility but can also dissuade from looking further into corporate policies and practices regarding LGBTQ employees. Brands have also made product in support of Black Lives Matter, the pay gap, and climate change. Some activists have even become celebrities and been criticized for capitalizing on their activism. What does authentic activism look like? Is it possible to push back against systems while being supported, in some fashion, by them? Is visibility worth potentially diluting the potency of the message? During this panel we will address these tensions regarding activism and capitalism.

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Pennoni Panel Community Building

Community Building: How do we bridge the divide between universities and neighborhoods?

Tension is all too familiar for those who work at, live in, or are tangential to, universities. Parties struggle over space, definitions of “neighborly”, and what it means to build meaningful relationships, particularly when it comes to an ever-shifting population of students and families who have inhabited these neighborhoods for generations. One way to combat these divisions is by inviting students and community members to come together to collaborate and speak openly about cross-generational communication. This discussion will continue to build community, by talking about perceptions, tensions, and the realities of being neighbors.
Week of Undergraduate Excellence Panel: Show Me the Money: The Ethics of Philanthropy

Show Me the Money: The Ethics of Philanthropy

In recent years, universities have had to reckon with questions as to who is funding their programs and how donors reinforce or challenge institutional values. Controversies surrounding donations made by Bill Cosby, Jeffrey Epstein, the Koch Brothers, and the Sackler family have caused institutions across the United States to reflect, make public statements, and attempt to redress wrongs and reestablish trust. But universities also continue to struggle with falling enrollment rates and statewide budget cuts that make relying on private donations a necessity. Is it possible for universities to divest from private, and potentially problematic, donors? How do we offer further financial support to departments and students without privatized sponsorship? What should institutions do when confronted with such controversies? This panel will address the ethical quandaries associated with private donorship and the state of the university.
Pennoni Panels: sex work

Let's Talk About Sex ... Work

A TikTok trend featuring the song lyric “Nobody asks you questions when you say you’re an accountant” featured users singing the song with descriptions about keeping their sex work, and their income from it, secret from their families and friends. Despite there being a substantial market for sex work, the stigma around those offering and consuming services remains potent. What constitutes sex work? Why does labor around sexual pleasure remain taboo? What are the lines between agency and exploitation in sex work (and work in general)? The panel seeks to tackle the tension surrounding bodies and sex; power and labor; pleasure and shame.
COVID-19 & the 'She'cession

COVID-19 & the "She"cession

While the pandemic has forced many of us to reevaluate work and the structure of the economy, it has also caused us to reckon with women’s labor. The lack of access to childcare has set working mothers back decades, “pink collar” occupations were uprooted by protocols, and in December 2020, 140,000 women lost their jobs, the majority of whom were Black and Latina. What do we mean when we talk about women’s labor? How do we account for the divide between those who can work from home and those who cannot? Does working from home provide women more agency or does it overly blur the lines between work, home, and leisure time in ways that women are working more than ever? This discussion will unpack the ways in which COVID-19 has disrupted women’s labor for better and worse.
Why Great Artists Behave Badly

When Great Artists Behave Badly

In recent years, reports of toxic personal behavior have led to the reconsideration -- and sometimes outright 'canceling'-- of the work of many artists, from living filmmakers to long-deceased painters. For some, these reckonings are necessary to develop a supportive and accountable community. For others, it conflates the art with the artist and represents inappropriate censorship. What are the responsibilities of museums when dealing with archives of deceased artists who behaved badly? Should there be a scale for bad behavior —- from misdemeanor to atrocity -- that should be weighed? This panel will continue the conversation about the feasibility of separating the art from the artist and discuss how museums navigate moral challenges in assessing their collections.
Panic at the Polls

Panic at the Polls

There is skepticism and confusion currently surrounding our government and the upcoming election. The Electoral College is being criticized for disenfranchising voters and being an antiquated and ineffective institution. The pandemic has amplified these concerns, presenting voters with a new level of uncertainty regarding how and if their votes will be counted. People are distrustful and angry on both sides of the aisle. We’ll be discussing the mounting anxiety surrounding the 2020 election, the role of the electoral college, and reforms that address the institution’s shortcomings.
Whose History Are We Celebrating?

Whose History Are We Celebrating?

While Columbus Day had been celebrated in various cities in the United States since 1792, it was President Benjamin Harrison who proposed a national celebration in 1892 and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who institutionalized the holiday in 1937. What began to bolster disenfranchised immigrants during a time of potent anti-immigration sentiment, has been reevaluated in recent decades considering the legacy of Christopher Columbus, Manifest Destiny, and colonization on Indigenous Peoples, Black Americans, and immigrant communities. Many Italian Americans, however, argue that the holiday has become a celebration of their Italian heritage. This panel will unpack some of the complications of celebrating communities and acknowledging these fraught histories.
Defund the Police

Law & Order: Defunding the Police?

As protests enter the several-weeks mark, demands for systemic change echo across the United States, particularly in regards to policing. One of the loudest chants, "Defund the Police," encourages redistribution of funds to social services. Others suggest defunding is dangerous and instead, advocate for reform. Still, others want to abolish the police entirely. Each one of these advocations carries its own difficulties and contradictions. This panel will untangle the concepts of policing, reform and abolition, and justice.
female candidates pennoni panels

The Electability Question: What Makes an Electable Woman?

Whether it is Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s bold lip color, Hillary Clinton’s cankles, or Elizabeth Warren’s affectations, women running for office or currently in positions of power encounter a range of commentary regarding their appearance and qualifications. In a 2018 study, political scientists Rachel Garrett and Dominik Stecula found that women described with masculine-coded language like “ambitious” and assertive” were considered more qualified and capable than those described more femininely like “compassionate.” Language not only imparts visual information about a candidate, but it allows the public to dissect her brand. How do we utilize language while being conscious of the impact our words have on female candidates’ electability? This panel seeks to unpack the way we talk about women, the balance candidates have to strike between qualified and likable, and methods for redirecting the discourse.
passing the torch pennoni panel

Passing the Torch: Generational Shifts and the Politics of Change

During the second night of Democratic debates on June 27, 2019, Kamala Harris demanded Joe R. Biden Jr. “pass the torch” to a younger generation of politicians with alternate perspectives, new political methods, and new policies. When institutions become stale or face crises of faith, cries for new lifeblood permeate the discourse. The demand for people to retire in order for burgeoning youth brimming with new ideas to take over and breathe new life into policies and workflows. But what are new ideas without institutional memory? Is it possible to bridge the gap between experience and radical change when it comes to policy-making? This panel will address the tensions between tradition and innovation, whether it is possible to merge approaches, or if drastic shifts are the wave of the future.
Waste(d) Efforts

Waste(d) Efforts

Waste is among the many issues facing global citizens. Throughout the 1990s, we were told that our individual efforts to recycle could alter the planet and save the ozone layer. We are now confronted, however, by corporate dumping, outsourced trash and continued damages to the earth’s ecosystem. In the wake of an environmental crisis, there’s no time to waste when it comes to … waste. As much as we can “take a minute before we bin it,” are these efforts meaningful in light of corporate dumping and trash incinerators? How do we hold our city, state and federal systems accountable? This panel will address the controversial truths of our trash and provide insight into our potential future.
Science: Fact or Fiction?

Science: Fact or Fiction?

During a Congressional session, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez declared that science shouldn't be a partisan issue. With the battle over fact and fiction taking place between the American government, journalists, and general public, science writing is in a fragile state. How does a writer advocate for science during a period where science and its methods are routinely dismissed, derided, and discounted? What adjustments need to be made to demonstrate the veracity of findings, the interpretation of those findings, without further isolating those who need these findings most? This panel will address the events that have ushered us into this scientific quagmire, suggest ways science writing can adjust to address new needs, and contemplate science journalism's future.
inclusivity in contemporary literature

Inclusivity in Contemporary Literature

In a current climate concerned with inclusivity and diversity, the publishing industry has been critiqued for producing texts that lack racial, gender, sexuality, body, and class diversity. This panel seeks to address how we approach the critiqued literary canon, potential methods to diversify the canon, and provide insight into questions regarding the relationship between art and artist.
Redemption in the Age of Wokeness

Redemption in the Age of Wokeness

Controversies surrounding politicians donning blackface, celebrity affiliations with churches that support gay conversion therapy, and accusations of harassment or assault have brought forth necessary conversations about accountability. Apologies, consumer protests, and legal actions are just a few of the forms used to hold people to a standard. This conversation demands us to ask about a possible next step – redemption. Is it feasible for people who committed egregious acts to redeem themselves and what does that path to redemption look like? What constitutes a “good apology?” How do we decipher disingenuous from earnest attempts to make amends for actions and statements? The panel will address these concerns and provide considerations for how we can approach life more mindful, ethical, and empathetic.
The Justice of Memory

The Justice of Memory: Evaluating monuments in a changing culture

Statues, buildings, commemorative plaques, and literature help define our identities, acknowledge our history, and articulate our progress. They highlight who and what we believe to be important. But certain events or cultural shifts can make us question how we want to both remember and honor the past. Conflicts over the legacies of Confederate statues led to their removal in several cities, inspired protests over controversial figures and memorials, and have encouraged the nation to question the functions and problems with memorialization. How do we handle hindsight? Does removing markers of the past invite us to ignore the more controversial actions and people within our history? To what extent do these physical objects accentuate and perpetuate the traumas of the past? This panel discussion and Q&A offers an opportunity to discuss how we acknowledge our past, address our present, and prepare for our future.
Body Image

Body Image: Baring it all about idealized figures

The body is referred to as a lot of things: a machine, a temple, a wonderland, and even a battleground. As individuals, we exert a lot of energy concerned over our bodies' health and whether or not we look normal or healthy. As a culture, the body is highly contested. What is an "ideal" body? Should we look to models and bodybuilders as examples of health? Do shows about plastic surgery encourage cosmetic consumption? Why do we like watching Dr. Pimple Popper? During the Obama administration, the First Lady's advocated for health and combatting the obesity epidemic, while at the same time an emerging body positivity movement grew stronger. Social media profiles and communities centered around health at any weight, body acceptance, and self-care have become powerful advocates for reframing the body. There is a tension about health and beauty. How do we promote "wellness" while also advocating "acceptance"? This panel seeks to address these tensions we experience on how we treat, how we present, and how we negotiate ideas surrounding "good" bodies.
identity politics

Personal vs. Political: The Benefits and Baggage of Identity Politics

The midterm elections have been labeled as the year of identity politics. Candidates across parties are employing their race, class, gender, sexuality as points as to how they will alter policies and change the status quo at state and federal levels. Voters have been rallied to identify with politicians for what they represent as well as their policies. Much has been written already about the utility of identity politics and what they offer politicians and voters. This conversation will be devoted to discussing the pros and problems of identity politics.

A Matter of Facts: Do You Trust the News?

Many today claim that we are living in a post-truth era with readers and consumers duped by untruths and misinformation. While the concept of "fake news" has ancient roots, distrust of the fourth estate seems to have acquired new traction since the United States' 2016 presidential election. Both political parties contend that they are the target of false stories, and the public, confused by the barrage of accusations on both sides, has begun to question the line between fact and fiction on all fronts. Our panel will explore such questions as: What should the vetting process for news stories be? Are audiences more interested in punditry and entertainment than news? How should responsible consumers go about getting their news? What form is journalism likely to take in the decades ahead?

What is the future of America’s prison system?

What is the function of the prison system in the 21st century? Punishment? Justice? Education? Rehabilitation? Can we enact prison reforms that successfully address the troubling issues that have long-plagued the U.S. criminal justice system? As an episode of The Drexel InterView series, Dean Paula Marantz Cohen will lead a Pennoni Panel discussion about restorative justice, the economics of prison reform, and the actions that can be taken to make substantive change and reduce the rates of recidivism.

The Diversity Dilemma: What Constitutes Diversity in the 21st Century?

The significance of diversity has been expressed through the think pieces and research lamenting the lack of representation of various marginalized groups in media and positions of power. But what do we mean by diversity? What is the difference between representation and tokenism? How do we talk about diversity in a more meaningful way, beyond categorization and statistics? This panel seeks to address the significance of diversity, the discourse surrounding diversity, and the ways in which we can address issues of diversity in our respective fields and institutions.

What Makes a Good Neighbor? A roundtable discussion on the pros and cons of gentrification

Is it possible for a neighborhood or city to encourage growth but also protect its longtime homeowners and restore its economy from within? Or is gentrification just another word for re-segregation? Come take your seat at the table at the next Pennoni Panels, Tuesday, November 14 from 3:30-5 p.m., when we have a roundtable discussion about how communities change over time.

Is There a Place for Politics in the Classroom?

The college campus while being a place for ideas and innovation, has also been a site of tension: conflicting ideologies, growing pains with surrounding communities, and debate concerning higher education’s purpose. From free speech to counter protests politics has always been central to a university ether. In times of high tension, however, and a split national identity, what roles does and should administrators, faculty members, and students play when it comes to engaging with politics on campus and in classrooms? Panelists from various areas will discuss the complexities of a such a question and elaborate on higher education’s potential future as a site of activism.

The Writing on the Wall: How to Evaluate Good Writing (your own and others')

The panel will discuss evaluating writing in a variety of contexts and from multiple perspectives. Are there “rules” and standards for good writing that apply in most contexts? Does the context dictate the criteria? How do writers evaluate their own writing? How do writers weigh constructive advice on their writing against the subjectivity associated with excellence which requires that they believe in their work? How do teachers evaluate student writing? The panelists will bring unique perspectives and experiences to this discussion. We anticipate a lively exchange of ideas.

A Tale of Two Mayors: Philadelphia's Past, Present & Future

Get exclusive access to an interview with two former Mayors of Philadelphia, Edward Rendell and Michael Nutter, led by Pennoni Honors College Dean Paula Marantz Cohen. As an episode of The Drexel InterView series, the conversation will be filmed and will focus on the past, present and future of Philadelphia including major redevelopment initiatives like Schuylkill Yards and the West Philadelphia Promise Zone. This event is presented by The Drexel InterView in collaboration with the Pennoni Panels series, Pennoni Honors College’s Week of Undergraduate Excellence and Drexel Alumni.

Science as Activism

"If your science gives you a result that you don’t like, pass a law saying the result is illegal. Problem solved. – Stephen Colbert What role, if any, should scientists play in the increasingly contentious landscape of public policy? Are we beyond the point of even asking this question as science has become politicized on topics ranging from global climate change to vaccinations to gun violence? How can objectivity and advocacy go hand in hand as the scientific community seeks to continue informing public debate with data and facts? This panel will address these very questions from multiple disciplinary perspectives, and it will attempt to situate these conversations in a broader context of the cultural moment in which expertise and scientific method are being met with public skepticism and private interests.

Failing Forward: Building Distress Tolerance on the College Campus

A growing body of research shows pressures—both financial and emotional—contribute to stress levels, mental health, academic performance and university enrollment. Understanding the consequences of these studies is useful to academic advisors, university administrators, professors and students themselves in the development of distress tolerance and resiliency. In the first Pennoni Panels event of 2017, we'll discuss how students can "successfully fail" with coping and wellness strategies including mindfulness, managing emotions, distress tolerance and developing resiliency.

The Value of Mentorship

Are you a student looking to propel your career forward? A staff member looking to knowledge share? A faculty person searching for meta-advice? Mentorship matters. An essential element in successful career development is being aware of the type of support you need to nurture your career. In this panel discussion, we'll look at what mentoring is, mentoring at different stages of your career, mentoring as a mutually beneficial partnership, and how mentorship differs from advocacy and sponsorship. The panel will include Valerie Graves, a creative director of such Fortune 500 accounts as Ford, General Motors, AT&T, Burger King, General Foods, and Pepsi. Graves was one of the first black copywriters at BBDO, Kenyon & Eckhardt, and JWT and went on to serve as chief creative offer at the UniWorld and Vigilante/Leo Burnett agencies as well senior vice president of creative services at Motown Records.

Party Animals: Donkeys vs. Elephants: Is it time to "break up with" America's Two-Party System?

Our Founding Fathers were suspicious of the Two-Party System, but American party politics has long gravitated toward the binary. In 2016, however, factional politics has narrowed our choices and so polarized people who no longer feel represented by the Democratic or Republican Party. Have we reached a point in which America is ungovernable? Is it time to "break up with" America's Two-Party System?

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