The present year is characterized at the University of Pennsylvania by extraordinary activity in the direction of building. The new museums have been completed and occupied. They form a most striking addition, from an architectural point of view, to the group of university buildings, and offer abundant room for the great collections of Babylonian and Egyptian antiquities which it has hitherto bee impossible even to unpack. The biological department has completed its "Vivarium," and has filled it with all manner of beasts and creeping things, so that it has become one of the chief attractions to visitors. The law school and the new dormitories are now in course of erection. And now, within a week, the Provost has announced an anonymous gift of $200,000, which is to be expended in building a physical laboratory.
The new law school building will be perhaps the most distinguished of all these additions. Its cost is estimated at $400,000, and it will be the finest building ever erected for the purpose. Dedicatory exercises are being arranged for the week of Washington's Birthday, at which all the justices of the U. S. Supreme Court, besides many distinguished attorneys, have been invited to be present.
The new dormitories are an extension of the present dormitory system, and will complete the enclosed "Triangle" of which the existing buildings forms two sides. They are to be in continuous, but non-connecting cottages, after the plan of Walter Hastings Hall, and will provide 175 additional rooms for students. They are to be ready for occupancy in September, 1900. The main entrance to the dormitory Triangle will be formed by the War Memorial Tower, to be erected in memory of students and alumni of the university who fell in the war with Spain.
The registration in the university for the present academic year is about the same as last year. Considerable interest has been felt in the new courses of study opened this year in banking, commerce and diplomacy. Other new courses are offered in debating, one being very similar to what was so long known at Harvard as "English 6." These courses are under the direction of Dr. Alden of the English department, who was for a time connected with the English department at Harvard.
There is an unusual amount of interest in debating this year. The debate with Cornell will probably be held at Ithaca in February, that with the University of Michigan in this city in March. The subject for the latter debate is, "Resolved, That the formation of trusts should be opposed by legislation." The Debating Union is making plans for a mock political convention to usher in the campaign of 1900. The Union, which is only two years old and which was largely founded by former members of the Harvard Union, is entering upon a most successful year. It is to have a hall in the new Law building, designed especially for it and fitted up on the plan of a finely finished legislative chamber.
The success of the students' club and its headquarters in Houston Hall seems to have inspired the Faculty to similar efforts on their own account; and the Faculty Club has just moved into a new building directly opposite the campus, where lunch rooms and other conveniences give hope that they may some time have as comfortable club rooms as the undergraduates. Two German plays are to be given in the city during the present academic year, under the auspices and for the benefit of the German department. They are given through the courtesy of Mr. Conried of the German theatre in New York, and are attracting no little attention. The first play to be presented is Minna von Barnhelm; the second will be from a modern playwright.