When scientists make a discovery and students present a thesis, they must provide supporting evidence to back up their findings and claims. To highlight the work of Penn scholars, the Office of the Provost has announced that the 2012-13 academic theme year will be the “Year of Proof.”
Chosen by the Provost’s Office, faculty, staff, and students, the theme year will open with New Student Orientation activities in September. Events throughout the academic year will include interdisciplinary conferences, symposia, exhibits, and performances.
David Fox, director of New Student Orientation and Academic Initiatives in the Office of the Provost, says when the word “proof” came up during their deliberations, it was like a light bulb turned on in their heads.
“We thought, ‘Ah, this is really what we’re after in exploring how we know what we know,’” he says.
The “Year of Proof” theme aims to encourage students to consider how proof is established. For example, in business, how can professionals determine the value of a product or service? How do engineers know that a bridge will hold steady? How do medical professionals know if drugs are effective in treating illnesses?
The events and programs planned around the “Year of Proof” will cut across many disciplines, schools, and departments, covering numerous thought-provoking topics, including the 2012 presidential race.
“It’s an election year, and we think that fact-finding and analysis of how we get to the core of issues and claims that are made are going to be a major part of the programming during the year,” Fox says.
In addition, the “Proof” theme will be integrated into the annual Penn Reading Project. John Patrick Shanley’s play, “Doubt,” will be required reading for all incoming freshmen. The 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama raises questions about faith, evidence, and instinct, and addresses the conflict between a popular young priest who teaches at a high school and the school’s principal, who believes there may have been sexual misconduct between the priest and a student.
The play was made into a film in 2008 starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Viola Davis.