Wharton Pushes Out Longtime Lecturer His Teaching Contract Won't Be Renewed. He Suspects Snobbery Toward The Evening School.

Posted: May 22, 1996

When graduates of the Wharton School paraded for their diplomas at commencement yesterday, Burton J. Brodo was front and center.

As an associate director in the undergraduate division, Brodo was one of two marshals leading the late afternoon procession into the Civic Center's Convention Hall. Later, he took the podium to hand out the associate degrees.

And for the seventh time in nine years, he received the student council's award for outstanding teacher of the year in the Wharton Evening School.

But behind all that pomp, the circumstances aren't very happy for Burt Brodo.

Despite his 23 years as a teacher at Wharton and a pile of testimonials from students, the 64-year-old mainstay of the evening division is being driven from the classroom.

For the first time since the Nixon administration, Wharton is refusing to renew Brodo's teaching contract for next fall. He'll still be employed by the evening program as an administrator. But the loss of the teaching hours will cut his $80,000-a-year income in half.

``All I want is to be able to teach for a year and a half, until January 1998,'' said the longtime lecturer, ``and I'll be able to walk off with a little dignity.''

Brodo suspects snobbery on the part of the powerhouse business school. Once a middle manager for Xerox, he has a master's degree from Temple University, which comes up short in a faculty loaded with Ph.D's.

He figures that he and his working-person Evening School students just aren't pinstripe enough for Wharton's pooh-bahs.

Further, Brodo contends that his removal is a first step in an unspoken plan to diminish and eventually eliminate the Evening School - an embarrassment, he says, to some in the administration.

``It doesn't have the aura that Wharton is supposed to have,'' Brodo said. ``I hear people saying, `We should leave this kind of program to the La Salles of the world. We're too elitist for this.' ''

Wharton officials refused to say why they won't re-sign Brodo to his teaching job. ``In order to respect and preserve the confidentiality of staff members, Wharton is not able to discuss any particular renewal or non-renewal,'' said a statement issued by Wharton's public affairs office.

Under university rules, lecturers like Brodo ``may only be appointed for a year at a time,'' the statement said. ``In many other cases, lectureships have not been renewed.''

Officials adamantly denied any intention to weaken or dismantle the Evening School.

The night classes are ``a valuable component of Wharton's overall educational mission,'' insisted Michael Baltes, a Wharton spokesman. ``In fact, the school is considering steps to expand the program.''

Brodo said he was told he was being canned because of ``inadequate credentials.''

He received a letter last month from the chairman of his department, who told him that Wharton wanted to hire ``leading scholars'' to take over courses that Brodo has handled for years.

``I do not view you as among the best scholars that may be available for staffing these courses . . .,'' wrote David Schmittlein, chairman of the marketing department.

Founded in 1904 to help working men and women gain business skills, the Evening School attracts a much different clientele than the future MBAs who attend Wharton by day. The night program has offered associate degrees since 1923, bachelor's degrees since 1976.

The average age of evening students is 29. One-fourth are the first in their families to go to college. Their SAT scores average about 100 points lower than those of their younger, daytime counterparts, Brodo said.

While it may not be as prestigious as other Wharton divisions, it is profitable, said Brodo. The tuition of $1,800 a course is 43 percent more expensive than Villanova's, its nearest competitor, he said.

Since 1988, when the Evening School had 1,300 students, the ranks have shrunk to 450, according to Brodo, who darkly predicts that the trend will continue.

``They'll bring in inexperienced Ph.D.s, the number of students will go down, tuition will fall - and in a few years, they'll be saying, `We've got to get rid of the program,' '' Brodo said.

Baltes, the Wharton spokesman, said programs often fluctuate in size ``based on strategic decisions'' concerning the entire Wharton School. ``There are no plans to discontinue the Evening School,'' he said.

Brodo's problems have alarmed a number of students and alumni.

``As far as I am concerned, professor Brodo is the Evening School,'' said Christina Maravellias, last year's student president, in a letter to Penn president Judith Rodin. ``Out of all the classes that I have taken at Wharton, professor Brodo's are always the most realistic, educational and can apply to everyday life experiences.''

She also called Brodo a ``first-class'' adviser. ``His door is always open to students at all levels.''

Gary J. Leitner, who studied marketing under Brodo three years ago, said Brodo ``encouraged novelty and applauded excellence'' and ``consistently provides his students with well-balanced, excellent quality instruction.''

Gary W. Buroff, a '92 Evening School graduate who works for DuPont Co., said Brodo ``has been an inspiration to myself and so many other fellow students.''

When students set up a scholarship fund for the Evening School last year, they named it for Brodo.

In their statement, Wharton officials acknowledged that Brodo ``has performed a valuable service . . . as a lecturer,'' adding that ``Wharton is pleased that he will continue in his regular full-time job as an associate director of the undergraduate division.''

Brodo's not too sure that job won't be cut as well.

``I'm hearing rumblings that I'm going to be relieved of my job completely,'' he said this week. ``I'm hanging out here like a piece of meat in a windstorm.''

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