Candid and discerning, the idea of an American university, represented by one but representative of many. The University of Pennsylvania is the subject of this profile but the similarities and differences elsewhere are accounted for also. Nearly half deals with the student: applications (a sample form and excerpts from the SAT bulletin) and recruitment, admissions and orientation; activists, athletes and ""worms""; hangouts and hang-ups; government and discipline. Furthermore, the conflicts of the campus are not overlooked. In the section on the faculty, the publish-or-perish syndrome (and allied tenure policies) and the research vs. teaching question are discussed and there are examples of work in progress--on mitosis, underwater archaeology, music composition, criminology and nuclear physics--and community projects. The relatively short chapter on the administration is more suggestive than particularized about, say, trustee activity; official duties get token acknowledgement, budget problems are more specifically outlined. Discursive but not disjointed, it is a firm handling of a slippery subject.