Even with proposed solutions, debate still continues at Penn on the next steps to take to resolve controversy surrounding a stained glass window in the ARCH.
Students for Asian History Awareness — or SAHA — hosted an open discussion forum last night in the Hall of Flags in Houston Hall on the issue of the symbol of a rising sun on a pane of stained glass located in the ARCH Cafe. The stained glass has caused much controversy on campus since the ARCH opened after two years of renovation.
Korean and Chinese students on campus have perceived the rising sun stained glass as offensive because it looks like the historical Japanese military flag. For some students, this symbol evokes tensions arising from past Japanese imperialist aggressions against Korea, China and other East Asian countries, and they have called for the removal of the symbol.
College junior Kwanwoo Kim said he was aware of the historical significance of the stained glass pane to the ARCH building and to campus. But he encouraged Penn officials to “take a step back from history,” regardless of whether it is “right” or “wrong.”
“If a sign or symbol offends a certain group of people attending the institution, Penn should reconsider having it there,” Kim said.
In the past, the University has wanted to preserve the rising sun pane because it, like other stained glass panes in the ARCH windows, is a historical part of the building, likely preserved from when the ARCH was first built in the 1920s.
Thursday’s event began with a presentation by three expert panelists — Frank Chance, the associate director of the Center for East Asian Studies at Penn , John Yasuda, a postdoctoral fellow at Penn’s Center for the Study of Contemporary China and Holly Stephens , a history doctoral student — who spoke about Japan, China and Korea, respectively.
College sophomore Seunghun Lee , a SAHA member and one of the event organizers, said he thought the expert presentation was important to educate the audience about the history and culture surrounding the controversy.
“[I wanted to] raise awareness of the issue and provide an opportunity to learn from experts,” Lee said.
Following the presentation, Lee moderated a discussion with the audience on the issue of the pane, where some students expressed their displeasure about the stained glass.
“I think this is still a very live and a very offensive issue,” College sophomore Minhyung Lee said.
The event was cosponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies and the Pan-Asian American Community House. Associate Vice Provost for Equity and Access William Gipson , who has been involved in discussions surrounding the stained glass pane since concerns were first raised, said he was proud to witness such “a wonderful exchange of considerations about this matter.”
The diversity of opinions were “representative of the University at its best,” Gipson said.
The next steps involve a follow-up with the original students who raised concerns about the stained glass, Gipson said. For now, the University is continuing to proceed with the solution to add educational signage in the vicinity of the stained glass pane so those who see the rising sun symbol will also see the signs and become more aware of what it means and why it is there.
“We’ve done the research and [drafted] the language,” Gipson said, explaining the purpose of the meeting would be to review the content and placement of the signs in the ARCH with the students.
Based on the responses from the students, the University will then “see what the next steps are,” Gipson said.