Students are still unsatisfied with the University’s response to a controversial pane of stained glass in the ARCH building.
During an initial meeting between students and administrators to discuss the stained glass, administrators proposed placing informative signs around the rising sun symbol to educate the public on its meaning.
However, students were frustrated with the University’s recent proposal for the sign’s text, which generally describes all of the stained glass panes in the ARCH without any specific details on the rising sun.
The stained glass has an image on it that looks similar to the historical Japanese imperial flag, a symbol at which members of the Penn community — particularly those of East Asian descent — have taken offense to due to historical Japanese aggressions predominantly against East Asian countries, like Korea and China.
While many students still thought the symbol was offensive and should be permanently removed, they understood it might be historically significant to Penn. University historians believe the stained glass panes were installed when the ARCH building was built in 1928.
College senior Hyun-Soo Lim , who has been involved since the start of the issue, attended the latest meeting and said the proposed text had none of the information she wanted — namely, there was not a single reference to Japanese imperialism or what historical context the image of the rising sun may be .
Lim would have liked to see more direct language in the text instead of just pointing out that the meaning the symbols held in the 1920s may be different today.
“[You] need to lay out the historical facts,” Lim said. “I thought [the current text] was very insensitive and it didn’t mean anything.”
Lim and the other students at the meeting pointed out their objections to the draft of the text, but did not feel like the University was working with their concerns.
Specifically, they noted that the people with whom they met said they would bring the students’ concerns to other unspecified administrators before deciding the next steps to take. Lim was frustrated that the people she met would not give her the names of the administrators so that she could contact them directly to speed up the process.
Lim said the sentiment of the administrators at the meeting was “clearly ambivalent.”
Associate Vice Provost for Equity and Access William Gipson , who was also present at the meeting, said in an email that administrators are continuing their work in addressing the concerns the students brought up and “moving things along as quickly as we can.”
“I think it’s important to understand ... that compromise typically never satisfies anyone,” Gipson added. “We cannot assert that any resolution will satisfy all concerned.”
Gipson added in a following email that the sign “[representing] our best understanding of the purpose of all of the windows when they were installed” would be placed by the ARCH window, on a date to be shortly decided.
T he students involved with the issue created a group known as Students for Asian History Awareness to promote awareness and discussion of the issue. Their most recent event, an held on April 3, brought together many diverse opinions on what to do with the stained glass window.
Some members of SAHA still advocate for complete removal of the offensive symbol in the stained glass, but Lim said she was willing to work with the University on the compromise consisting of educational signs. However, Lim said students left the meeting clearly disappointed and as she put it, “a little betrayed.”
Lim says SAHA plans to reach out to other student organizations on campus to get more students involved in the issue.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that at the first meeting between students and administrators, a solution was proposed to resolve the controversy surrounding the stained glass window. This solution was not necessarily an agreement.