For the extent of 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump's rapid rise to the top of the Republican presidential polls, Penn had offered nothing but radio silence. That changed today.
In her biannual meeting with The Daily Pennsylvanian's editorial staff, Penn President Amy Gutmann was asked why the University still refuses to comment on Trump's proposal to ban Muslims, despite a Dec. 14 Philadelphia Inquirer article specifically mentioning the concern of Muslim students at Penn about Trump's remarks.
Her response, while not referring to Trump by name, indirectly criticized his plan to halt Muslim immigrants from entering the United States.
"Discrimination against Muslims in our society is absolutely unacceptable. It is a form of invidious discrimination. It is, I believe, a disgrace for our society to engage in discrimination on the basis of religion or race," she said. "In this case, it's religion and some people see it as called for, but not only is it not called for and disgraceful, but it's also unconstitutional."
The University has previously declined to comment on Trump to any media organization, citing their desire to not engage in political discourse. Gutmann refrained from directing any attack specifically at Trump, whose daughter Tiffany is a College senior, but lambasted any attempt by politicians to pander toward Islamophobes.
"I will not stoop to the level which would be wrong as well as demeaning to comment on what individual politicians, whether they're running in a primary for president or for any other office, say, other than to make it clear that my statement, which is a public statement, holds for anybody who engages in outrageously discriminatory statements, let alone actions that target Muslims because of their religion," she said.
The Inquirer article included a meeting between Muslim Chaplain Kameelah Rashad and a group of students about Trump's proposal to ban Muslims.
The popularity of Trump, who had a 16-point lead among Republican candidates in a Jan. 13 CBS/NY Times poll, has inspired students interviewed in the Inquirer article to "self-censor" themselves in their religious observance, actions and dress.
"So how am I supposed to feel comfortable if this nation is telling us that we should leave the country?" said Engineering freshman Lamin Elsawah in the article.
When asked specifically about the Inquirer piece, Gutmann voiced her support for the Muslim Student Association without identifying Trump.
"When there were clear indications in our society that there was a sense of really unjustified discrimination against Muslims individuals simply because they were Muslim, the Muslim Student Association at Penn quite admirably got together," she said. "I was sorry I couldn't be at their rally but I wrote a letter saying in no uncertain terms that discrimination against Muslims in our society is absolutely unacceptable. It is a form of invidious discrimination."