Since his meteoric rise to the Republican presidential nomination, 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump has had little mention from University administrators. Now, some faculty and alumni are calling on Penn President Amy Gutmann to break her silence on Wharton's most famous alumnus.
A recent Change.org petition, authored by 1991 College graduate Nathaniel Popkin, has increased pressure on Gutmann and the University to take a stand against Trump.
"It was the kind of situation where it was imperative that people speak up and clarify their voice about Donald Trump," Popkin said in an interview.
The petition begins, “The Republican nominee for President, Donald J. Trump, is a dangerous con-man whose beliefs, words, and actions are inimical to the history and spirit of the University of Pennsylvania," and continues, "The world is to believe he learned these traits at Penn.”
Gutmann, a political scientist and registered Democrat, has refused to disavow Trump beyond indirectly criticizing his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from the United States.
Trump has repeatedly invoked Wharton as a cudgel to reinforce his intellectual bona fides. At a rally in Phoenix last year, Trump said “I went to the Wharton School of Business. I’m, like, a really smart person.”
The association of the University with Trump's fiery rhetoric and controversial ideas is infuriating to alumni like Popkin.
“What he stands for is not what the University stands for, so the University could deny him that crutch, that legitimacy crutch, [by] reinforcing to the public what it believes in,” he said.
In a statement to Inside Higher Ed, University spokesman Ron Ozio said, “The university doesn’t involve itself in partisan political races, so we would not have anything to offer on this.”
Popkin believes Trump transcends partisan politics and demands special denouncement.
“I say, this is not a partisan political thing, this is about the very core beliefs of the institution,” he said. “This is about the soul of the nation and the soul of the institution, and they can’t just sit there quietly.”
Some of the letter’s signatories include: Deputy Political Director of AIPAC Jason Koppel, filmmaker and Wharton Executive Education professor Barry Dornfeld, Director of the Center for School Study Councils and a professor of Education Harris Sokoloff, founder of Design Pennsylvania Hilary Jay, and many others.
On the Change.org petition page, one commenter, Julian Jackson from Wyncote, PA wrote, “As a proud UPenn alumni, I'm disgusted by Donald Trump's many racist, sexist, misogynistic and damn-near fascist views and hope that this proud institution will seek to distance itself from him and all those of his ilk.”
The petition references a few of the notable Penn alumni, including Sadie Alexander, the first African American woman to be awarded a doctorate in economics, Alice Paul, a women’s suffrage leader, and Ahmed Zewail, a Nobel laureate in Chemistry, to underscore the University’s impressive and diverse history.
“This is about protecting the identity and brand of the University as well,” Popkin said. “Penn is a big institution and it needs to be held accountable for things
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