Controversy erupts over student in terror garb
Gutmann responds to criticism
November 3, 2006, 5:00 am · Updated November 3, 2006, 12:00 am·
Correction appended Updated Friday, 4:08 p.m.
A student says it was just a joke, but his Halloween costume has resulted in serious criticism for University President Amy Gutmann.
Engineering senior Saad Saadi dressed as a suicide bomber for Gutmann's annual Halloween party Tuesday night, and photos were taken of him with Gutmann and other school officials.
Now, the pictures are popping up on the Web and alumni and others around the country are contacting the University to voice their distaste.
Saadi told The Daily Pennsylvanian that Gutmann did not seem to take his costume too seriously. He said when he approached her for to the photo, she joked, "'How did they let you through security?'"
Gutmann released a statement yesterday, saying that she did not realize what Saadi was dressed up as until after she had taken the photo. She said that after she realized he was dressed as a suicide bomber, she refused to take any more pictures with him.
"The costume is clearly offensive and I was offended by it," she said.
However, she acknowledged that "the student had the right to wear the costume just as I, and others, have a right to criticize his wearing of it."
Saadi, who is also a DP photographer, initially posted the photo with President Gutmann on his Facebook profile, but sites including democracy-project.com and ivygateblog.com have since posted that picture, along with others. They show Saadi holding a fake rifle and explosives, mock-executing students and imitating other jihadist activity.
Saadi added that while some party guests expressed disapproval at the costume, more people were complimentary.
In addition to Gutmann, Saadi posed with University Chaplain William Gipson.
Since the photos have sprung up on the Internet, Saadi has made a public apology available on his Web site, in which he says that the costume was not intended to be offensive, and that he does not support terrorism or violence.
Boston resident Matthew Coletti sent an e-mail to University administrators and campus groups, including The Daily Pennsylvanian, decrying the costume.
"These pictures suggest UPenn not only admit some students who exercise poor judgement, but employs such individuals as well," he wrote.
Some students said the issue is one that the school must confront.
"It's an issue that is relevant to all of humanity and the entire Penn community," College senior and Hillel President Ezra Billinkoff said.
Check back tomorrow for more updates on this story, and visit The Spin for further responses from Saadi and our columnists' take on the issue. Correction: It is stated that University officials were not available to comment for this story because it developed late in the evening. University officials may have been available to comment, but the DP chose only to contact them via e-mail, not via phone, because of the late hour.