Indulge me in a quick game of word association. I say University of Pennsylvania elder statesman and you think Benjamin Franklin, right? Call me old-fashioned, but when I envision the values of learning "every thing that is useful and every thing that is ornamental," I use that pudgy character lounging in bronze by the Compass as a reference point. I like what Benjamin Franklin stands for: a renaissance man who left the world a better place than he found it. His legacy remains in every library, fire department and hundred-dollar bill. Fast forward to last weekend, when we were so subtly informed "There's No Place Like Penn... at Perelman Quadrangle." It seems to me that there are more and more places at Penn named in the fashion of the Perelman Quadrangle, and the only thing we risk in the process is our reputation and integrity by selling our campus bit-by-bit to the highest bidder. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, Provost Barchi observed, "I think in the years to come, the words on everybody's lips will be OMeet me on Wynn Commons.'" But before we heartily embrace the name that millions of dollars thrust upon us, shall we first take a look at the honorable Mr. Wynn? Steve Wynn is a very wealthy man by virtue of his many successful dealings in Las Vegas. Wynn first purchased a tract of unused land near Caesar's Palace that Caesar's ultimately bought for fear of increased competition. Wynn used his new capital to control another casino, the Golden Nugget. From there, Wynn revitalized a fading Vegas with a spectacular Mirage and today continues to up the ante with the $1.8 billion Bellagio. Ronald Perelman, the other name on "everybody's lips" in the near future, is also a questionable character. Mr. Perelman, whose recent donations have targeted Penn, Princeton University and UCLA, started to accumulate his wealth in the early 1980s as America's most feared corporate raider. His landmark business achievement was a 1985 takeover of Revlon -- the first successful hostile, junk-bond-financed takeover of a significant U.S. business. Not exactly a string of terms our founder would have been eager to plaster around this campus. But let's take a closer look -- both of these illustrious Penn alumni (Wynn from the College and Perelman from Wharton) turned Trustees have a connection with another alumnus of a more dubious nature. I refer to, of course, the homegrown Wharton MBA turned junk-bond -- dare I say it -- king, Michael Milken. Milken's story is a long and complicated one -- the highlights include being the media's image of '80s greed and excess -- which ends in a lengthy prison sentence for securities fraud in 1990. Milken is hardly the image of integrity and ethics, but he is responsible for unleashing a young and ambitious corporate raider by the name of Perelman and funding a rising Vegas star in the late 1970s by the name of Wynn. Oh, the tangled web Penn weaves. What this long and rambling history lesson denotes is a hostile junk-bond-financed takeover of our University. These 1980s billionaires looking to clean up their images with ego-stroking donations and various Ivy League school associations are far from the standards of real philanthropy. Real philanthropy does not carry a clause requiring the donor's name engraved in two-foot-tall letters beneath the University shield in a prominent campus location. Real philanthropy does not require an entire section of campus renamed to reflect the sugar daddy. What real philanthropy does is allow the University to honor the name of any previous Penn alumnus, preferably deceased, who has contributed significantly to enhancing the stature and honor of the school through their lives. If Ronald Perelman, Steve Wynn, Michael Milken and Donald Trump -- another '80s tycoon with a Wharton degree who has yet to bestow a portion of his wealth on the University -- reach these noble heights in their lives, then Penn should by all means honor them with a building or a concrete "yard." Today, however, their legacies are far from positive in the eyes of any discriminating student. If that changes, I'd be happy to meet my fellow alumni at Milken Labs or Trump Hall in 2052. Until then, I'd rather rendezvous with my peers at Ben Franklin's faithful Compass -- something appropriately missing from both the Perelman Quad and Wynn Commons.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.