Gutmann released a video Friday afternoon as part of the national It Gets Better Project, a video campaign to prevent suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
The project was founded by writer and media pundit Dan Savage in September in response to a series of suicides among teenagers who identified as LGBT.
Gutmann is one of the first university presidents to join the movement. Thousands of individuals have created videos with messages of hope in response to homophobic bullying on campuses.
Gutmann said she made the video to show that “there are communities like Penn that are very supportive … and will embrace you for who you are.”
She expressed concern that there are LGBT students throughout the country who “could be the subject of terrible tactics and feel isolated.”
“It’s important to tell students who could be the brunt of bullying that Penn could be a welcoming place for you,” she said.
Gutmann’s video was received well among the LGBT community on campus.
“I think it’s wonderful that Dr. Gutmann recorded the message,” LGBT Center Director Bob Schoenberg said. “It’s especially gratifying to know that the idea originated with her.”
Schoenberg said since the video has gone viral, he had received dozens of messages from alumni across the country.
In response to a question about whether any of these alumni have pledged to donate to Penn, Schoenberg said one alumnus plans to move a gift to Penn up on his list of end-of-year donations after seeing the video.
Wharton and Engineering junior and Lambda Alliance Chairman Tyler Ernst attributed the video’s success to the fact that it sends “a simple human message” of hope without bringing out issues surrounding gay marriage and legislation such as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
“I think it definitely hits the high-school audience,” he said. “It’s a crucial message for people who are closeted at home.”
“To see the president of an Ivy League college say, ‘We will not only tolerate you but accept you’ is a very powerful message,” he said. “She portrayed coming to Penn as an excellent leg in one’s journey, because it is a welcoming, safe space.”
College junior and Queer Student Alliance Outreach Chairman Stefano Di Tommaso said Gutmann’s approach to LGBT issues has fostered “a more comfortable environment” for Penn students, who know that they have the full support of the administration.
By contrast, College freshman Sarah Hendry said that while Gutmann’s participation in the campaign sends a “good message,” she believes the name of the campaign is “slightly misleading.”
“Our society is moving in the right direction in many ways, but we can’t just sit back and wait for things to get better,” she said.Comments powered by Disqus
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