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The Student Labor Action Project hosts its social media campaign event in Arch advocating for Penn paying PILOTs. Video by Carter Coudriet

Credit: Carter Coudriet

On Friday, students took a new approach to encouraging Penn to make payments in lieu of taxes.

Ever since the protests staged at Penn President Amy Gutmann's annual holiday party at her house in December, the Student Labor Action Project has continued to push the University to make PILOT payments. PILOTs are voluntary fees which income tax-exempt, non-charitable non-profits — such as Penn — can choose to make to the city. These funds would go toward Philadelphia's underfunded school district.

The group sponsored a photo campaign on the bottom floor of the ARCH building, where students could take photos with messages of their own choosing, asking the University to pay PILOTs. Messages included phrases like “do it for the kids” and “It’s in Penn’s Capacity."

SLAP members hope that this sort of campaign will encourage all types of students to get involved not just those who attend the more traditional protests.

“The die-in got a lot of Penn’s attention,” SLAP member and College freshman Rebecca Composto said. “However it also potentially alienated some Penn students… this gives SLAP the opportunity to show our other side”

“Our goal today is to let other students in, and give them a voice as well,” SLAP member and College senior Adrian Mateo said.

Mateo and Composto see the issue as something that Penn students should get involved and care about.

“Students should care because we have the capacity and capability to do something,” Mateo said.

Composto, who is also from Philadelphia, has first hand experience of how lack of funding has affected the school district.

“I’ve seen it affect the quality of education,” Composto said. “Penn can do its share.”

Students from SLAP were scheduled to discuss the PILOTs program with Amy Gutmann earlier this semester, but Gutmann later declined the meeting. Instead, SLAP members met with Vice President for Government and Community Affairs Jeffrey Cooper, who reiterated to the group that PILOTs were not on the University’s agenda.

Despite the lack of movement on the issue of PILOTs, SLAP members remain hopeful that their message will get across.

“I think that over time they will come around” Composto said. 

“Even if it’s not something that immediately gets done, it's still a way to raise consciousness about what’s going on in West Philly,” SLAP member and Engineering sophomore Lucas Dagostino said. 

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