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Philadelphia Jobs with Justice members protested outside of the Inn at Penn Thursday.

Credit: Luke Chen , Luke Chen

For the second time in one day, demonstrators protested Penn's Board of the Trustees meeting — and both times, the subjects of their criticisms were not fully in attendance.

The Board of Trustees Budget & Finance Meeting today quite literally ended in protest. Philadelphia Jobs with Justice, a local labor union-backed nonprofit, stood outside of the Inn at Penn’s Walnut entrance to demand that the University pay payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, to the city government. 

Protestors were questioned by a Penn detective and grilled by Penn President Amy Gutmann’s security guards, said Gwen Snyder, Executive Director of Philadelphia Area Jobs with Justice. Protestors were also given pamphlets specifying the limits to their free speech by hotel management, Snyder said.

“We made it public that we were planning to attend the trustees meeting,” Snyder said.

“We thought it was really important for them to hear not just from us but from community members and supporters across the city that we think Penn should pay its fair share.”

Jobs with Justice believes Penn should pay taxes to the city of Philadelphia despite its tax-exempt status.

The Trustees “were not happy about it,” Snyder admitted. Many of the Trustees had left the Inn at Penn by the time the protest began, as the meeting let out about 10 minutes early. But some were caught up in the commotion and had to exit through the back entrance of the Inn at Penn to avoid the protestors and police activity outside of the Walnut entrance.

The Budget & Finance Meeting itself focused heavily on Penn’s commitment to its community. Director of Purchasing Services Mark Mills spoke extensively about Penn’s community relations and partnerships with minority-owned businesses in Philadelphia.

Snyder thinks this is not enough.

“Here’s the thing. Comcast does some charitable work, Comcast hires minorities and Comcast supplies jobs. All of those are good things, but I don’t think anyone would argue that Comcast is charity and deserves tax exemptions based on charities, ” she said. “Penn is not a charity. I pay more than my salary each year for tuition. That’s not how a charity works. We think it’s time for Penn to give back a little bit.”

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