Last summer, newsstands across the country were filled with copies of Vanity Fair with its now iconic cover unveiling Caitlyn Jenner for the first time to the world. Now, she’s coming to Penn.
On Feb. 17, Jenner will come to campus along with Penn alumnus Buzz Bissinger, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of the Vanity Fair story, for the Special Planning and Events Committee’s spring speaker event. Tickets are $5 for Penn students and $30 for the public, and will go on sale on Feb. 1 at 10 a.m. on Locust Walk. There will be 125 physical tickets each day from Monday to Thursday and the remaining tickets will be sold in staggered releases online. Public tickets can only be purchased online.
Jenner is one of the most visible transgender figures in the world. Prior to her transition last summer, she was known for winning the gold medal for the decathalon in the 1976 Olympics, her role in reality television and her connection to the Kardashian family.
Jenner was also the subject of significant controversy prior to her transition. She received criticism from the media for her estranged relationship with her four children preceding her marriage to Kris Jenner. Last week, Jenner also settled a lawsuit over her involvement in a car crash last year that left a 70-year-old woman dead.
Despite this controversy, SPEC hopes that Jenner will stimulate conversation on campus. “We always try to bring in someone who will promote healthy discussion about topical issues,” College junior and SPEC Connaissance Director Caroline Pitofsky said.
The event, which is co-sponsored by QPenn, will take place at 8 p.m. in Irvine Auditorium and will consist of 60 minutes of discussion moderated by Bissinger followed by an audience question and answer session. “They have a relationship, so the conversation will flow nicely,” Wharton junior and SPEC Connaissace Director Caroline Wills said.
“We got pretty lucky with Buzz. He is a Penn alum and he’s maintained his connection with Penn,” Pitofsky said.
Bissinger spent an extensive amount of time interviewing Jenner both before and after her transition and has experience approaching the sensitive nature of topics that will come up in the discussion.
“We want to talk about the hard issues and ask the difficult questions, but we want to address them in a way that is appropriate and effective to conducive conversation,” Wharton junior and SPEC Director Alex McClelland said.
Jenner was originally slated to be SPEC’s fall speaker, but due to her recent transition and publicity, she requested that her appearance be rescheduled for the spring.
“We felt that it would still be something very relevant and it actually informed our fall semester event,” Pitofsky said, referring to the event where tennis star Serena Williams spoke in November as part of the annual SPEC Connaissance and SPEC-Trum series. Although both high profile speakers represent a lot to intersectional communities, McClelland believes that Jenner will stimulate more discussion.
“While Serena was excellent and provided great content and thought, I think a lot of people were really just star struck by the fact that it was Serena,” McClelland said. “I think this event will lead to a lot of conversation about a topical issue on our campus and in our society, which is definitely something we try to do as SPEC and SPEC Connaissance.”
Students reacted extremely positively to the announcement. Within an hour of the announcement, more than 640 students said they were attending the event on Facebook, and another 620 said they were interested in it.
“The fact that Caitlyn Jenner is coming to speak means that Penn students are taking a proactive approach to teaching our campus about the political and societal changes that America is currently facing,” said College freshman Sripad Kodukula.
College freshman Libby Jardeleza echoed Kodukula’s sentiments, adding that she liked the pop culture appeal of Jenner. “She is a popular culture icon and not an academic, like typical speakers.”Comments powered by Disqus
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