On Nov. 16, following the Faculty Senate meeting, the Senate and various standing faculty participated in a solidarity march in opposition to racist GroupMe messages targeting black freshmen.
Faculty Senate Chair–elect Santosh Venkatesh, Chair Laura Perna and former Chair Reed Pyertiz led the solidarity march across campus. They were joined by students and administrators, including President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price.
Before the march began, Perna read the statement that the Faculty Senate had passed minutes before:
“On behalf of the standing faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, the Faculty Senate of the Executive Committee endorses the statement of President Amy Gutmann about the presidential election and the statement from the University of Pennsylvania regarding racist messages sent to students. As a faculty, we stand in solidarity with our Penn black students, black faculty and staff, and all who are feeling targeted, unsafe and vulnerable. We condemn racism and bigotry on and off our campus. We are committed to the advancement of equity, inclusiveness and constructive dialogue on our campus and to ensure that all persons are treated with dignity and respect. We commit to addressing the bigotry that has been on display in this election cycle and in making our campus a safe environment for everyone.”
The march began at the Arch building on Locust Walk, where students soon joined the faculty marchers. The marchers proceeded down Locust Walk until they reached the Tampons. Then, they turned and continued their march along Walnut Street until they returned to their starting point.
As the marchers continued down Locust Walk, the initially quiet crowd began to chant.
“A people, united, will never be defeated,” and “Show me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like,” the marchers chanted.
Faculty joined the march to demonstrate support for those affected by racism.
“This election has given a voice to a lot of different groups that have very divergent views, some of which are potentially violent. It’s an important time to show Penn-wide solidarity,” Wharton professor Wes Hutchinson said.
Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said cooperation between march organizers and Penn Police allowed for the effective blockade of the intersection of 38th and Walnut Streets.
“This is a great example of a great unity march in that the organizers let all the right people know. We were notified what time it would be, where it would be and what was the mission, so we could ensure that everyone had a safe passage,” Rush said.
Following the conclusion of the march, Gutmann expressed optimism for the future and gratitude for the large turnout for the march.
“We will continue to work together, because in unity there really is strength. The arc of the universe bends towards justice, but not fast enough. We will work to make it happen,” she said. “I am glad we are in solidarity, united against hatred.”
Immediately following Gutmann’s remarks, some marchers began to sing “We Shall Overcome,” an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.
Marchers stood around a Black Lives Matter poster and sung in slow, resonating voices, “Deep in my heart, I do believe, the truth shall set you free.”
"[The song] means a great deal in black history, and really anybody’s history that deals with racial equality and justice. It’s an old anthem for an old enemy in a new time,” Cecilia Cummings, a Penn employee who sang with the marchers, said.
Perna praised the faculty action.
“This is a powerful statement about our community,” Perna said. “Clearly we have some things that we need to work on, but I think this is a statement that the faculty is committed to doing their part to make us better.”
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.