Close to 130 university presidents wrote to President-elect Donald Trump last week, urging him to disavow the hateful, racist attacks that have been committed in his name and which have plagued campuses throughout the country, including at Penn.
Penn President Amy Gutmann, who has repeatedly refused to comment on Trump throughout the campaign, did not sign the letter.
While not directly indicting the president-elect, Gutmann attended a Nov. 11 open forum in Huntsman Hall after the release of racist, hateful messages targeting black freshmen and heard from students of color at a University Council meeting about the fear they felt after Trump's election. She read a statement at that meeting about the election, calling it "bitter, divisive and hurtful," but did not mention Trump by name.
When asked why Gutmann did not sign the letter, a spokesperson for her office replied in an email, "This is not something we received and appears to have been circulated among presidents of smaller liberal arts schools. That type of thing is very common."
The University has usually declined to comment on the presidential election by noting how as a nonprofit institution, it would be ill-advised and potentially illegal for high-ranking school officials like Gutmann to make a public, political stand. She has indirectly criticized one of Trump's policy proposals before — at a meeting with The Daily Pennsylvanian staff members in January, Gutmann called his proposed Muslim ban "disgraceful," but, again, did not mention Trump's name.
She has also put her name to other public letters. A statement in support of maintaining the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, signed by over 100 university presidents, included Gutmann's name among its list of signees. Because DACA was instituted by Obama through an executive order, it is possible Trump can rescind it with a sign of the pen.
The omission of Gutmann's signature did not go unnoticed among students, who have repeatedly asked her to speak out against Trump, as over 400 Penn faculty members have done.
The letter itself condemned Trump's silence about the hateful attacks that have occurred throughout the country since his election and urged him to disavow them.
"In light of your pledge to be 'President for all Americans,' we urge you to condemn and work to prevent the harassment, hate and acts of violence that are being perpetrated across our nation, sometimes in your name, which is now synonymous with our nation’s highest office," the letter read. "In our schools, on job sites and college campuses, on public streets and in coffee shops, members of our communities, our children, our families, our neighbors, our students and our employees are facing very real threats, and are frightened."
Staff Reporter Jenna Wang contributed reporting.
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