It has been over a month since the 1963 College graduate and former Penn Trustee Stephen Wynn was accused of sexual misconduct, but the fallout from these allegations have continued.
Last week, the state of Oregon sued Wynn and the board of Wynn Resorts for failing to act in the interests of shareholders by putting a stop to Wynn's sexual misconduct, which they allege was well-known in the company.
Since The Wall Street Journal article where dozens recounted incidents of sexual assault and harassment by Wynn, the real estate mogul's company, Wynn Resorts, has lost $2 billion in market capitalization, prompting a slew of lawsuits from shareholders alleging that the company's leaders ignored their fiduciary duties.
Since the original report, more reports have emerged of Wynn conducting sexual assault and harassment. In February, the Associated Press obtained a police report filed by a woman alleging that Wynn had raped her multiple times in the 1970s. In another police report also obtained by the AP, a separate woman alleges that Wynn forced her to resign after she refused to have sex with him.
While Wynn has denied all accounts of sexual misconduct in a statement to the WSJ, he has faced a range of personal repercussions for these reports.
A day after the WSJ report, Wynn resigned as the finance chairman of the RNC. On Feb. 9, Cornell University followed in Penn's footsteps and rescinded the Hospitality Icon Award that was given to the hotel mogul last year.
On Feb. 18, Steve Wynn announced that he was resigning from his position as CEO and chairman of the Wynn Resorts board due to the “avalanche of negative publicity.” Days later, The New York Times reported that he left without a severance package.
Closer to campus, the former Penn trustee member has been roundly denounced by his alma mater.
Four days after the WSJ's report, the "Wynn Commons" seal outside Houston Hall was defaced. Within hours, the University sent police officers to clean up the black paint, though this was then followed with the historic decision to formally strip Wynn's name from the seal altogether.
The area outside Houston Hall was named "Wynn Commons" after the real estate mogul donated $7.5 million for the construction of the Perelman Quadrangle in 1995. Incidentally, this was the same amount of money he allegedly paid in a settlement case to a manicurist who told the WSJ that he had forced her to take off her clothes and have sex with him.
Apart from being a key donor, Wynn has also served on the Board of Trustees and was granted an honorary Doctor of Laws from Penn in 2006. A billionaire based in Las Vegas, Wynn was named the financial chair of the Republican National Committee after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and is also reportedly a good friend of the president.
On Feb. 1, Penn broke its silence on the growing media storm around Wynn by announcing that it was going to remove Wynn's name from the seal outside Houston Hall and from the scholarship fund that he established by donation. The University also said it would be revoking the honorary degree granted to Wynn along with one granted to Bill Cosby, the American entertainer who has been accused by over 50 women of sexual misconduct.
Early in the morning that Thursday, the signage for Wynn Commons was covered up by a metal board. The next morning, when a black tarp was removed from the sign, it was revealed that the engraving of the name "Wynn" had been taken out and replaced with grey bricks, which is how it remains today.
Late in February, a Penn spokesperson confirmed that there were current plans to rename the area "Penn Commons."
The University's historic decision to revoke Wynn's and Cosby's degrees was a direct reversal of a position it had adopted in 2016 when over a dozen other schools made the choice to revoke Cosby's honorary degree. This was the first time in a century that Penn had decided to rescind honorary degrees.
In a statement provided in 2016, University spokesperson Steve MacCarthy said, “While the allegations against Mr. Cosby are deeply troubling, it is not our practice to rescind honorary degrees.”
The Daily Pennsylvanian reached out to dozens of Wynn's peers from the Class of 1963 to hear their thoughts on the University's decision. While some felt Penn's decision was a "dramatic mistake," others, like 1963 Wharton graduate David Ferber referred to Penn as “an institution of integrity,” and that continuing to honor Wynn would throw “a little stain on that integrity.”
According to the Penn Law School professor David Hoffman, an honorary degree is neither paid for nor earned so it can be revoked at any time. However, a four-year degree is different. A school could revoke a degree if it were to become clear that fraud was present while a student was earning it, but otherwise, once a four-year degree is earned, it cannot be taken away.
Philadelphia attorney William Brennan asserted, “Mr. Wynn is innocent until proven guilty. These are unsubstantiated allegations, and if I represented Mr. Wynn I would dig my heels in and start swinging.” Since Wynn has not yet been convicted of anything, Brennan explained that removing Wynn’s name from campus or revoking his honorary degree is a violation of his rights to due process. Additionally, Brennan argues that the University should give his money back.
President Amy Gutmann seemed to address these arguments directly during an interview with the DP.
"These are honorifics that we are rescinding," she said. "We are not a court of law. We are not meting out legal punishment. We are rescinding honorifics."
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