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Credit: Chase Sutton

With Penn professor Joe Biden taking a leave of absence to compete for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, Penn Biden Center officials said the center isn't going anywhere.

Penn Biden Center and University officials said the center, which opened in February 2018, will continue to operate and maintain the same "mission" while the former vice president is on the campaign trail. Biden Center officials declined to comment on whether any of the center's operations would change in light of Biden's announcement.

“Our focus will not change — the Penn Biden Center will continue to advance the values that have formed the core of our mission since we opened: standing up for democratic principles, promoting peace and shared security, and defending universal human rights," Biden Center Director of Communications Carlyn Reichel wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

“We will remain active in shaping the debate around important foreign policy issues and fostering a new generation of leaders,” Reichel added.

When asked to elaborate on how the center's operations would change with Biden's campaign, Reichel referred the DP to a statement released by the organization.

Penn President Amy Gutmann wrote in an email to the Penn community Thursday that Penn Presidential Professor of Practice Biden “will be taking an unpaid leave of absence from his work at the Penn Biden Center" throughout his campaign.

“The Penn Biden Center provides Penn with a highly visible and important presence in Washington, D.C.,” Gutmann’s email read. “It will continue to function as an integral component of the University’s global strategy to bring the world to Penn and Penn to the world.”

Credit: Sharon Lee

When asked for additional comment following the vice president's announcement, University spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy referred the DP to Gutmann’s statement and declined to comment further.

Biden’s leave of absence will also apply to his role as a Presidential Practice Professor and all of his affiliations with the University, Reichel wrote.

The names of Biden's leadership team at the Biden Center also did not appear on a list of Biden's senior campaign staff that the campaign announced. Reichel declined to comment on whether any of Biden's top aides at the center would be working on his campaign.

In March, The Hill reported that Biden Center Managing Director Steve Richetti, a long-time Biden adviser, has been making calls on behalf of the vice president in a bid to secure endorsements for the campaign, but his name did not appear on the senior campaign staff list. 

Reichel also wrote that the center would continue to offer the same opportunities to Penn students, such as internships and policy roundtables. 

"The Penn Biden Center also looks forward to hosting its second career day for Penn students interning in Washington, DC, over the summer," Reichel wrote.

Gutmann's email on Thursday marked a shift from the University’s previous silence about Biden’s political prospects.

“We are not commenting on anything regarding Vice President Biden unless or until he were to make an announcement regarding his plans,” MacCarthy wrote in an email to the DP in March. 

Biden was last on campus in early April to participate in a discussion on the opioid crisis, and he has had strong ties to Penn ever since he was unveiled as a professor in 2017. Biden's frequent events on campus dealt with everything from immigration reform to foreign policy in front of sold-out crowds. Biden also participated in a voter registration initiative hosted by student groups in September 2018.

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