Since Penn's School of Design was renamed the Stuart Weitzman School of Design earlier this year, students have voiced anger over the University's decision and asserted that the namesake does not accurately represent the school.
Students critiqued Weitzman, a fashion icon and 1963 Wharton graduate, because his profession as a designer is not related to any academic program offered at Penn. They also say they are frustrated over the lack of transparency and student input throughout the process. The school's official naming ceremony, which will feature Weitzman, Penn President Amy Gutmann, and PennDesign Dean Frederick Steiner, will take place Thursday outside of Meyerson Hall at 5 p.m.
“[When] people think Stuart Weitzman, they think shoes, they think fashion and then they might assume what we do is [fashion] — we don’t even have that in our program,” Architecture graduate student Katarina Marjanovic said.
Penn does not currently offer any courses in fashion design.
“Weitzman is known for fashion design and we don’t have a fashion design program,” Architecture graduate student Natalia Revelo said. Revelo said the new name might give people the wrong impression of the academic programs offered at PennDesign.
Gutmann sent an email to the Penn community on Feb. 26 announcing the renaming of the school following a donation from Weitzman. The designer requested the amount donated remain confidential, according to the email. Gutmann also announced that the funds would go toward financial aid and academic programming, as well as a renovation of PennDesign's central plaza between Meyerson Hall and Fisher Fine Arts Library.
Students also critiqued Penn's decision to change the school's name without input from them, asserting that there was a lack of transparency.
“This is the school that I got an offer from and that I agreed to make a commitment with. Both sides agreed to that,” Landscape Architecture graduate student Xan Lillehei said. “Then it was changed without any input from me, without any communication before it happened. I consider myself still a student of PennDesign and not the Weitzman school.”
“Why was there no consultation with the student body before a decision was made?” City and Regional Planning and Architecture graduate student Robbie Romo said. “Ultimately, this whole process should serve as a harsh reminder to the student body — a lesson that money talks.”
Kimberly Shoemaker, an graduate student studying architecture, said students were “completely blindsided,” and she was frustrated that students were not told in advance.
“There has been zero transparency with the entire thing, which is really frustrating because if it’s a name that I am going to have to put on our resume and if it’s a name that I am going to have to project on my diploma, I want at least a full warning about it.”
Graduate student Mitch Chisholm, who also studies architecture, said he thinks the larger issue is that the school did not solicit student input, adding that he wonders how much future influence Weitzman will have over the school's curriculum or its larger mission.
A spokesperson for PennDesign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Out of Penn’s 12 schools, four have individual namesakes attached to them. Besides the Stuart Weitzman School of Design, the Annenberg School for Communication and the Wharton School were named after their respective founders, Walter H. Annenberg and Joseph Wharton. The Perelman School of Medicine was named after Raymond and Ruth Perelman, who have donated numerous times to Penn in the past.
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