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Credit: Kylie Cooper

Amid backlash over the renaming of Penn's School of Design to the Stuart Weitzman School of Design, students are moving forward with plans to confront the school's dean in an upcoming town hall.

Earlier this month, students voiced frustration over Penn's decision to rename the design school and asserted that Weitzman, a fashion icon and 1963 Wharton graduate, does not accurately represent the school because his profession as a designer is not related to any academic program offered at Penn. The students also said they were upset with the lack of transparency and student input throughout the renaming process.

Third-year Architecture master's student Mitch Chisholm, who is involved with the town hall's planning, said the students wanted to have a face-to-face discussion with Design Dean Frederick Steiner. The students plan to host the town hall next week, but the exact date and time are not yet finalized, Chisholm said.

President Amy Gutmann announced that the school would be renamed after Stuart Weitzman in an email to the Penn community on Feb. 26. Gutmann did not disclose the amount Weiztman donated.

Weitzman Design associate professor and Architecture Associate Chair Annette Fierro said most faculty members did not know about the renaming.

The faculty were informed of the new name last spring, before the public announcement in February, Fierro said. Design School faculty members were in a meeting when they received an announcement via email from Steiner. 

There was no input from the faculty in the process, Fierro said, and the faculty found out about the renaming at the same time.

Credit: Katharine Cocherl

“It was a very closely guarded secret,” Fierro said. “We were taken by surprise, as the students were.”  

Fierro said faculty members were not informed of the exact amount Weitzman donated to the school.

Despite the lack of input from faculty members, Fierro said she was glad the endowment could help the students and provide the school with more resources.

"As a school, we have struggled financially for quite a while. I am not altogether comfortable with a one-to-one association with a commercial entity, but it was a generous gift," Fierro said. "Above all, the new endowment is going to help our students and because of that, I am very happy."

For years leading up to the renaming, the design school had consistently been ranked one of the University's most tuition-dependent schools, which means that tuition was its primary source of revenue. The costly space and expensive technology, in addition to the limited research funding and gifts, placed the school in a situation with unique challenges.

Weitzman School of Design administrators did not respond to requests for comment.

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