Editor's note: This petition was originally published on Sept. 1 on change.org. A link to the petition can be found here.
Petition by Penn Faculty, Staff, Students, and Alumni to President Amy Gutmann for an Investigation of Allegations of Admissions Fraud by Donald J. Trump
We, the undersigned faculty, staff, students, and alumni of the University of Pennsylvania, respectfully ask President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett, who are both pioneering leaders in advancing equal and need-blind access to higher education, to begin an investigation of credible allegations that Donald J. Trump gained admission as a transfer undergraduate student from Fordham University to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania by fraudulent or corrupt means.
WHEREAS Trump’s niece, Dr. Mary L. Trump, has alleged knowledge of specific facts that Trump paid another person to take SAT tests for him, and his admission to the Wharton School may have been gained fraudulently as a result;
WHEREAS a prominent Penn alumnus, Stephen A. Sheller (C ’60, L ’63), sent a letter on July 9 to President Gutmann and David Cohen, chair of Penn’s Board of Trustees, requesting the establishment of a committee to investigate the allegations to determine their truth or falsity, and then if necessary to take remedial action;
WHEREAS six faculty at the Wharton School sent a letter on July 16 to President Gutmann that requested beginning an investigation of the alleged facts of admissions fraud under Penn’s Policy on the Revocation of Degrees;
WHEREAS Provost Pritchett replied to these faculty on July 20 declining to investigate because “this situation occurred too far in the past to make a useful or probative factual inquiry possible,” but remaining “open to investigating” if “new evidence surfaces to substantiate the claim in the future;”
WHEREAS The Washington Post released audiotapes on August 22 of Maryanne Trump Barry, Trump’s sister and a former federal judge, which specifically confirm Mary Trump’s allegations of admissions fraud by Trump;
WHEREAS Eric W. Orts, a Wharton professor among those who wrote the original letter, sent an e-mail to Provost Pritchett on August 23 inquiring whether the audiotapes consisted of “new evidence” sufficient to begin an investigation;
WHEREAS no response to this renewed request has been made, no response to Sheller’s letter has yet been received, and no comment has been given by President Gutmann or Provost Pritchett to recent stories on this issue in The Daily Pennsylvanian and the Post, as well as further journalistic coverage;
WHEREAS a failure for the University of Pennsylvania to open an investigation into these allegations, especially given a long list of well-documented false and misleading statements by Trump as President of the United States, and in the context of many recent high-profile admissions scandals that included cases of applicants cheating on college admissions tests, exposes the University of Pennsylvania to a perception that it is either afraid of retribution from Trump or beholden to large financial donors who are unflinchingly loyal to him; and
WHEREAS we, the undersigned faculty, staff, students, and alumni believe that the long-term good name and reputation of the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School depends on Penn’s administration doing the right thing in the present moment;
THEREFORE, WE, THE UNDERSIGNED FACULTY, STAFF, STUDENTS, AND ALUMNI, RESPECTFULLY REQUEST that President Amy Gutmann, Provost Wendell Pritchett, and the Board of Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania follow the University’s Policy on Revocation of Degrees and ask Dean Erika James of the Wharton School to “initiate an investigation” and “appoint an investigative committee, composed of two or more faculty, to review the matter and recommend to the dean whether no further action should be taken, whether corrective action short of revocation is appropriate, or whether the degree should be revoked.”
Recognizing the importance of protecting university campuses as spaces of academic freedom, freedom of speech, and the robust exchange of different and at times colliding ideas and beliefs, we understand that there may be good reasons not to open the suggested investigation in the run-up to the national election in November 2020. In order to make clear that this is not a partisan political issue, but rather an ethical issue pertaining to equal and fair access to educational opportunity in our admissions process, we request that this investigation occur after and not before the presidential election.
ERIC W. ORTS is the Guardsmark Professor of Legal Studies & Business Ethics and a professor of Management.
KAREN REDROBE is the Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Professor of Cinema and Modern Media as well as the director of the Wolf Humanities Center
STEPHEN SHELLER is a 1960 College Graduate and a 1963 Penn Law graduate.