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Signs made by Fossil Free Penn in support of the UC Townhomes during their encampment protest. Credit: Oscar Vasquez

We, the undersigned faculty, are deeply concerned about the efforts of the Center for Community Standards and Accountability to deny or curtail the rights of Penn students to articulate their opinions as part of public protests on campus. 

In this instance, two students have been issued notices stating that they have been in “violation of the University’s Guidelines on Open Expression … and Code of Student Conduct,” ostensibly because they had protested at the 2022 Penn Convocation on College Green. The charges against them are incorrect, in fact, as can be demonstrated even by a casual review of video shot during that protest: They were there protesting the forced displacement of the tenants who live at the University City Townhomes, as were many other students and people; President Liz Magill engaged with them briefly from her podium; event stewards asked them to show their IDs or move away from the protest, and while they refused to identify themselves (as is their right), they did begin to leave. At that point, large numbers of other protestors arrived and took over the protest. They cannot be blamed for what followed, and they should certainly not be singled out from the large numbers of other students and non-Penn protestors who were gathered there.

The fact that the two students who were singled out and identified — despite not showing their IDs — are prominent activists, indicates the University’s intention to stifle student protest by intimidating campus leaders. That one of these students is a well-known Penn Latinx student-activist speaking out on behalf of Black and Hispanic community members causes us to note that the large number of white students who have participated in this and other similar protests have not been so charged. This adds another worrisome layer to our concern about the discriminatory actions of the CSA officials who have written to these two students demanding that they attend a hearing.

This past spring, in an earlier hearing for students who were protesting both Penn’s investments in the fossil fuel industry and its gentrification of West Philadelphia, the faculty mentor-advocates who accompanied the students reminded the officials of the CSA office of the “Principles” of the Penn “Guidelines on Open Expression” that expressly state: “The University of Pennsylvania, as a community of scholars, affirms, supports and cherishes the concepts of freedom of thought, inquiry, speech, and lawful assembly. The freedom to experiment, to present and examine alternative data and theories; the freedom to hear, express, and debate various views; and the freedom to voice criticism of existing practices and values are fundamental rights that must be upheld and practiced by the University in a free society.”

The Guidelines further state: “Recognizing that the educational processes can include meetings, demonstrations, and other forms of collective expression, the University affirms the right of members of the University community to assemble and demonstrate peaceably in University locations within the limits of these Guidelines and undertakes to ensure that such rights shall not be infringed. In keeping with the rights … the University affirms that the substance or the nature of the views expressed is not an appropriate basis for any restriction upon or encouragement of an assembly or a demonstration. The University also affirms the right of others to pursue their normal activities within the University and to be protected from physical injury or property damage. The University shall attempt to ensure that, at any meeting, event or demonstration likely to be attended by non-University law enforcement authorities, the rights provided by these Guidelines are not infringed.”

Furthermore: “The University shall be vigilant to ensure the continuing openness and effectiveness of channels of communication among members of the University community on questions of common interest.” And finally, and most crucially, the Principles conclude by noting, “In case of conflict between the principles of the Guidelines on Open Expression and other University policies, the principles of the Guidelines shall take precedence.”

In that earlier hearing, all charges against those protestors were dropped in accordance with the community values enshrined in these Principles, and the CSA officials conducting the hearings agreed that there was no cause to proceed further, because there were no grounds for the charges that brought the students to the hearing. In which case we find it particularly surprising that, once again, two students here (and seven others in a separate, concurrent case) are being charged on similar grounds. Given this recent history, we can only understand the actions of the CSA office as an attempt at intimidation, an attempt to cause these student-activists, whom we admire, to give up on their urgent protest against “Penntrification,” the continual displacement of minority residents of West Philadelphia/the Black Bottom, to suit the interests of big developers and their clients.

As we face unprecedented climate and housing crises in our city and around the planet, we look to our young people to use their knowledge, principles, and passion to enable social change through bold and unconventional actions. These students protest out of deeply-felt care for the world. Instead of arbitrarily singling out two students from a crowd of hundreds, instead of disciplining them for exercising their First Amendment rights to political speech, instead of instituting a chill on free speech and protest at Penn, instead of contradicting Penn’s own Guidelines on Open Expression, let us turn our attention to the issues they call upon us to address.

We will continue to support our students and their ethical and political insistence on protesting the wrongs done to vulnerable members of our community. We ask that no charges are brought against them, and that the CSA office cease its pattern of intimidation. And we certainly will act, in the interest of our university community, to preserve the right to protest.


  1. Suvir Kaul, A M Rosenthal Professor of English
  2. Chi-ming Yang, Professor of English
  3. Gerald Campano, Professor, Graduate School of Education
  4. Akira Drake Rodriguez, Assistant Professor of City & Regional Planning, Weitzman School of Design 
  5. Andrew T. Lamas, JD, Faculty Lecturer, SAS/SP2
  6. Billy Fleming, Wilks Family Director of the Ian L. McHarg Center, Weitzman School of Design
  7. David Kazanjian, Professor of English
  8. Dagmawi Woubshet, Ahuja Family Presidential Associate Professor of English
  9. Simon Richter, Class of 1942 Endowed Term Professor of German, SAS
  10. Samuel Martin, Lecturer, French & Francophone Studies, SAS
  11. Gregory Goulding, Assistant Professor of South Asia Studies
  12. Lisa Mitchell, Professor of South Asia Studies
  13. Timothy Corrigan, Professor Emeritus, Cinema and Mea Studies
  14. Zita Nunes, Associate Professor of English
  15. Meta Mazaj, Senior Lecturer, Cinema and Media Studies
  16. Taije Silverman, Lecturer, English
  17. Anne Berg, Assistant Professor of History
  18. Anthea Butler, Professor and Chair of Religious studies 
  19. Amy Hillier, Associate Professor, School of Social Policy & Practice
  20. Jorge Téllez, Associate Professor, Spanish and Portuguese
  21. Max Cavitch, Associate Professor, English, SAS
  22. Kristen Martin, Lecturer, Creative Writing
  23. Gwendolyn Beetham, Associate Director, GSWS Program 
  24. Emily Steinlight, Associate Professor of English
  25. Ania Loomba, Catherine Bryson Professor of English 
  26. Robert Vitalis, Professor of Political Science
  27. Julia Alekseyeva, Assistant Professor of English
  28. Maria Murphy, Associate Director, Center for Research in Feminist, Queer, and Trans Studies
  29. James English, Professor of English
  30. Sebastián Gil-Riaño, Assistant Professor of History and Sociology of Science
  31. Toni Bowers, Professor of English
  32. Yin Ling Irene Wong, Professor, School of Social Policy & Practice
  33. Nancy Bentley, Professor of English, SAS
  34. Anne Norton, Professor of Political Science
  35. Nikhil Anand, Associate Professor of Anthropology
  36. Jennifer S. Ponce de León, Associate Professor of English
  37. Heather Love, Professor of English, SAS
  38. Sharon Hayes, Professor, Department of Fine Arts, Weitzman School of Design
  39. Victor Pickard, Professor, Annenberg School for Communication
  40. Rupa Pillai, Senior Lecturer, Asian American Studies Program
  41. Ed Brockenbrough, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education
  42. Luis Moreno-Caballud, Associate Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
  43. Ramah McKay, Associate Professor of History & Sociology of Science
  44. Michael Nairn, Lecturer, Urban Studies Program
  45. Elizabeth Collins, Lecturer, French & Francophone Studies, SAS
  46. Irina Marinov, Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Science
  47. Bethany Wiggin, Professor, French, Italian and German Studies and Director, Penn Program in Environmental Humanities
  48. Jean-Michel Rabaté, Professor of English
  49. Aaron Levy, Senior Lecturer, English and History of Art
  50. Amy C. Offner, Associate Professor of History, SAS
  51. Ann Kuttner, Associate Professor, History of Art, SAS
  52. Fabian Arzuaga, Lecturer, Critical Writing Program, SAS
  53. Jessa Lingel, Associate Professor, Annenberg School for Communication
  54. Whitney Trettien, Assistant Professor of English, SAS
  55. David L. Eng, Richard L. Fisher Professor of English and Faculty Director of the Program in Asian American Studies, SAS 
  56. Abdulhamit Arvas, Assistant Professor of English
  57. Tulia G. Falleti, Professor of Political Science
  58. Karen Redrobe, Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, SAS
  59. Kristina Lyons, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, SAS 
  60. Fariha Khan, Co-Director, Asian American Studies
  61. Kevin M. F. Platt, Professor of Russian and East European Studies, SAS
  62. Paul K. Saint-Amour, Walter H. and Leonore C. Professor in the Humanities, SAS
  63. Jed Esty, Vartan Gregorian Professor of English, SAS
  64. Cassandra Hradil, Lecturer, English
  65. Caroline Batten, Assistant Professor of English, SAS
  66. Sarah J. Jackson, Associate Professor, Annenberg School for Communication
  67. Dustyn Roberts, Practice Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering
  68. Andrea Goulet, Professor of French and Francophone Studies
  69. Melissa E. Sanchez, Donald T. Regan Professor of English; Director of GSWS Program; Director of the Center for Research in Feminist, Queer, and Transgender Studies, SAS
  70. Rafael Khachaturian, Lecturer, Critical Writing Program, SAS
  71. Justin McDaniel, Kahn Professor of the Humanities, SAS
  72. Catherine Bartch, Associate Director, Center for the Latin American and Latinx Studies
  73. Teemu Ruskola, Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, SAS; Professor of Law