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The Wharton Graduate Association, which oversees Penn Fight Night and manages its finances, allegedly has yet to donate the pledged $90,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of Philadelphia. Credit: Fred David

Wharton is defending its student government after an investigation by The Daily Pennsylvanian found that the Wharton Graduate Association allegedly failed to fulfill a promised $90,000 donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia.

Three weeks ago, the DP found that the WGA allegedly donated only $75,000 of the approximately $165,000 raised from Penn Fight Night's 2023 event — despite Fight Night leadership telling the Clubs that they would receive $160,000. Students resigned in protest, with participants in Fight Night 2023 expressing that they participated because they believed that the funds would be donated to the Clubs' literacy initiative.

Now, Wharton, the Clubs, and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly are voicing support for the event — which remains scheduled for April 6 — amid continuing student backlash.

In a statement to the DP, a Wharton spokesperson acknowledged students’ disappointment while stating that they “fully support the difficult decisions made by the WGA this academic year.”

“The WGA finance team was diligent in considering all pathways forward following the University’s audit of their financials,” the spokesperson wrote. “The WGA has been a stalwart supporter of Fight Night and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia for many years, and we expect they will continue to support important causes while also setting clubs and conferences up for success.”

On March 2, the Clubs addressed the "exemplary leaders of Fight Night," thanking them for their "invaluable support and commitment to our shared vision." The statement, which Fight Night posted on Instagram on March 11, was obtained in full by the DP and does not contain any mention of the allegedly withheld donation.

“On behalf of the Boys & Girls Club, we would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation for Fight Night and the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate school’s unwavering support and dedication to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Philadelphia,” President-CEOs Joseph and Lisabeth Marziello wrote. “We are honored to have you as a partner in our mission to serve those who need us most.”

The Clubs directed the DP to their statement in response to a request for comment.

In the post’s caption, Penn Fight Night wrote that “this letter reminds us of the positive impact and significance of our collective efforts.” 

GAPSA — which has been a sponsor of Fight Night for “many years,” according to President Michael Krone — voted on March 13 to extend $25,000 of funding to the event for this year, including a ticket buy and direct fund transfer. While Krone said that the $25,000 is a smaller amount than previous years, it may increase once Fight Night confirms the use of additional funds from student governments.

The funding, however, was provided with multiple stipulations attached, according to one source familiar with the matter. While Krone acknowledged that the funding was conditional, he declined to share the specific conditions until the meeting’s minutes are finalized.

Despite this, several students who are involved in Fight Night voiced frustration and disappointment with WGA's alleged failure to execute the promised donation.

Penn Grad Boxing Club Vice President and captain Joe Dangtran, a University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School student and combatant in the 2022 Fight Night event who serves as a graduate school liaison to the Fight Night Committee, called the allegations “awful” and “a disgrace.” 

“There is a lot of outrage," Dangtran, who has also coached Fight Night combatants, said. "… We have a lot of coaches and a lot of experienced individuals who come down from less fortunate areas of Philadelphia, like Kensington, to share their knowledge with us and to be a part of this club."

He and "a lot of other people" had devoted time to the event largely because it was benefiting a "good cause," Dangtran added.

Alex Feng, a 2023 School of Engineering and Applied Science master’s graduate and fighter in Fight Night 2023, described the event as “among the highlights of [his] life.” However, he said that he was “really disappointed” by the allegations, recalling the fighters’ visit to the Clubs before the event as a “nice opportunity to see what we were working toward.”

“Now hearing about the situation that happened, it doesn't feel good — [especially] thinking about the time in between when the Boys & Girls Club was expecting this money and having it not come through for so long, and even now maybe not even fully coming through to what they were expecting," Feng said.

Feng said that he would take precautions to ensure that the donation would be fulfilled if he were still at Penn and considering participating in the next Fight Night. He also said he has spoken with current fighters and trainers, who have said they will be “more vigilant” about similar issues in the future.

“It definitely puts a damper on the memory and the whole thing,” Feng said. 

Dangtran also criticized Wharton’s response to the allegations.

“The fact that there seems to be a lot of apathy, or a kind of unwillingness to make things right, on behalf of the premier business school in America, is a symptom of something bigger," he said.