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Angry Penn Alumni: Where Have They Been All This Time?

Perhaps more will be emboldened to hold their alma maters accountable on these and other matters.

Credit: f11photo

The son of a railroader from the Ozarks of Arkansas and a nurse’s aide from Harlan County Kentucky, I have no ties to the University of Pennsylvania (Penn). I have ties to Penn, however, through marriage. My wife’s father and uncle graduated from the Penn architectural school in 1932 and 1922; her late brother graduated from Penn in 1963, as did his wife, and as did their three daughters who excelled in engineering and at the Wharton School.

Our older son, via a Navy ROTC scholarship—he went to the Marine Corps—graduated from Penn. So did his wife, both undergraduate and in its School of Veterinary Medicine, as had three generations of women in her family. In fact, our son’s wife represents four generations of Penn women who first graduated, in 1920, from the Ivy begun by Benjamin Franklin. It is a legacy of which they are justly proud; no doubt one or more of her daughters will matriculate there.


I have never donated to either of my alma maters; shame on me, but they got enough of my money, and I have no warm and fuzzy feelings about those days. Friends and relatives speak of their time in college as “the best years of their lives,” but for me they were a costly chore. I understand those who feel otherwise, like my late brother-in-law who, with his wife, annually attended Penn Alumni Weekend, joined the parade of classes at commencement, and contributed generously financially. 

He did so even when Penn lurched leftward over the decades as progressives and Marxists took over the nation’s colleges and universities, despite my persistent nudges that he contribute instead to the nonprofit, public-interest law firm I led. On his passing, he left a magnanimous gift to Penn, which causes me to wonder what he would think of the place after the events of the last three weeks.

There is no doubt what some famous alumni think following Penn’s “‘silence’ to the attack by Hamas on Israel,” in the words of Jon Huntsman, former Utah Governor and U.S. Ambassador, who had previously contributed tens of millions to his alma mater but has now ended all support for the institution. Earlier, Apollo Management CEO Marc Rowan, a graduate of Wharton, who, with his wife, donated $50 million to the school in 2018, sent Penn $1 and urged others to follow his lead and “Close their Checkbooks.” Then, David Magerman, who helped build Renaissance Technologies, bemoaned his alma mater’s “misguided moral compass” and said he would “refuse to donate another dollar to Penn.”

Good for them. Our older son was there on 9/11 when Muslim students celebrated the attack on our country and the deaths of nearly three thousand Americans. In fact, he walked the campus in his Navy Midshipman uniform the next day. Penn was silent on the matter, but my wife and I stewed. Nonetheless, I wonder: Where have Penn alumni been all these years?

Where were they when Penn awarded a nearly million dollar stipend to former Vice President Joe Biden as “Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor,” which required no teaching or even regular presence on campus? What Ivy would hire a known liar, plagiarist, and small-brain incompetent? Penn did, to its everlasting ridicule and, one would think, to the shame of alumni who proudly remember pedigreed professors of worldwide renown.


Where were they when the Penn president who oversaw the sinecure awarded Biden, Amy Gutmann, received an ambassadorship to Germany? Was it a payoff for his “full professor[ship]” of which Biden brags or for her role in admitting Biden’s granddaughter? No doubt non-meritorious admissions are a common occurrence at the Ivies, but the tawdry details exposed Penn to well-deserved mockery for its low standards, willingness to trade political favors, and deal making with the disreputable Hunter Biden.

Where were they in the wake of Biden’s classified document scandal at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington, D.C., when Congress questioned who might have had unauthorized access to those documents? Concerns were heightened when Congress learned Penn received “tens of millions of dollars from Chinese sources,” donations that more than tripled after creation of the Penn Biden Center in February 2017.

Most shameful of all, where were they when Penn declared war on its female athletes, in particular, those on its prestigious swimming team? As the world now knows, thanks to the advocacy of former University of Kentucky swimming champion Riley Gaines, Penn allowed a male to compete “as a woman” on the women’s team in NCAA competition. Penn women complained, not only about the paramount unfairness to them, having trained rigorously for years to be nationally competitive, of racing against a 6”1’ former member of the men’s Penn swimming team, but also about sharing a locker room with a biological male. Penn silenced the women, called them hateful or transphobic, and told them to seek psychological counseling. 

Who treats women like this, in a manner not seen since the years my daughter-in-law’s great grandmother was at Penn, when women were thought to be hysterical and were denied the right to vote? A hundred years later, Penn has dealt similarly with its female athletes. To my knowledge, not a single alumnus objected.

I am pleased so many are speaking out today in the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks on Israel and its innocent civilians and the wave of antisemitism sweeping our nation’s colleges and universities. Perhaps more will be emboldened to hold their alma maters accountable on these and other matters.