2019 at Penn was a year to remember. This year saw Penn take center stage in national news, when former Penn men’s basketball coach Jerome Allen was ensnared in the college admissions scandal and when two former Penn professors launched their presidential campaigns. On campus, students challenged the administration on multiple fronts. Fossil Free Penn demanded climate action at a Board of Trustees meeting, students protested Penn Law professor Amy Wax’s controversial comments, and a petition postponed the renaming of Penn Law. Take a look back at this year’s most defining moments with The Daily Pennsylvanian’s Year in Review.
Former Penn men’s basketball coach Jerome Allen has remained a key witness for the investigation into the college admissions bribery scandal that came to light in March 2019. He plead guilty in October 2018 to accepting bribes in exchange for recruitment of a player. In March, Allen testified in a federal trial that Philip Esformes paid him to facilitate his son’s recruitment in 2015. Although the national scandal that broke days after Allen's testimony did not name Penn, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said Penn would consider revising its recruitment process. During Esformes' trial, news broke that he had also sent more than $400,000 to the consultant at the center of the national scandal after contacting him about his son’s recruitment. Esformes’ trial ended in April when he was found guilty on 20 charges, including bribery. In July, a judge sentenced Allen to four years probation, community service, and a fine, avoiding jail time. The next day, Penn Athletics removed Allen from its Hall of Fame.
Penn renamed two of their twelve schools this year after receiving large donations. In February, Penn’s School of Design was renamed the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design after the fashion icon and 1963 Wharton alumnus. Students voiced anger over the renaming, arguing that Weitzman’s career as a designer has no relation to any academic program at Penn. Students added administrators should have considered student input before the decision. In November, the University renamed Penn Law School to the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School after the largest donation to any law school. A petition demanding the school change its short-form name from “Carey Law” back to “Penn Law” garnered over 500 signatures from students and alumni within two days of the announcement. Ten days after the initial announcement of the name change, Penn Law Dean Ted Ruger announced the school will change its short-form name back to “Penn Law” after widespread backlash from students and alumni.
Penn Law professor Amy Wax sparked controversy again this summer after claiming that the United States would be “better off with more whites and fewer nonwhites.” Her comments prompted student activism through marching protests and petitions calling for the University to relieve her of all teaching duties. In October, the Undergraduate Assembly passed a resolution demanding the administration fire Wax. Wax previously caused controversy in 2017 when she claimed that white, Anglo-Saxon cultural norms are superior, and that she had never seen a black Penn Law student graduate in the top quarter of their class.
Pressure mounted this semester from students opposing Penn’s investment in the fossil fuel industry. In light of Penn's Board of Trustees' refusal to review Fossil Free Penn’s most recent divestment proposal last year, leaders said the club had no choice but to rethink its strategy and engage in direct action. FFP began holding weekly sit-ins outside of Penn President Amy Gutmann’s office in September. Weeks after the first sit-in, the University announced a Climate Action Plan 3.0, outlining more incremental steps to reduce Penn’s carbon emissions. Some student climate activists criticized the plan for its vagueness and potential harm to disadvantaged Philadelphia communities. In November, FFP protested at Penn’s annual Board of Trustees meeting, ultimately shutting the meeting down. Student protesters aim to pressure Penn to host a climate town hall, with Chief Investment Officer Peter Ammon, Chair of the Board of Trustees David Cohen, and Gutmann all in attendance.
Two of the front-runners for the Democratic presidential nomination have served as Penn professors – former United States Vice President Joe Biden and current U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The two candidates launched their campaigns earlier this year, aiming to win in 2020 against incumbent President Donald Trump in 2020 — a 1968 Wharton graduate. Penn President Amy Gutmann announced on Feb. 7, 2017 that Biden would serve as a Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor and lead the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. Warren taught contract and bankruptcy law at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School from 1987 to 1995, when she left to teach at Harvard Law School.
Penn announced plans to create a slate of new buildings this year and continued constructing its record-breaking $163 million dorm New College House West, shaping up major changes to campus. Additionally, Penn continued construction of the Pavilion at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Tangen Hall, and the Wharton Academic Research Building. Residents living near construction zones criticized the noise, claiming they were frequently woken up by construction early in the morning. Students said they felt their concerns were largely unaddressed by administrators. Penn's construction of NCHW will provide more room to house students once sophomores will be required to live on campus in 2021. Students who criticized the sophomore housing policy voiced concerns about the costs of on-campus housing and its impact on Greek Life.
This year, our columnists reacted to some of the most pressing issues affecting Penn students and the Philadelphia area. Here are some of the year’s strongest pieces.
Penn graduates sending their kids to private schools is an inherently selfish decision
THE OXFORD C'MON
What Penn can learn from the Gillette ad
Penn volleyball’s first season under the direction of coach Iain Braddak was a tumultuous one. Despite several players having reservations about Braddak during the hiring process, Penn Athletics gave him the job in 2018. In addition to being the worst season in program history, eight players filed formal grievances with Penn Athletics against their coach for his conduct during the year. The administration responded to the situation by setting up a team-wide mediation session called restorative justice, in which a third-party firm administered a three-hour meeting attended by all 20 players on the team, Braddak, and Associate Athletic Director Matt Valenti. Braddak returned for the 2019 season with the hope of focusing on the future of the program. However, a different type of setback occurred near the end of the season when Penn Athletics announced that the remaining two games of the team’s season would be canceled following the administration’s discovery of “vulgar, offensive, and disrespectful posters” in the team’s locker room. Multiple athletes on the team did not respond to requests for comment, while Penn Athletics stated that the cancellation had nothing to do with last season’s grievances.
Penn’s own Franklin Field turned 125 years old in 2019, and the party lasted all year long. From the Philadelphia Eagles to the service academies to the Red and Blue’s own squads, the Frank has been home to scores of teams across its history. But nowadays the stadium is arguably most full for the annual Penn Relays in late April, where thousands from around the world come to see the world’s best athletes compete in track and field. Penn football ushered in the historic milestone with commemorative all-red throwback uniforms, which they wore for select home games this season. Whether for football, sprint football, lacrosse, or track, Franklin Field will remain one of the nation’s most sacred venues for years to come.
While news of the scandal first broke in July of 2018, the Jerome Allen bribery scandal remains unresolved nearly a year and a half later. In March, Allen testified against Penn parent Philip Esformes in federal court, saying that Esformes bribed him in order to secure admission for his son, Morris, who graduated from Wharton in May. Allen’s testimony resulted in Esformes’ conviction, the implication of former Penn men’s basketball assistant coach Ira Bowman, Allen’s removal from the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame, and the avoidance of jail time for the charges against him. Allen, who was forced to pay over $200,000 in fines and forfeitures, pleaded guilty. Penn Athletics has not commented on Allen or its pending investigation into his conduct since July.
Penn men’s basketball started 2019 with a major milestone, winning its first Big 5 title since 2002 with a final win over Saint Joseph’s in January. Despite that success, however, the Quakers struggled in Ivy League play, clinching a spot in the Ivy Tournament on the final day of the regular season with a 7-7 record. The Red and Blue then lost to Harvard in the Tournament semifinal. Penn women’s basketball won a title of its own, sharing the Ivy League regular season championship with Princeton. However, the Quakers lost to the Tigers in the Ivy Tournament final, leaving them a game short of March Madness.
2019 is nearly over. And with the new decade comes reflection, retrospection, and some top picks. This decade gave us an onslaught of pop culture, and now Street has endeavored to choose the best of all of it — best movies, best albums, and best television shows from this year, based on staff’s picks.
The 2010s are coming to a close, and a lot has happened at Penn in the last decade. It was a decade of firsts: the first Penn alumnus to be to elected President of the United States, the first Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl victory, and the first Women's March. There were several record-breaking and newsworthy athletic achievements. Important figures such as Pope Francis and LeBron James visited the University. And Penn's campus continued to expand with new construction projects. Take a look back at the past decade at Penn in photos.
As 2019 comes to a close, The Daily Pennsylvanian looked back on some of the highlights from the year.