Students crash Penn president’s holiday party in protest
University of Pennsylvania students who disrupted President Amy Gutmann’s holiday party had a two-fold mission — to highlight the injustice of the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and to demand that the university support the majority-Black and Latino Philadelphia school district.
The Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) has been calling on university leadership to take part in the Ivy League PILOT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) program, which contributes a portion of an institution’s operating budget (0.1 percent) to the city in which it operates since ever-expanding campuses are property-tax exempt. Often, affluent universities operate alongside cash-strapped schools that rely heavily on local taxes for public education. All but two Ivy Leagues participate in the program, and Penn is one of those two.
While Gutmann laid down for four and a half minutes alongside students, a “die-in” demonstration that represents the four and a half hours that Michael Brown laid in the streets of Ferguson after shot down, she declined to join PILOT, pointing out the contributions the university makes to the city and school partners.
“End systematic divestment,” one student wrote on a sign. Another wrote, “No PILOT, a slap in the face.”
The students have launched an online petition to encourage Penn to participate in the PILOT program, and contribute $6.6 million to Philadelphia schools annually.