Should You Feel Guilty About Privilege?

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On Monday, I lead three rotational sessions about journalism and black feminism at the University of Pennsylvania’s Social Justice Research Institute. The classroom is made up of notably progressive 15- and 16-year-olds who have words like cisgendered already in their lexicon. At the top of the sessions as a means of introduction, I asked each aspiring social justice practitioner to say their name, their age, and to identify at least one way that they were privileged.

It was an impressive mix of students, some of whom are from far-off places such as Greece or China. Each of them could identify the clear privilege that they’d had in common — an opportunity to spend the summer studying at one of the nation’s foremost Ivies — but as individuals there was some variation in the things they said. Gender privilege. Sexual orientation privilege. Economic privilege. The privilege that comes from having a supportive family. And of course, race.

“Do you feel guilty about it?” I asked one student whose face was turning red as words stumbled out of her mouth, trying to find the right way to land.

“About?”

“Being white,” I said, curious. Read more »

Architect’s Newspaper Features Penn’s South Bank

Photo credit: PennConnects

Photo credit: PennConnects

The University of Pennsylvania’s ambitious South Bank project — which includes the “Pennovation Center” — recently appeared in the Architect’s Newspaper with renderings that showcased its proximity to Penn’s campus and Center City.

The South Bank master plan aims to develop spaces to promote  entrepreneurial growth and “technology-led economic development” in concert with PIDC’s goal to turn the entire Lower Schuylkill River area into an Innovation District.
 
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What Becomes of an Empty Frat House?

penn-frat-houseIn late November 2012, Penn’s Skulls, or Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity, moved out of its on-campus house after losing its charter due to a death at one of its parties. Now, the Daily Pennsylvanian reports, the corporation of Skulls alumni that owns the house and the university are finally discussing its future use.

The fraternity wants to come back to campus, the executive director of its international organization told the paper, but won’t start talks with the college until 2015. (The university’s director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life said that Greek organizations often have to wait four to six years before they can “recolonize.”) And PKS likely wouldn’t move back into the house until a few years after that.

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Penn Dean Reveals Third Student Suicide Since End of Last Semester

In the wake of the high-profile suicides of Penn students Madison Holleran and Elvis Hatcher, Philadelphia magazine has learned that a third university student had committed suicide since the end of last semester. Dean Richard James Gelles of the university’s School of Social Policy and Practice said he made no announcement through the university because he believes in the “privacy concerns of the family … and the possibility of contagion.”

While Gelles would not reveal the name of the student, he says he is revealing the suicide out of concern for student welfare.

The unnamed social policy graduate student, who committed suicide off campus over semester break, can now be added to the list of Penn students who recently committed suicide, including Holleran, a freshman who took her life on Jan. 17, and Hatcher, a sophomore who killed himself just weeks later.

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Walt Keller, Leukemia Survivor, Has Passed

Walter Robert Keller, 1953-2014

In late 2011, I saw a story in the New York Times. A clinical trial of a new kind of cancer therapy at the University of Pennsylvania had jolted two elderly leukemia patients into apparent remission. The therapy had never been tried before in humans, only in mice. Developed over 25 years by a team of Penn doctors, it used genetic techniques to give new powers to a patient’s own cells, transforming them into “serial killers” able to attack and eliminate tumor.

It seemed to be one of those rare moments in cancer science when an experimental treatment actually worked. I wanted to know more, so I asked Penn if they’d connect me with a patient. They pointed me to Walter Keller, a cabinet refinisher in Southern California, the seventh adult to ever receive the therapy.

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