ThinkFest Recap: Dr. Jean Bennett on Curing Blindness

Dr. Jean Bennett at ThinkFest.

Dr. Jean Bennett at ThinkFest.

ThinkFest is streaming live all day. Watch ThinkFest here.

Philadelphia is leading the way in developing gene therapies that could pull off medical miracles like reversing blindness, a Penn medical researcher said Friday at Thinkfest.

“This is really, really an exciting time,” said Dr. Jean Bennett of University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. She’d helped lead a team that’s in the midst of FDA trials to bring a blindness therapy to market.

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Chelsea Clinton’s Coming to Philly Next Week

Former (and future?) First Daughter Chelsea Clinton will visit the Palestra at UPenn next week as part of the Food Trust‘s youth leadership summit for middle-schoolers, HYPE (Healthy You. Positive Energy.)

According to a release from the Food Trust, Clinton is stopping by on a tour to promote her new book It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going. The book offers an easy-to-swallow look at some of the planet’s biggest challenges and offers inspirational stories of young people who are working to make the world a better place to live.

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TONIGHT: Dr. Rachel Levine to Speak at Day of Silence Event at Penn

Dr. Rachel Levine

Dr. Rachel Levine

Tomorrow, April 17th, is National Day of Silence. The movement, founded by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in 1996, is the largest student-led effort of its kind. It happens on the third day of every April, when students take a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.

So I guess that makes today National Day of Silence Eve—which deserves recognition of its own, don’t ya think? UPenn is marking the occasion with their second-annual, two-part Day of Service / Night of Raucous event. It all starts this evening at 5 pm, when Dr. Rachel Levine, who was recently named by Governor Tom Wolf as his physician general, will give a keynote address in Houston Hall’s Class of ‘49 Auditorium at 3417 Spruce Street. Dinner will be provided.

Later on, the party moves to Stir Lounge for the second part of the affair, Night of Raucous, which will be just as it sounds: a night to get the drinking, dancing and merry-making out of our systems before we shut our traps for a full day tomorrow. Wristbands and drink tickets will be given away at the Day of Silence event at Penn.

Find more details about the event here.

Who Knew? Shoe Guru Stuart Weitzman Went To Penn


First Penn, then shoes, then Gisele wearing your shoes. | Image via Stuart Weitzman.

Yesterday, the Daily Pennsylvanian, UPenn’s student newspaper, ran a piece about Stuart Weitzman, the shoe guru who turned a family shoe company into a $300 million business. The story mentioned things many fashion-savvy people know—Beyoncé wears his shoes on stage, Kate Middleton wears his wedges every other day. But there was one fact that stood out: Stuart Weitzman went to Penn?!

How did we not know this?

Penn Revises Sex Violence Policy

There’s been a lot of talk around these partsand nationally — about how colleges handle reports of sexual assault, so it’s no surprise Penn has unveiled revisions to its own policies regarding sexual violence. The Daily Pennsylvanian reports:

The proposed additions, released in the Almanac on Tuesday, would add specific definitions for relationship violence, domestic violence and stalking to the policy banning sexual violence amongst faculty, staff, students and visitors to campus. The previous policy only defined rape, non-forcible sex acts and consent. The policy was last updated in 2012.

If the proposal is approved, Penn will define relationship violence as “a pattern of abuse committed by a person, past or present, involved in a sexual or romantic relationship with the victim.” It will encompass physical, sexual, emotional or economic violence. Domestic violence will be defined as “abuse committed against an adult who is a spouse or former spouse, cohabitant or someone with whom the abuser has a child, has an existing dating or engagement relationship, or has had a former dating or engagement relationship.”

Further suggested revisions to the policy should be sent to Vice President for Institutional Affairs Joann Mitchell by May 20.

Penn Adopts ‘Preferred Name Initiative’ for Trans Students

name tag

Transgender students at Penn now have the option to use a name other than the one on their birth certificate thanks to the university’s newly launched Preferred-Name Initiative. The new plan streamlines a process that was already in place on campus. Previously, students could set up a meeting with Senior Associate Director of the LGBT Center Erin Cross to institute a name change, but the process wasn’t publicized. Therefore, most students would only hear about it through word of mouth. More from The Daily Pennsylvanian

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UPenn On New List of 25 Best Colleges and Universities for LGBT Students


Once again, the University of Pennsylvania has been named one of the nation’s best universities for LGBT students. The accolade comes from Campus Pride, an organization dedicated to making campuses more gay-friendly. Every year, the group compiles a “Campus Pride Index” based on a series of 50 questions they send to students across the country.

UPenn gets five out of five stars in seven of the eight categories on the questionnaire, including LGBT Policy Inclusion, LGBT Housing and Residence Life, and LGBT Counseling and Health. It gets a 4.5 out of five stars in LGBT Academic Life. Read our profile on the history of Penn as a gay-friendly school here.

Other nearby schools to make the list include Princeton, in Princeton, N.J., and Rutgers, in New Brunswick, N.J.

Check out the complete, most recent rundown of top universities for LGBT students, listed in alphabetical order, below:

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How Penn Law Became One of the Nation’s Most Gay-Friendly Schools

Dee Spagnuolo L'03 (left) and partner Sasha Ballen have their hands full with three active children. Beau, 3 (on top); Elio, 6; and Marina, 6. Sagnuolo, a former Penn Law class president, and Ballen are fighting the State of Pennsylvania's effort to revoke their marriage license. Photo by Carly Teitelbaum.

Dee Spagnuolo L’03 (left) and partner Sasha Ballen have their hands full with three active children. Beau, 3 (on top); Elio, 6; and Marina, 6. Sagnuolo, a former Penn Law class president, and Ballen are fighting the State of Pennsylvania’s effort to revoke their marriage license. Photo by Carly Teitelbaum.

THE STORY HAS become something of a legend, told around the table every year at an annual chili supper for Penn Law’s gay and lesbian population that’s hosted by Dean of Students Gary Clinton and his partner, attorney Don Millinger L’79. It begins like many a hand-me-down tale: On a sleety, snowy February night in 1994, Clinton says he, Millinger and guests were ladling chili and passing around drinks when they noticed a fellow student peering through the front window. Sensing his hesitation to come in, Clinton threw on a jacket so he could go out to ask the straggler why he was waiting out in the cold.

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