Penn Prez Amy Gutmann Moves Holiday Party to Annenberg Center

Her house has become a popular protest spot. University says the move was made for logistical reasons.

Penn president Amy Gutmann’s annual holiday “study break” party at her house last year was most notable for a “die-in” staged by several student groups protesting the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Though she later described the students’ move as an “ambush,” Gutmann famously got down on the floor in her holiday finery to join the protest, which was also calling for Penn to pay PILOTS, or “payment in lieu of taxes,” to the School District of Philadelphia.

She briefly addressed the gathered students, who repeatedly interrupted her and then lined the inside foyer of her home, thus discouraging other would-be guests. The event made national headlines, and the school’s vice president for public safety felt compelled to reassure campus police that Gutmann had their back.

There won’t be a repeat of the embarrassing scene, even though Penn continues to resist the PILOTS concept. (University vice president Jeff Cooper noted at an October 2014 trustees meeting, “We’re not a social service agency—we’re a university.) This year’s study break, scheduled for tomorrow, has been moved to the Annenberg Center, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian student newspaper. A Penn spokesperson emailed the DP that the move was made for logistical reasons: “Last year, [attendance] exceeded the fire code limit, so we needed to find a larger venue.” The DP also noted that last fall’s annual party for incoming freshpersons was moved from Gutmann’s residence to Wynn Commons.

The house has become a popular protest spot; in November, it’s where “We Are Philly” protesters ended a march decrying the lack of support for minorities in higher education and read out a list of demands. (These included additional sensitivity training, increases in the number of black faculty and staff, and “zero tolerance for bigotry perpetrated by Greek organizations.”) Considering the fraught clime on campuses these days, the change in venue is probably wise. It would be a shame to see anybody get decked in those halls.

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