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Penn affiliates want merit and ‘intellectual diversity’ to guide university


‘This proposal for a new constitution for Penn calls for the sort of ideal place of research and learning that Penn should be,’ signer and former administrator says

The University of Pennsylvania should reorient itself to support “intellectual diversity” and merit, according to some students, faculty, and alumni.

“A Vision for a New Future of the University of Pennsylvania,” comes after Penn’s former president, Liz Magill, resigned earlier this month following remarks she made regarding antisemitism on campus in a hearing with federal lawmakers.

The constitution calls for a return to the values of the university’s founder, Benjamin Franklin. The petition supporting the new constitution has garnered the signatures of over 200 professors, alumni, and other Penn community members.

“We propose a future for Penn that, while modern in its ambitions, is true to Franklin’s enlightenment values,” the “New Constitution,” states. “Many institutions today deliver research and teaching mixed with other social and political agendas, somewhat like the religious agendas of elite Universities of the 1700s.”

The letter contrasted Penn’s founding with that of once-religious universities, Harvard University, Yale University, and Princeton University.

“Intellectual diversity and openness of thought,” should be prioritized, the signers wrote. They also want “rigorous and meritocratic selection based on objective and measurable criteria,” for new faculty hires. The university should also maintain “institutional neutrality” on “societal and political events.”

Stanley Goldfarb, former associate dean of Penn’s medical school and founder of Do No Harm, an anti-woke healthcare reform group, signed the letter.

Goldfarb told The College Fix in an email statement that the new constitution lays the framework for the type of institution Penn should strive to be and said that Magill’s response to antisemitism on campus showcases a “double standard.”

“This proposal for a new constitution for Penn calls for the sort of ideal place of research and learning that Penn should be,” Goldfarb said.

“The problem with the response by former president Magill was that it demonstrated the double standard that currently exists on Penn’s campus as well as throughout academia: Some speech is allowed, other speech is decried,” he said.

“I was cancelled from the Penn community simply because I raised a question about the quality of work of a minority group that was documented in the medical literature,” Goldfarb said. “This is a far cry from calling for genocide, something that former president Magill could not bring herself to absolutely condemn,” he said.

Goldfarb also said that the university must reject the idea of favoring certain groups over others and stop viewing interactions based on “power and oppression.”

He said:

I believe that the university can only prosper if it wholly and honestly rejects the current mentality of pursuing identity politics. This means rejecting all activities that seek to favor one ethnic group over another and rely on anything but individual merit. It also means ascertaining that the student body is well-versed in the history of western civilization and the true benefits and deficiencies of the American experiment. This requires rejecting the entire edifice of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The latter sees all human history and social interactions through the lens of power and oppression. This is one of the key foundations of antisemitism as Jews are considered powerful and oppressive.

The Fix also reached out to three current Penn professors who signed the constitution to ask why they supported it and how they saw the university moving forward with the proposal.

One of the professors declined to comment, saying “the subject is a little hot for me right now. Two others contacted did not respond in the past week.

The university also did not respond to two different requests for comment sent in the past week asking if it was aware of the proposal and if school officials would be willing to meet with those who signed on in support of it.

National free speech group backs reform petition

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression has been promoting the new constitution and several of its employees signed the document as well. Penn history Professor Alan Kors co-founded FIRE along with attorney Harvey Silvergate, according to the organization. A program officer for the group told The Fix why the proposal is a good idea.

“In this Vision for a New Future, Penn faculty members assert that viewpoint diversity, institutional neutrality, and protecting expression must be the guiding principles on campus,” Jessica Wills said via email.

“Students, alumni, and faculty have more influence than they often realize, and it’s marvelous to see the Penn community working together to support individual rights,” Wills said.

Wills also said that Penn was one of the worst-scoring universities for protecting free speech and that this proposed constitution would help it reverse course.

“Penn ranked at the bottom of FIRE’s 2024 College Free Speech Rankings, second only to Harvard,” Wills said.

“The university also maintains multiple speech codes that too easily encourage administrative abuse or arbitrary application,” she said.

“This proposal from Penn faculty reminds the community that more viewpoints, more tough conversations, and, most importantly, more speech, are the answer to its troubles, not censorship.”

Editor’s note: A misspelling of Jessica Wills’ last name has been fixed.

MORE: Ohio State University prioritized DEI over merit, documents show

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Jack Applewhite is a student at the University of Georgia majoring in risk management and insurance with a certificate in legal studies. Jack is a member of his university’s Turning Point USA and College Republicans chapter and serves in student government. He is also a contributor at Lone Conservative.