President Donald Trump received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance in May 1968. But in 2020, some faculty members, administrators, and students want the school to investigate whether the degree should be revoked.
A Change.org petition posted last week urges Penn President Amy Gutmann to begin an investigation into whether Trump gained entry to the school via “fraudulent or corrupt means.”
The allegation stems from a book in which Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, says the president’s uncle paid someone else to take the SAT test for Trump when he was a high school student.
Trump initially attended Fordham University in New York. But according to the New York Times, “The high score the proxy earned for him…helped the young Mr. Trump to later gain admittance when he transferred as an undergraduate to the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton business school.”
On August 22, The Washington Post published an article that included audio clips of Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, saying Trump “went to Fordham for one year [actually two years] and then he got into University of Pennsylvania because he had somebody take the exams.”
When Mary Trump expressed disbelief, Barry added, “SATs or whatever. . . . That’s what I believe,” saying she even remembered the name of the person who took the test.
The conversation was secretly taped by Mary Trump for use in her book.
According to Penn’s policy on revocation of degrees, “the University may exercise its right to revoke a previously conferred degree” if the degree “has been obtained by fraud or other serious misconduct, such as plagiarism or research misconduct, while enrolled in the degree program.”
On July 16, a group of six Wharton professors also wrote to Gutmann urging her to investigate Trump’s alleged academic fraud.
“When a student gains admission by fraudulent means it undermines the integrity of our academic standards and the fairness of our admissions process,” wrote the professors.
“When frauds come to light, they sully the good names of the institutions that grant degrees, and can damage the reputations of the vast number of alumni and students who do not cheat to get ahead,” they added.
Penn Provost Wendell E. Pritchett replied to the professors on July 20, writing that “we certainly share your concerns about these allegations and the integrity of our admissions process,” but that the allegation “occurred too far in the past to make a useful or probative factual inquiry possible.”
“If new evidence surfaces to substantiate the claim in the future, we will continue to be open to investigating it,” Pritchett wrote.
One of the co-signers of the original letter, Professor of Legal Studies & Business Ethics Eric Orts, followed up with the Penn president after the audio of Trump’s sister came to light, arguing it was “new evidence” that could provoke an investigation.
In 2016, a similar Change.org petition urged Penn to disavow Trump. It was unsuccessful.
The petition posted last week urges the Penn president to “appoint an investigative committee, composed of two or more faculty, to review the matter and recommend to the dean whether no further action should be taken, whether corrective action short of revocation is appropriate, or whether the degree should be revoked.”
In order to avoid the appearance of political impropriety, the petition asks that the process take place after the 2020 election in November.
According to Change.org, the petition was started by Karen Redrobe, a Penn Film Studies Professor. Redrobe did not immediately respond to an e-mail by The College Fix asking for confirmation.
To date, the petition has garnered over 500 signatures.
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