The University of Pennsylvania has become the poster child for ‘woke’

The University of Pennsylvania (UPENN), which Benjamin Franklin helped found in 1751, has become the poster child for what the radical left has done to America’s once outstanding universities. It’s been in the news repeatedly over the last few years, not because of the quality of its faculty and students but because it is at the forefront of woke economic, academic, diversity, and athletic policies. Examples of its woke degradation are that it took money from China for the Biden “think tank,” attempted to fire legal scholar and distinguished teacher Amy Wax for “wrongthink,” and slapped normal America (and women) in the face by allowing Will “Lia” Thomas, a moderately good male swimmer, to become dominant against women.

UPENN is a private institution with almost 40,000 employees (including almost 4,800 faculty members) and almost 22,500 students. For an undergraduate, tuition and living costs exceed $80,000. The school also has a $20 billion endowment.

When Obama’s second term ended, UPENN created the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement and made Joe Biden a professor. At the time, no one could have mistaken Biden for a scholar. So why did UPENN do this?

Image: University of Pennsylvania by Bryan Y.W. Shin.  CC BY-SA 3.0.

The best guess was that this was a way to leverage funding the Center. Whether Biden was personally useful was irrelevant. What mattered were his documents, which were valuable to other countries:

Foreign contributions to the University of Pennsylvania tripled since the Penn Biden Center’s soft opening in March 2017, rising from $31 million in 2016 to over $100 million in 2019. The largest foreign contributor was China, which significantly increased its gifts to the university after the Penn Biden Center opened. Studying China is in America’s interest, but funding should not be tied to China which could bias results of research.

The University of Pennsylvania took in around $61 million in gifts and contracts from China between 2017 and 2019, according to records from the Department of Education. This was a substantial uptick from the prior four years, when the university received $19 million from China.

UPENN denies that any Chinese funding went directly to the Biden Center. However, money is fungible, so the new Chinese money most likely replaced monies elsewhere in the budget that were then free to fund the Center, with the same result.

Biden’s ties to China and UPENN’s disinterest in access to the classified documents allowed this to happen. UPENN should be forced to disgorge the money it took from China. It won’t, though, because it’s heavily dependent on Biden’s partner.

UPENN hosts just slightly more than 2,000 Chinese national students. Those that continue to come are obligated to act as Chinese agents.

Problematically for academia, overall Chinese enrollment in US universities fell by 45% because of the pandemic. This won’t change soon. Beginning in 2019, China took the position that many students can do just as well in China, given improvements in Chinese universities.

Professor Amy Wax’s travails show that UPENN does not value academic freedom. Wax does top-level work as a teacher and researcher. In 2017, she and Larry Alexander published their now famous op-ed: Paying the price for breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.

In it, they argued that America would be better off if we went back to an emphasis on family, hard work, getting married, and a job and love of country. This was seen as disrespect for minorities who don’t follow this prescription (and struggle with poverty and crime), something Wax compounded when she stated a simple fact: Black students do not thrive at UPENN.

Since the article’s publication, UPENN has subjected Wax to what can only be described as persecution. Although every tenured, full professor at UPENN is guaranteed the right to free speech, that apparently doesn’t apply to Wax.

The basis for driving Wax from academia is the claim that she is a racist. In addition to the challenge to her article, she’s now being persecuted for saying that unlimited elite Asian immigration is harming America because these powerful immigrants bring un-American values with them (they “don’t believe in liberty”) and pour their support into the Democrat party. (There’s UPENN’s Chinese fealty again, even if it means censoring speech.)

UPENN, the university that Ben Franklin helped found, is irredeemably opposed to free speech that counters the Democrat/Leftist woke narrative about anything. Wax is fighting this as only a high-level lawyer can—challenging the university’s blatant violation of its own rules.

Last among its more recent woke outrages is UPENN’s decision to allow a mediocre male swimmer (Will “Lia” Thomas) to swim for the women’s team simply because Thomas (who is physically intact) says he’s a woman. In that role, Thomas has smashed swim records that biological women set. This is an outright affront to women’s sports.

John Lohn asked the right question:

Just how much of an advantage did Lia Thomas possess over biological females? The numbers paint a clear picture. The fact that the University of Pennsylvania swimmer soared from a mid-500s ranking (554th in the 200 freestyle; all divisions) in men’s competition to one of the top-ranked swimmers in women’s competition tells the story of the unfairness which unfolded at the NCAA level.

Pitifully, Thomas and the trans crowd are proud of his wins. There is no way to spin this except by some mentally deficient classification of women. But the UPENN administration has proved that it knows no more about the definition of “woman” than SCOTUS Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. UPENN ignores the women who do not want Will Smith on their team or in their locker room, claiming they have mental issues.

President Trump ($1.3 million in UPENN donations) and all other alums should mount a public lobbying attack aimed at reform. If the administration does not listen, then the oversight board should be involved. If that doesn’t work, then donations should be reduced to zero until UPENN changes its woke ways. In fact, as the family of T.C. Williams did when the University of Richmond erased their ancestor, donors should demand refunds. After all, it’s apparent from UPENN’s China dealings that money is what universities best understand.

Christopher Garbacz is a former Professor of Economics. He was a visiting professor at National Taiwan University.

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