Staying Focused in the Penn Case
December 2, 2005
The deepest question here is whether or not Penn students have the rights and the protections from capricious power that are their moral due. Students should be alarmed by the behavior of the Office of Student Conduct. This one undergraduate had the integrity, dignity, and force of character to say no. (He also had a graduate student advisor, Andrew Geier, who is the true hero in this, and whose concern for undergraduate rights is a great gift to Penn.) Many students—bullied by an OSC that clearly has lost its judgment, its common sense, its belief in equity, and its respect for students’ rights—simply would have signed a terrible and immoral settlement in order to avoid worse punishment. If this had been a fraternity student exposing himself sexually above Locust Walk, and a young woman had photographed it and posted in on a blog about Penn and her life at Penn, the photographer would have been deemed an official hero and the fraternity student (or perhaps the whole fraternity) would be gone. I also would beg the Penn community to leave in peace the individuals who were photographed. Enough is enough. It’s fun to be young; it’s terrible to bring irresponsible charges against someone rather than to assume responsibility for one’s own choices and behaviors; and it’s awful to suffer unduly. Let’s put this particular event behind us quickly, and let’s focus on the real issue: the powers of an apparently unfair and indecent OSC that has such control over your lives and your futures.