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State of American History, Civics, and Politics

Pity Poor Richard’s Pennsylvania Gazette

Pity the Pennsylvania Gazette. It has been one step forward and two steps back. Normally an alumni publication such as this one serves as a proud showcase for what is going on at the University. There will be an editor’s page pumping up the contents to the publication. The President will have a column about whatever the President wants to write about. There will be news blurbs about what professors and sometimes students have accomplished along with notices of changes due to constructions and comings and goings in the administration and departments. Naturally, there will be sports coverage. Finally the accomplishments of alumns will be recognized in some way along with those who have passed away.


Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman won the Nobel Prize this year for the research they have done that lead to the development of the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines. They have been the subject of previous blogs (If Journals Were Online, There Would be No Vaccine, January 3, 2022). It still strikes me as extraordinary that the collaboration grew out of a chance meeting at a copy machine many years ago. Now with all the advances which have occurred to say nothing of remote work, who is to say how many chance meetings at the office water cooler no longer happen. We are indeed fortunate that it did.

Obviously this development is one that the Pennsylvania Gazette can take pride in. Look at us. Look at what a great university we are. Look at how two of our own saved the lives of millions.


One would think at first glance that having a graduate become President of the United States also would be something to brag about. However such is not the case. To the best of my knowledge, he has not returned to his old stomping ground. Nor has he been invited to deliver the commencement address. In fact, one would be hard pressed to document his matriculation at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. It is more interesting to know how much did Fred Trump donate to the school if not openly or through one of his companies so his son would be admitted. And who wrote the papers and took the exams for the very stable genius who is the smartest person in the room? We will probably never know the answer to those questions.

So instead of shouting to the rafters about how one of ours became President that connection is scarcely acknowledged. There have been no analytical pieces on his economic or financial actions from the relevant Wharton professors and nothing from political science or the law school about his actions either. It is as if he doesn’t exist. The alumni magazine is supposed to be about the positive achievements of graduates and not about how many times one has been impeached or indicted or otherwise wreaked havoc with social fabric of the country. The history department takes a leadership role in study of early American history but has not taken one in how Trump threatens to destroy what has been achieved.

It is hard to imagine a school not taking pride in one of its own becoming President but that is exactly what has happened.


When a college president makes the front page of The New York Times either the news is very good or horrendous. On Sunday, December 10, 2023, the college president made the news right next to the article about Shohei Otani signing for $700 million dollars to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Which article would you read first?

The article reports the resignation of the recently arrived college president. It follows four days after an appearance before Congress on the topic of antisemitism on college campuses, specifically, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Regardless of what you think of the USNWR rankings, these institutions represent the elitist schools.

The performance of the three female presidents new to the job went viral. Especially powerful was the questioning of Republican MAGA Elise Stefanik (NY), a once promising real Republican who went over to the dark side on behalf of Orange Jesus. Even Democrats, even liberal Democrats openly acknowledged the withering question posed by Stefanik about calling genocide of Jews as an example of bullying and harassment. Even she was not prepared for the tightly-wound lawyerly answers of the three once shining lights of their colleges. Those exchanges will take on a life of their own to be repeated and mocked endlessly for the rest of their lives and afterwards.

Since that time there have been behind-the scenes exposes on what was happening at the University of Pennsylvania. Apparently she was on somewhat shaky ground even prior to the showdown at the Capital.


Unlike The New York Times, The Pennsylvania Gazette has no such obligation to print all the news that’s fit to print about the college. The virtual absence of Donald Trump from its pages evidences that policy. However it is much easier to avoid dealing with the President of the United States then it is with the President of the University. It is difficult to see how the Gazette can ignore this story in its next issue but also hard to see how it will cover it. Investigative reporting is not its strong suit.

My guess is that the Gazette will outsource the reporting to professors. Fortunately by the time of the publication of the next issue, the resignation will already be yesterday’s news. Instead the focus will be on a search for a replacement. One may anticipate that each applicant will get the Stefanik question as a test of their ability to handle a crisis under fire. We will have to wait and see both as to how the next college president is chosen and how the official magazine chooses to report the news.

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