More than 2,000 current students and alumni of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business have condemned Donald Trump in an open letter to the Republican Party’s candidate for president. Under the heading “You Do Not Represent Us,” the signatories to the letter tell Trump that they are “deeply disappointed” in his candidacy.
“We, proud students, alumni, and faculty of Wharton, are outraged that an affiliation with our school is being used to legitimize prejudice and intolerance,” the letter reads. “Although we do not aim to make any political endorsements with this letter, we do express our unequivocal stance against the xenophobia, sexism, racism, and other forms of bigotry that you have actively and implicitly endorsed in your campaign.”
The signatories include Samir Nurmohamed, an assistant professor of management at Wharton, Katherine Klein, a management professor, and several administrators, including Allie Harcharek Ilagan, manager of marketing and communications for the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, and Stephanie Kim, an associate director of the same initiative. Most of support for the document appears to come from current or recently graduated students, such as Christine Goldrick, a joint MBA/MPA candidate who graduates next year, and Zach Kahn, who was president of the Wharton Graduate Association, the MBA student association on campus. Several dozen chose to remain anonymous.
ONLY A SMALL FRACTION OF THE WHARTON COMMUNITY HAS SIGNED THE LETTER
While the open letter is still gaining traction, the 2,063 persons who signed the document as of Monday morning (July 11) represent only a small fraction of the Wharton community. Wharton currently boasts 4,931 students in degree programs, including 2,503 undergrads and 1,788 MBAs, and more than 450 standing and non-standing faculty. The school’s alumni base is composed of some 94,000 persons. Even so, those who signed the letter have strong feelings about Trump’s candidacy. Still, on Friday morning, not many more than 600 had signed the open letter.
“I want the world to know that Trump’s values do not represent the larger Wharton community,” says Elea McDonnell Feit, former director of Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative. An FAQ section for the open letter notes that it “reflects the personal views and opinions of the signatories only and is not affiliated with The Wharton School. The Wharton School takes no political position and does not comment on its students, alumni, or faculty.”
Trump, who started his undergraduate education at Fordham University and transferred into Wharton as a junior, graduated from the school as an economics major in 1968. He has not been shy about trumpeting his Ivy League pedigree on the campaign trail. “I went to the Wharton School of Finance, the toughest place to get into. I was a great student,” he has said. He’s called Wharton “super genius stuff.” Accused of making a vulgar comment, he responded: “Who would say that? I went to the Wharton School of Finance!”
THE OFFICIAL WHARTON WORD ON TRUMP: NO COMMENT
Officially, the school has remained tight-lipped about Trump. Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett has been careful not to publicly say anything that could be interpreted as a sign of disapproval of the school’s most famous alum. Junior Corey Stern, who wrote a story about Trump’s connections to the school for the student newspaper The Daily Pennsylvanian, has said that the university administration “refused to comment in any capacity, even to say that he was a graduate or served on a board.”
In the past Wharton has both celebrated and praised its famous alum. In commemorating its 125th anniversary, the school identified 125 of its most influential alumni in 2007. The school’s alumni magazine then touted him as “the best known brand name in real estate.”
It’s not unusual for business school students to be slightly left on the political spectrum. Four years ago, Harvard Business School MBAs overwhelming favored President Obama over HBS alum Mitt Romney during the election. A survey by the student newspaper, The Harbus, found that Obama had the support of 65% of the students versus 32% for Romney.
(The entire open letter to Trump is on the following page)