After a recent visit to the new Penn Bookstore, I now understand why so many were upset about turning over the University's control of the Bookstore to an international corporate behemoth like Barnes & Noble.
This past Alumni Day I was anxious to purchase new Penn paraphernalia to proudly display my Penn red and blue, but I was shocked when I got to the clothing aisles. There was of course the usual abundant selection, but what I found so upsetting was the discovery of an entire shelf of Penn clothing solely in orange and black! Orange baseball caps, orange sweatshirts, orange t-shirts--I felt as if I had somehow stumbled into the Princeton bookstore!
Is this any way to promote school spirit and Penn pride? I realize some may feel that rivalries are immature, but Penn's good-natured loathing of Princeton has a very long and colorful history that deserves respect. Besides, Penn has recently made great strides in advancing its national reputation, but that image gets easily clouded when supporters trying to demonstrate their pride can easily be confused with those advancing Princeton instead.
When I confronted an employee, she stated that the decision to sell Penn gear in Princeton colors was made by the central corporate office, and that the local manager had no control over such details. Several other employees who are also Penn students agreed with me that the orange merchandise is offensive to all of us who are proud of our Penn degrees. Too many student athletes work too hard to promote the glory of the red and blue to allow some corporate hack to disrespect them from some office on the other side of the country.
The Bookstore should immediately remove all orange and black merchandise, or the University should seize back their bookstore and restore control over the marketing of their image.
--John C. Hawkins, B.A. '93, M.G.A. '95
Thank you for your letter dated May 22. I am responding on behalf of President Rodin and the Penn Bookstore. We appreciate your comments regarding your recent visit to the store. I can assure you that the spirit of the University of Pennsylvania is alive, well, and resoundingly strong at Penn Bookstore.
The sweatshirts, t-shirts, and hats you refer to are part of the Penn Bookstore's "fashion line." This line is popular with our customers, including alumni and students. Fashion colors were included the store's merchandise assortment long before Penn's operating partnership with Barnes & Noble College Bookstores.
The significant majority, roughly two-thirds, of our emblematic apparel sales are in Penn's traditional red and blue. The remaining one-third is in fashion colors such as yellow, green, orange, and other hues that change with the season. These fashion colors offer an opportunity for students, alumni, faculty, and staff to supplement their Penn red and blue yet still wear the University name with pride.
Regarding the selection process of apparel, while an assortment plan is provided to Penn Bookstore from Barnes & Noble College Bookstores, this assortment is extremely broad and includes thousands of items. The final selection of store merchandise is completed at the store level. In addition to this selection process, any items bearing a University of Pennsylvania trademark must be submitted to the University's Trademark Licensing office for mark, product, and design approval.
I hope that the sight of an orange sweatshirt (which is, incidentally, not the official orange of that New Jersey school) would not deter you from the abundant selection of items in the University's traditional colors that are available at Penn Bookstore.
Thank you again for your input. I trust that you enjoyed Alumni Weekend and hope we will have an opportunity to meet when you visit campus again.
--Kevin Renshaw, General Manager, Penn Bookstore
Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions. Short, timely letters on University issues can be accepted, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. The deadline for the summer issue is July 11. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated. --Eds.
Almanac, Vol. 46, No. 34, May 30, 2000