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Water Buffalo Suit Settled

More than four years after Eden Jacobowitz, C'96, shouted the words, "Shut up, you water buffalo! If you want to party, there's a zoo a mile from here," he has settled a lawsuit that he had filed against the University. According to Shelley Green, Penn's general counsel, Penn admitted no wrongdoing and paid Jacobowitz nothing, though it paid his lawyer "under $10,000" to cover part of his fees and expenses.
   Jacobowitz, who as a freshman unwittingly touched off the infamous saga in January of 1993, filed the suit last year in Philadelphia's Court of Common Pleas, claiming that Penn had inflicted emotional distress on him and violated its contract with him. He acknowledged having yelled the words at five African-American sorority women who were celebrating outside his high-rise dormitory late one night as part of a Founder's Day ritual, but he insisted that he had not intended any racial slurs. The women -- who, having heard a number of blatantly racial remarks from the dormitory, interpreted his as a racial insult (they also said he used the phrase "black water buffalo") -- filed harassment charges with the student Judicial Inquiry Office. Jacobowitz refused to plead guilty to the charges, and as the proceedings dragged on, eventually his advisor, history professor Alan Kors, brought the case to the attention of the national press, at which point it exploded. The women, concluding that they could not get a fair hearing, dropped their case, and Penn's judicial system was soon reformed so that speech by itself could not be grounds for discipline.

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Copyright 1997 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 9/26/97