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Back to the Future

Throughout the 21st century, Penn continues to make waves and reinvent itself—in surprising ways, as a bicentennial timeline from the November/December 2102 Gazette shows. By Samuel Hughes

 

 

2006 | On January 17—the 300th birthday of Benjamin Franklin Hon2057—the University exhumes its founder’s remains at Christ Church Cemetery and extracts a sample of his DNA for unspecified “research.” The event turns into a media circus when 34th Street reports that Penn is trying to settle an 18th-century paternity suit and several national news organizations take the story seriously.

2010 | Penn opens a Center of Advanced Franklin Studies (CAFS), based in the School of Applied Life Sciences, which draws on the Institute for Human Genome Regeneration and the Department of Male Geriatric Fertility. It refuses to confirm or deny rumors that it is planning to “revivify” its founder for unknown purposes.

2014 | The first Locust Walk Bridge connecting West Philadelphia to Center City opens in September. Two days later, Tony Hu Hauk C2015 is arrested for attempting to turbo-board along the railing with no clothes on. By December, Penn’s Division of Public Safety announces that incidents of “so-called Turbo Streaking” in the Quad have become a “serious problem.”

2016 | On Valentine’s Day, Penn’s Institute for Trans-Species Genome Therapy (TSGT) and School of Veterinary Medicine announce the creation of Homo Sapien Plus∆, the first Mensa-level Trans-Species Being (TSB) developed from enhanced primate stem cells. By July, “Angie” (whose real name is Alberta Newton Galilei) is captivating visitors by reciting Proust and solving complex mathematical equations while branch-swinging down Locust Walk.

2024 | The rapid rise in admissions of undergraduate and graduate TSBs prompts the admissions office to deny that it has a “fast-track policy for TSBs or anyone else,” adding: “The astonishing academic success of the more adaptive strains does not mean that Homo Sapiens are an endangered species at Penn.”

2031 | On January 17, Penn confirms longstanding rumors that it plans to “regenerate” its founder within the decade. “We believe we have the scientific know-how to bring back Ben,” says President Anthony H. Hauk C2015 Gr2018 Hon2038, “and we’ll be thrilled to have him back on campus.”

2032 | An undergraduate group calling itself “Students Against Frankenben” breaks into the CAFS labs and destroys much of the research associated with the project. The University suspends the students for a year and vows to continue its research.

2044 | The School of Engineering and Applied Neuroscience creates the first Neurotransmitter Receiver Chip (NRC), known as Inner Vision. Billed as “the first truly internal modem,” the NRC—a conductive-polymer chip surgically implanted in the thalamus—sends and receives emails, faxes, Web links, and Dreamscapes∆ using nothing more than thoughts and spoken commands. Time.com hails it as “Cool Thing of the Year,” noting that it will “revolutionize our brains and the way we receive information.”

2045 | In June, after its endowment quadruples as a result of profits from NRC sales, Penn offers full “Chip” Scholarships to the entire Class of 2019. Each is worth $122,407 and includes free implantation. Students from the Classes of 2016, 2017, and 2018 immediately sue.

2046 | In October, a committee concludes that four fraternities engaged in “virtual sexual harassment” by transmitting unwanted Dreamscapes to selected female students. Several dozen members are ordered to take sensitivity seminars and perform community service. After their own NRCs are flooded with hostile Dreamscapes by a female student group calling itself “XY Commandos,” they file countercharges.

2050 | The nation’s first Neurovirus—ChippyZip, created by a College senior who is subsequently expelled—temporarily shuts down all of Penn’s NRCs, resulting in severe cases of “immobilizing amnesia” among administrators, faculty, staff, and selected students. The DP.com’s photos of administrators unable to think or move sparks a campus uproar and provides endless material for Late Night with Macaulay Culkin.

2056 | On January 17, in a Web-cast procedure watched by millions, Franklin is successfully regenerated and spends the first two weeks undergoing medical tests at HUP. Apart from some “understandable disorientation,” his doctors pronounce him “remarkably fit and vital.” His TimeScape∆ is dual-calibrated for 1756 and 2056, though a software glitch causes him to mistake a Personal Module for a horse-drawn carriage and to offer its owner a cube of sugar.

After being released from HUP and taking an emotional tour of Independence National Historical Park, Franklin is escorted to Irvine Auditorium. There he gives a press conference in which he proclaims his “great affection for the University which I founded and which has brought me back to life,” earning him thunderous applause.

2057 | At its 300th Commencement exercises on Franklin Field, Penn honors its revivified founder with an honorary degree, standing ovations, the ceremonial keys to the University, and a Penn T-shirt. In a brief speech, during which he loses his place several times and refers to the holoprompter as “this infernal monstrosity,” he announces his desire to “augment” his erudition by auditing “as many classes as time, my comprehension, and your patience will permit.”

2081 | A sharply divided board of trustees nominates Franklin to be the next president of the University. “This is no publicity stunt,” one trustee tells the Gazette. “Who could possibly lead us into the 22nd century better than our own founder?” Another, who insists on anonymity, mutters, “These guys need to get real.” Franklin himself says he is “deeply honored,” but declines further comment.

2082 | At the University’s urging, Franklin quietly withdraws his candidacy for the presidency and releases a statement saying that he regrets “any lapses of judgment, especially those involving the daughter of Monsieur l’Ambassador” after a paternity suit is filed by Marie Lapin, the 24-year-old daughter of French Ambassador Jacques Lapin. (“I will love him always,” says Mademoiselle Lapin, “but I cannot raise a child on charming words and Quaker Football tickets.”) Other, similar suits are rumored to be in the works. The resulting publicity makes him a folk hero to some Penn undergraduates, who nominate him to be honorary president of the student body—an honor he “respectfully and affectionately” declines.

2100 | The University quietly welcomes six new members of the Alumni Legacies program, all direct descendants of its founder. “Hey—what goes around, comes around,” says one, Francis Lapin Franklin C2104.

2102 | At the Gazette’s bicentennial party, Franklin announces that he has agreed to serve as honorary editor for the upcoming year, despite his failing health. “As you know, The Pennsylvania Gazette was my first love,” he tells the audience. “In spite of all the changes we have both been through, it remains at the center of my affections.”



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