A letter to the University Community from President Gutmann

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Media Contact: | | November 5, 2006

As many of you have heard or seen by now, there was a photograph from our annual Halloween party that has taken flight over the Internet. The photograph is embarrassing for the University and me alike. I posted a formal response on our website last week. However, I wanted to provide more context.  

Following a long standing Penn tradition, I host an annual Halloween party at the President's House.  Hundreds of students show up dressed in every imaginable costume -- witches and warlocks, Jasons and Michael Myers, ax murderers and Frankensteins.  In keeping with the spirit of the event, I appeared as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.  In this context, it's hard to imagine that someone could create an actually offensive costume, but at least one of our students did.

Part of the Halloween party tradition is the opportunity to be photographed with the President.  This year, one student holding a toy gun was photographed with me before it was obvious to me that he was dressed as a suicide bomber. As soon as I realized the full extent of his costume, I refused his request for additional photographs.

Some have mistakenly interpreted the photograph as my support for terrorism. Nothing could be further from the truth. I abhor terrorism, suicide bombers and everything they do. My record is unabashedly clear on this point.

The student has since apologized, and I accept his apology.  I too apologize for the offense this photo has caused. Some images are too horrific even for Halloween.