EngagePerspectivesWhy PILOTs Matter: Penn’s Responsibility to Public Education and Community Justice
Citizenship Icon Dialogue Icon

Why PILOTs Matter: Penn’s Responsibility to Public Education and Community Justice

On September 9th, 2020, the Andrea Mitchell Center for DemocracyPenn Government and Politics Association hosted a webinar titled “Why PILOTs Matter: Penn’s Responsibility to Public Education and Community Justice”.


This event was co-sponsored by the SNF Paideia Program, Civic House, Penn Democrats, Gear Up Penn, and Penn AAPI PoliticsPenn is the largest private property owner in Philadelphia but, as a non-profit, does not have to pay taxes. There has been mounting pressure on Penn to make payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTS). The event started off with a brief introduction by the Director of the Andrea Mitchell Center, Jeffrey Green, who discussed how this event is a way of asking what the Penn community’s responsibility is towards Philadelphia and the global community as a whole.  

The event officially began with opening remarks from the four panelists: Devan Spear, the Executive Director of Philadelphia Jobs with Justice, Sarah Min, from Penn Community for Justice, Rick Krajewski, Candidate for Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the 188th district and Penn class of 2013, and Dr. Dennis Culhane, Professor and Dana and Andrew Stone Chair in Social Policy, Penn School of Social Policy and Practice. Spear began by discussing her various involvement in various efforts to call on Penn to pay PILOTS and called for the establishment of an education equity fund that will support the public-school. The remarks then moved to Min, who reiterated that Penn should pay PILOTS to assist public schools and should institutionalize police-free alternatives for public safety. Dr. Culhane provided a different perspective on PILOTS, agreeing the proposal would work as an interim measure but as payments would be discretionary, it is not a tenable long-term solution. Dr. Culhane asserted that state governors should revisit the blanket exemption given to colleges and universities for all the functions happening on campus. Finally, Krajewski spoke about the ways that West Philadelphia has suffered from divestment and gentrification and the importance of Penn adopting PILOTS in conjunction with the creation of education equity funds that could be publicly administered.  

The remarks were followed by a series of questions submitted by the co-sponsors and then the general audience. Panelists were asked about the most effective means to encourage the university systemic inequities in the public education system as well as how to move Penn to pay PILOTS. Dr. Culhane emphasized the need for the state to assume much more responsibility for equalizing the inequalities across these barriers through ways such as incentivizing faculty engagement with school districts. Min extended an invitation to join Penn Community for Justice as a way to get creative about ways to motivate Penn regarding PILOTS while Spear brought attention to the pledge for Penn affiliates which states that they will not make donations until PILOT contributions are made. Krajewski echoed the sentiment of fellow panelists by saying that it is possible to create public awareness until Penn is moved to respond.

The event ended with reminders from the panelists regarding the various resources that exist for those interested in the PILOTS cause and an important reminder to vote and support state legislative action around the Philadelphia area.  

Keep Reading

The Alliance for Understanding Cohort in Selma

How Studying History Can Inform Understanding of Complex Contemporary Social Issues and Allow for Effective Dialogue

The Alliance for Understanding consists of a diverse group of students from Penn as well as staff from The Greenfield Intercultural Center, The African American Resource Center, and Penn Hillel. The cohort spends six weeks discussing the Civil Rights Movement and then takes a trip to the South to better understand American history for the sake of creating social change. The program provides opportunities to visit historical sites and museums and also talk to people who have invaluable knowledge from their experiences studying or living through the Civil Rights Era. The program has a special focus on how the African American and Jewish communities experienced the Civil Rights Era, providing opportunities for students to explore solidarity across racial lines for the cause of justice.Learn More
two people eating together

Unlikely Friendships: Connections within the College House System

Excerpts from Edited Transcript Dr. Lia Howard: Welcome, Maddie and Fawad. Would you introduce yourselves? Who are you? Can you give us… Learn More
Event Recap

TikTok Boom - Reflections on Penn Screening

The film screening and meet-the-Director event reached about 50 thoughtful and energized participants. In addition to the screening of the… Learn More