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Penn administration reaches consensus that life begins at first donation


Sam Holland | Senior Cutout Editor

Taking an uncommon stance in the debate over when a developing embryo is considered a living being, the Penn administration officially stated Monday that one is considered alive following a donation to the University of $50 or more.

“We believe in the inherent value of human life, which begins at a unique time for each individual, specifically upon a contribution to our endowment,” the administration said in an email to the University student body.

This proposed start to the life of a person is later than even the most liberal of estimates, including that of the Wharton School, which states that children can be considered alive upon the completion of their first case competition.

According to the full definition presented in the announcement, a single donation is not sufficient for eternal recognition of personhood — one must “renew” their living status every five years through a repeat contribution or risk being downgraded. 

The administration hopes that their stance will encourage students to donate earlier on in their academic and subsequent professional careers, as the basic recognition of life comes with perks such as priority registration for classes, nicer on-campus accommodations and the ability to earn a degree from the University.

“We want to make sure our living students come first,” the email stated.

Detailed in the full plan, however, is the tier system through which recognition of life will be granted. First time donors of $50 to $500 will only be recognized as "unicellular." The University will regard donors in this tier as deserving of food, shelter and minimal attention. The next level of donors — those who contribute between $500 and $5,000 — will be recognized as at least a collection of cells with potential for some intelligent thought; therefore, these donors will be permitted to speak in class and have minor roles in Penn organizations. Finally, the highest tier of donors who contribute $5,000 or more will be granted "bipedal" recognition by the school, and will be permitted to walk on two legs around campus.

Despite approval from the Board of Trustees, some students are pushing back against the plan. College sophomore Isaac Paul, whose Penn InTouch profile identifies him as “viable for life,” believes that the University’s position is unjust. “Fifty dollars seems a little steep,” he said. "I would prefer to be alive after at least twenty, maybe twenty-five."