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Penn Professor Told His Students to 'Pursue Their Dreams' in Apparent Violation of U. Policy


Photo from Wikimedia Commons / CC 2.0

The former Undergraduate Chair of the Anthropology Department, James Waters, inspired his students and encouraged them to follow their passions, according to three sources close to students enrolled in Waters' classes. Waters' alleged behavior directly violated University policy, which explicitly states that the encouragement of careers other than finance and consulting are prohibited.

As of last week, Penn had expanded its policy to ban all inspirational communication between professors and students, as opposed to just "during the period of the teacher-student relationship."

"Pushing students towards careers in which they can find genuine happiness prevents them from earning six-figure salaries directly out of college, thereby reducing the amount of donations provided to Penn," states the current policy, which is laid out in the Faculty Handbook. 

Waters' comments began in the fall of 2016, according to 30 of his students who spoke to UTB. 

"At first, Waters didn't realize he was encouraging students to pursue unconventional career paths," says one source who was enrolled in Waters' class, and asked to remain anonymous. "He must have realized after receiving applause following three inspirational lectures in a row, but things didn't stop after that." 

Waters declined to directly respond to these allegations, but sent a text statement to UTB: "Idk guys I try hard to be as ethical as possible. I'm pretty sure I've never broken any university rules ;)" 

According to students in Waters' class, he included some disturbing slides on his lectures regarding untraditional careers like research, journalism, and education. These slides even encouraged Goldman-bound Fred Liu (W '19) to stop attending lectures, as he found the material "disturbing and painful to look at." 

The current University policy states that faculty found inspiring their students "will be subject to severe sanctions, such as their picture being taken off the website."