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Amy Gutmann Won’t Rest Until Every Child in West Philly Plays Squash — Here’s Why


Photos, with edits by Shoshi Wintman, from The Daily Pennsylvanian

Penn has long been committed to listening to the broader West Philadelphia community. Although students often wrongfully question this claim—referencing the planned clearances of communities along Walnut, the double standards in the policing of Penn students and young people in West Philadelphia, and Penn’s unwillingness to pay PILOTS—Penn does so much in some ways.

This year, Amy Gutmann has been listening more than ever and has heard community concerns: “What people in our shared community have been calling for is for everyone to learn squash. I hear that loud and clear, you guys.” 

Gutmann’s new program, set to begin in March, will provide free squash lessons to children from communities around Penn’s campus, provided that someone can buzz them in through the several points of restricted access that one is required to pass before entering the squash courts.

Explaining her thought process, Gutmann noted how Penn community members seemed concerned about access to squash after the announcement of Penn’s new squash center, which boasts a $1350 membership fee. She described having a sudden moment of clarity when she realized squash's importance to society.

“My takeaway from all of the complaints is that squash is so so important. Plain and simple. That’s why we are bringing more squash to kids around Penn. All I can say is I apologize for not doing something sooner.”

She clarified that Penn students will still be asked to pay $1350 to use the courts. “This is a community building project between the countless elementary school students who desperately need squash in their lives and a few, very limited number of Penn students who have ever played squash.”

The coordinator of the new program, Jefferey Stevenson, explained how Penn’s new squash courts have created the perfect and first–ever opportunity to open the campus to the broader Philadelphia community.

“We could open up the library, but who could play squash in a library? It’s funny to even think about. It’s just not the right space.”