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Amy Gutmann Diagnosed With Rare Medical Condition: Can Only Read Change.org Petitions


Photo by Daniel Xu / The Daily Pennsylvanian

In the midst of global panic about the outbreak of the coronavirus, Penn President Amy Gutmann received some surprising medical news of her own. She has been diagnosed with a rare neurological condition: she cannot read or comprehend text that is not in the form of a Change.org petition.

Although she was an avid reader for most of her life and academic career, Gutmann has now been living with the condition for some time. “It all started about 16 years ago. I suddenly couldn't read. I don’t know,” Gutmann revealed, slipping on a pair of sunglasses. Coincidentally, Gutmann assumed office in 2004.

While she had initially dismissed her diminishing literacy as a symptom of old age, Gutmann was startled to find that she could, in fact, read the Change.org petitions calling for pass/fail grading and a postponed Commencement, which Provost Wendell Pritchett had forwarded to her with the message, “wht shld we do abt this?????”

“I keep up with my email only as a formality — I gotta keep the inbox zero, you know,” she said. “I usually just delete all of my messages immediately to keep my inbox uncluttered, but I was actually able to see this one and make changes that are important to Penn students!”

When asked about the petition to pay Penn Retail workers laid off by Bon Appétit, Gutmann looked uncomfortable. “Ah, I, uh, didn’t catch what you said,” she responded, prompting us to repeat the question: Will Penn pay its retail staff or allow them to be laid off without pay after March 31? Gutmann frowned. “I couldn't really make that out. Maybe I’m losing my hearing, too?”