University of Pennsylvania

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See also Wikipedia's article about "University of Pennsylvania".
Penn's not-all-that-historic State College, PA campus

The University of Pennsylvania is an Ivy League university, to everyone's surprise. It's usually known as UPenn, though they prefer Penn, since the former makes them sound too much like a state school, and the confusion with Penn State is bad enough for them already.

Despite all our efforts, UPenn has proven surprisingly resilient to stereotype. Perhaps this is because their awfulness is so comprehensive that it's hard to pin down.

For 142 years, from 1756 until 1898, UPenn's school motto was Sine Moribus Vanae, a butchering of Horace that roughly translates to "Loose women without morals."[1]


A typical UPenn public awareness campaign
  • Recruited jocks
  • Fanatically spirited fans of jocks
  • A marching band that tries wayyy too hard.
  • People from Long Island
  • A deep-seated sensitivity to being confused with Penn State[2]
  • Located in a boring, rundown, unsafe neighborhood in Philly, of all places
  • Lack of many famous/interesting alumni
  • A superlative business school (Wharton) which serves to highlight the university's inferiority at the far more challenging and intellectual arts and sciences at which universities are actually meant to excel
  • Superfluity of alumni in finance (mainly from Wharton) who shovel large amounts of cash at the school, allowing it to cling to the ridiculous pretense that it deserves its US News ranking)
  • A failed attempt to brand the undergrad business school as an entity superior to Penn's college and to the rest of the Ivy League (e.g., T-shirts that say "Harvard, because not everyone can get into Wharton")
  • The "Water Buffalo Incident"
  • "Popped-collar wearers who are so cheerful that they almost convince us they're not disappointed about getting wait-listed at Yale."[3]
  • Given to writing gibberish on wikicu.
  • Deep insecurity over prestige, manifested in Penn grad students literally publishing dissertations concerning their school's prestige relative to other Ivy League institutions and attempting to place Columbia on the same level.[4]
  • Hordes of alumni who squander their lives away attempting to make clear to every single person they speak with that they attended an Ivy League school, when we all know they went to Penn State


Wharton alumni live in West Virginia and spend their time trolling WikiCU. Meanwhile, they put their world-class education to good use by making statements such as "[Penn is] A school that is [sic] scores better than Columbia will ever be." [5]

Self-Aggrandizing Penn Myths

"Penn is the 4th oldest college in America"

This claim is based on an establishment date of 1740. Although this date is no longer considered as the University's official founding date it still appears in places such as Penn sweatshirts. 1740 is a date you'll commonly see on UPenn merchandise as a date of Establishment. In fact the University even celebrated its 250th birthday in 1990. The justification for this date is that a charity school trust was founded in this year, though the school itself was never opened. In 1749 (another date Penn uses to trace its founding to) Ben Franklin would advocate the purchase of the failed institution's empty building to house the new college, which would become contingent on the new institution including a charity school such as the failed original plan intended.

Professor Robert McCaughey has described the absurd 1740 date as such: "One night, Ben Franklin rolled over in bed and said to his wife: 'Honey, Philadelphia needs a college, don't you think?'"

By this reasoning, Columbia was founded in 1696, when Trinity Church was chartered. Or 1701, when Col. Lewis Morris wrote to his friends that "New York is the centre of English America and a fit place for a Colledge (sic)".

"Penn is the 5th oldest college in America"

1749 is a compromise date for Penn boosters. While conceding the title of "4th oldest" to Princeton (1746), it keeps them ahead of Columbia (1754). Saying that Penn was "founded" 1749 must be taken very narrowly. The Academy of Philadelphia, basically a secondary school, was chartered in 1749, but did not actually open its doors until 1751 (yet another date claimed by Penn, in a desperate attempt to stay older than Columbia).

An actual institution of higher learning was not opened until 1755, when the College of Philadelphia was chartered and began operating as a degree granting undergraduate institution. Don't try to tell this to a Quaker though- a virtual editing war broke out on Wikipedia when Columbia tried to assert its place as the real 5th oldest school.

"UPenn is America's First University"

One has to take a very curious definition of "First University" to reach this conclusion. Penn makes this claim based on two pieces of evidence. First, UPenn proudly points out that they were the first institution to officially call themselves a "University." Someone should inform them that saying something doesn't make it so. The second piece of evidence is that UPenn was the first institution to be composed of multiple schools, citing the founding of the Penn Medical Faculty in 1765. Again, saying it doesn't make it so. True, Penn had a faculty delivering medical lectures, but to what end? In 1770 the first MD in America was granted- by Columbia, not Penn.

A more traditional definition of University would be a PhD granting research institution. By this definition the honor of first American University goes to Yale, which was followed by Cornell, Harvard, and Columbia in the late 19th century.

"UPenn is NOT Penn State"

Actually, it was. In 1779 when the state of Pennsylvania seized the College fearing it to be a Tory stronghold, the College was renamed "University of the State of Pennsylvania." Realizing how unprestigious this was, the legislature renamed the institution "University of Pennsylania."

"People who count know the difference between UPenn and Penn State"

No, they don't. Choice quotes from the Daily Pennsylvanian, UPenn's sigh-inducing news publication, include:

  • "Penn has low name recognition"
  • "The people I worked with were firmly blue collar...Instead of telling my co-workers that I was off to Princeton or Harvard, I could say "Penn" without the fear of being ostracized."
  • "Sometimes, being confused as a state school has its advantages."
  • "Penn, despite being one of only eight Ivy League universities, is often considered a state school due to its name, Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School David Reibstein said."