Many scoff at Penn tradition

Despite the pleas for restraint and respect, Matthew Freedman, bleary-eyed from a day of celebration, just had to do it.

He shouted for University of Pennsylvania president Judith Rodin to expose her breasts.

Rodin couldn’t hear him above the din, but his neighbor Alexis Nanovic certainly could.

“You are so disrespectful. Stop it,” scolded Nanovic, 21, as the crowd of students on College Green roared in celebration during the annual Hey Day festivities. “This is for our class.”

So it went Friday at the Hey Day celebration where members of the junior class are officially declared seniors during a bacchanal.

Controversy over the little-known practice of calling for Rodin to expose herself during the Hey Day maelstrom came to a head this week when a senior launched a campaign asking students to stop. Friday, students said only a handful of people flouted the request for restraint.

The practice began after Rodin took over in 1994. It is unclear how many students have yelled the chant in years past.

But concerned that it embarrassed Rodin and the university, other students and faculty pressed this week for good behavior.

A group of male leaders on campus asked people to sign a pledge to quell any sexist comments. As of Friday afternoon, 354 people had signed it, according to one of the pledge’s authors, Lincoln Ellis.

The pledge reads in part: “Last year, a group of students chanted toward Dr. Rodin degrading words unfit for anyone. We are here today to ask for your pledge, ensuring that you will not partake in these chants. More so, you will show the few that feel the need to slander Dr. Rodin, Hey Day, and the entire University of Pennsylvania, that they are only making a mockery of themselves.”

Asked why he yelled the phase, Freedman responded that he wanted to continue tradition. “It’s a joke,” he said.

Phyllis Holtzman, spokeswoman for Rodin, said Rodin did not hear any comments because of the cacophony of the crowd. A band played. Students clapped canes together.

“We didn’t hear anything up there except students calling and the general roar of the crowd,” said Holtzman, who stood next to Rodin when she spoke.

Friday, after the chaos of the day had abated, Ethan Kay, 21, said he was pleased that he did not hear any chants from where he was standing.

“I think the people were cognizant of trying to respect Dr. Rodin. We all have the utmost respect for her as university president.”