By Josh Frank, C’93, and and Jef Pollock, C’93
We were freshmen in the fall of 1989. It’s not like we weren’t interested in politics and protesting, but one doesn’t get to choose the era during which one attends college, or what issues might arise during one’s four years in school. It’s not like nothing was happening in the world during our years at Penn – the Soviet Union, and the Cold War, were rapidly ending, and we had the first Gulf War, which we watched on CNN along with most everyone else. Closer to home, there was the beginning of “political correctness” with the infamous “water buffalo” incident, the Take Back the Night march, and Gay Jeans Day (when you wore jeans to show support for gay rights).
We were both history majors at Penn concentrating primarily on American history, and we took every class Penn had to offer on contemporary politics, especially those from Dean Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Frank Luntz. We both started our careers in politics while still in school – Jef spent the summer of 1992 in Dallas working with Luntz as the Democratic part of the Ross Perot campaign and polling operation, and Josh worked in DC for a Democratic media consultant, Bob Shrum. By the fall of 1992, our senior year, we were excited for Bill Clinton’s pending victory, and attended a rally on College Green with Ken Olin (Thirtysomething!), Elisabeth Shue (Cocktail!), and Rhea Pearlman (Carla!). Josh took a job on Capitol Hill right out of school before going to law school, and Jef has managed to make his living working in politics as a Democratic pollster.
All of which is to say, had there been some reason to protest or join a rally on any of the myriad causes we’ve seen over the last few years, we would have certainly been active participants. But what was there to protest in 1993 that was drawing masses of people?
We both sought an honors degree from the History department, which meant writing a senior thesis – Jef wrote his under the watchful eye of Professor Tom Sugrue on George Wallace’s surprisingly strong performance in South Philly in 1968 (after being rejected for the brilliant idea of doing a history of the Big 5 basketball league), and Josh wrote his on the history of the Mask and Wig Club. In other words, we kept our interests local. Apparently, we took the same approach with our protesting.
Until a few weeks ago, we had completely forgotten about our small efforts at protest, which happened to make the front page of the DP. It was spring of 1993 and we were seniors, finally legally “of age” and able to enjoy a beautiful spring day sitting on the outside patio at the Palladium enjoying our beverage of choice, or so we thought. The Palladium had particularly fond memories for both of us – Jef bought his now wife, Deborah Brown, C’93, a shot there on her 21st birthday, while Josh had brought his now wife Carolyn Frank (nee Friedman), C’93, there on one of their first dates. And we had once parked a lukewarm portable hot tub outside the place during Spring Fling for a 48 hour hot tub-a-thon for charity (and were joined in the hot tub one night by Kevin Nealon!).
A ban was announced – no more drinking outside at the Palladium. A protest was organized – without the internet or cellphones or social media, we’re at a loss to explain how word spread – and we managed to get a few dozen people to unobtrusively and calmly enjoy some drinks on the sidewalk outside the Palladium.
Did our protest work? Memories are hazy, but probably not. The Palladium doesn’t even exist anymore. Did reading this story bring back fond memories? You bet. It also made us wish for a “simpler” time when calling Penn students “apathetic” wasn’t an insult (it’s not like there were serious protests happening on other campuses). In 1993, the Cold War was over, we’d elected a new generation of leadership (Clinton/Gore), and the economy was on the upswing – so what exactly was there for us to protest?
College students today are, rightly, much more politically engaged than we were, or more to the point, ever really had a chance to be. The last few years have seen the highest levels of political engagement and protest on campuses since the 1960s. We once had a teacher ask us which era in American history we would have liked to have lived through, and we said the sixties. The teacher, who had lived through the sixties, thought we were crazy, but we thought it sounded glamorous in hindsight (also in the sixties’ favor was great music and the whole “free love” thing). If we were college students today, we almost certainly would have been out protesting on any number of issues, but we don’t look back with regret or disappointment that the biggest issue we could find to protest was the outdoor alcohol ban at the Palladium. OK, maybe a little regret, but we still enjoyed our little moment in the sun, as inconsequential as it may seem in hindsight.
Editor’s note: Thank you to Heidi Howard Tandy, C’92, for reminding us of our protest thanks to the online archives for The Daily Pennsylvanian. Follow the Class of 1992 as they prepare for their 25th reunion this May.
Penn Class of 1993 Reunion Countdown
March 10-11, 2017, marked 61 weeks until the 25th Reunion of the Penn Class of 1993 (May 11 – 13, 2018)!
Join us we count down the weeks to our reunion #93tothe25th:
- Do you have old photos or mementos from our time at Penn? Photos of Spring Fling? Football at Franklin Field? Classes at DRL? We are taking a trip down memory lane and would love for you to share your memories with our class in a future post. Please email us firstname.lastname@example.org!
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