University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann has at least this consolation: It's not a video on YouTube.
Three days after Halloween, the Penn president's annual costume party lived on yesterday, courtesy of the Internet and student Saad Saadi, whose photograph - with him dressed as a suicide bomber and her as Glinda, the good witch in The Wizard of Oz - was launched into the blogosphere. There, many questioned the whether it was appropriate for the leader of the Ivy League university to pose with someone seemingly making light of Middle East terrorism.
And yesterday, Gutmann was on defense, Saadi had apologized, and bloggers were arguing the insensitivity-outrage-political correctness-humor-stupidity-openness-tastelessness and ludicrousness of it all.
Gutmann released a statement yesterday describing Saadi as one of 700 students who attended the annual Halloween party at Gutmann's house.
"They all crowd around to have their picture taken with me in costume," Gutmann said. "This year, one student who had a toy gun in hand had his picture taken with me before it was obvious to me that he was dressed as a suicide bomber."
Gutmann, a noted political scientist and philosopher who became Penn's president in 2004, said, "The costume is clearly offensive and I was offended by it. As soon as I realized what his costume was, I refused to take any more pictures with him, as he requested. The student had the right to wear the costume, just as I, and others, have a right to criticize his wearing of it."
Saadi, a senior engineering student who is also a photographer for the student newspaper, the Daily Pennsylvanian, could not be reached for comment.
Saadi posted the photo of himself and Gutmann on his Web site, www.saadsaadi.com, along with numerous others from the party, including some in which he staged mock executions of costumed students.
Faster than one could say gigabyte, Saadi's handiwork was picked up by Winfield Myers and re-posted on his Democracy-Project and Campus Watch Web sites.
"An obvious question: would Gutmann have posed with a guest - or even allowed him into her house - if he'd dressed as Adolf Hitler or a Nazi SS officer? A KKK member?" Myers asked in his blog posting.
"But in modern liberal circles, posing as a Palestinian suicide bomber (see his kefiya) is just fine. After all, he mainly tries to kill innocent Jews," Myers added. A kaffiyeh, also called a kefiya, is an Arab headdress.
And thus, the cyber starter pistol was fired.
On the Daily Pennsylvanian's Web site, the comments started at 6:01 a.m. with "D. Sullivan [Alumnus]" writing that he had met Saadi and Gutmann and "I can vouch for the fact that neither one of them had any of the politically charged intent that some have suggested they possessed."
"Let's return to reality," D. Sullivan posted. "This was Halloween on a college campus. A student dressed up as a terrorist, as I'm sure thousands if not millions of other Flag waving Americans did also."
"Is there nothing more important going on at Penn?" wrote "Get a Life."
"I am a father considering, along with my son, what university he should attend," wrote "brian Schneider." "The University of Pennsylvania now off the list."
"It's okay, he probably wouldn't get in anyway," shot back "Law Student."
Early yesterday Saadi posted an apology on his site in which he said, "My friend, Jason, and I express our condolences and sympathy to all offended by our costumes. We wish to make it clear that we do not support terrorism, violence, or anything that is against society. There is no agenda or statement associated with our behavior shown in these pictures. The costumes are meant to portray scary characters much like many other costumes on Halloween... . "
By 3 p.m., all of Saadi's Halloween photos were gone from his site.
But not forgotten.
By last night, more than 100 comments about the photos had been posted on the Daily Pennsylvanian's Web site with no sign the debate was about to subside.
Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Inquirer staff writer Kera Ritter contributed to this article.