A University of Pennsylvania museum is vowing to return the remains of a black victim of a 1985 Philadelphia police bombing to relatives, amid backlash that they were used in an online college course.
Penn Provost Wendell Pritchett and Penn Museum Director Christopher Woods apologized in a statement Wednesday to relatives of the victims from the black eco-liberation group called MOVE for their “profound emotional distress” and promised to return them some 36 years later.
“We understand the importance of reuniting these remains with the family,” the joint statement read. “This is our goal. And we remain committed to a respectful, consultative resolution.”
A university spokesperson told the Philadelphia Inquirer the remains are “accounted for,” but declined to indicate where they were.
Woods said some of the remains were used in an online forensic anthropology class offered by Princeton University that was taught by a University of Pennsylvania adjunct professor, Dr. Janet Monge, in her course, “REAL BONES: Adventures in Anthropology.”
The course taught by Monge, who also works as a curator for the University of Pennsylvania’s anthropology department, has since been suspended, Woods said.
“Classes in forensic science require human remains to teach the next generation of forensic specialists,” Penn’s statement read. “However, it is an ethical imperative to show the utmost respect to family survivors. Informed consent must be given by the person before death or by the family afterwards.”
The decision to use the remains in the class was a “serious error in judgment,” particularly in light of the local impact surrounding the bombing that killed 11 people — including five children and teens — and leveled a city block.
Monge did not return a request for comment Wednesday, the Inquirer reported. Several hundred people protested outside Penn Museum Wednesday while calling for its administrators to be held accountable.
The remains, a femur and a pelvis which have never been formally identified, were obtained by Penn in 1985 through professor Alan Mann, who was hired by the Philadelphia’s medical examiner’s office, an Inquirer columnist reported last week.
Mann kept the remains in Penn’s possession until 2001 when he took them to his new role at Princeton University. They were then returned to Penn in 2016, where Mann has said he last saw them, the Inquirer reported Wednesday.
They were later reportedly returned to Princeton, according to the museum’s account.
Members of MOVE, meanwhile, believe the bones belong to Katricia Dotson, a 14-year-old girl known as Tree Africa who was killed in the police bombing on May 13, 1985.
MOVE spokeswoman Janine Africa confirmed to the Inquirer that Woods had contacted the group late Tuesday, adding that they’re open to meeting with him.
“Right now we are so angry and hurt that we haven’t been talking about this to anybody,” Africa told the newspaper. “We don’t know how we’ll be feeling and what will come out of this until we sit down and talk.”
Princeton’s anthropology department released a statement on the matter, saying it should have asked more questions about Mann’s research. He retired in 2015.
Princeton’s president, Christopher L. Eisgruber, said he’s “deeply troubled” that the remains were used in the publicly available online course by Monge while a visiting lecturer at the Ivy League institution.
“Princeton University extends its apologies to the Africa family for the use of the remains in courses offered by Princeton,” Eisgruber said in a statement. “I have accordingly authorized a fact-finding effort, to be conducted by outside counsel, to help us gain a complete understanding of the scope and nature of Princeton’s role in the handling of the remains and related issues.”
Originally published at https://nypost.com/2021/04/29/penn-museum-to-return-remains-of-police-bombing-victim/ on .