“How would you change Penn?”
That was the question on IMPACT magazine’s presentation board at GreenFest — an event hosted by the Penn Environmental Group — last March. College seniors and co-founders of IMPACT Valentina Raman and Frances Starn were taken aback when one Penn student responded that he had never been asked that question before.
The encounter led them to realize that the general student body does not have feasible means to reach administrators and change policies at Penn in a concrete way, Raman said.
IMPACT magazine and the Undergraduate Assembly will partner to lead the Student Solution Sessions, where groups of seven to ten students will meet for an hour each week for five weeks to discuss areas they think Penn should change. Discussions would seek solutions for topics ranging from mental health to minority group integration to academic curriculum, Raman said.
“The main difference between the aim of this and a typical discussion is that this is a continuous discussion and aim for a solution,” College sophomore and chair of the Student Life committee Daniel Kahana said.
The solutions will be formulated entirely by the students, but presented to the administration by the UA.
“People don’t realize student government is a power and they don’t use it,” Starn said. “People don’t recognize them as avenues for change.”
Although there will be separate groups at the program’s inception, if multiple groups discuss the same issue, IMPACT and the UA will combine the groups in an effort to reach a common written solution proposal to present to the administration.
The UA hopes to use their relationships with administrators to facilitate the implementation of solutions.
“[The] UA understands how different sections of the administration work and that’s where we can come [in] and [decide] which ideas to run with more than others,” Kahana said.
After the the mental health task force was formed without student representation last semester, these sessions will encourage students to suggest ideas.
“[Penn students] have the mental faculty to figure out the answers to these problems,” Starn said. “It’s trusting Penn students in a way that I don’t feel like administration or higher ups have done before.”
Raman said that administrators will likely not attend these events because the sessions are supposed to be an open space to discuss issues and bring power into the hands of the students.
The sign-ups for the sessions are open online to all students and will close later this week.
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