EventMonitor
Photo: Carson Kahoe

The debate surrounding event closures on campus continues to rage on as various student leaders begin to weigh in on the issue. 

In a statement released on Wednesday night, Penn College Republicans condemned new administrative policies governing student events as "an onerous encroachment upon student liberties."

Following student protests over a sexist email sent by off-campus organization OZ in 2016, the University set up the Task Force on a Safe and Responsible Campus Community, which has just begun to implement a range of policies in the name of cracking down on sexual harassment and violence, substance abuse and other student conduct code violations. 

Many of these policies have led to a widespread increase in event closures across campus, students say. College Republicans described this as "without precedent and utterly frivolous." 

"The administration’s approach, including but not limited to the deployment of event observers, has effectively abrogated the right of students to freely assemble, unequivocally contradicting hallowed American tradition," wrote the College Republicans in their statement. 

"Republicans, in general, strongly value the respect of constitutional rights for all Americans, whether it be on a college campus or elsewhere," College Republicans President and Wharton senior Sean Egan said in an interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian. "The more we learned about what was going on with the implementation of this policy, [the more] we felt it was our duty to speak out."

Members of College Republicans aren't the first students to have voiced their unhappiness on this issue. 

On Sept. 17, a Change.org petition entitled "The Ability to have a Social Life at Penn," was published by College senior Cami Potter, who is also a writer for 34th Street. 

The petition, which has garnered close 2,400 signatures so far, accuses the University of worsening students' problems with mental health on campus by shutting down social events, citing the statistic that more than 12 students have died by suicide in the past five years. (In fact, 14 students have died by suicide in the past four years.)  

Various students have found the wording of the petition problematic. 

"My concern was with the way that suicide statistics, specifically those of Penn students, are used to give weight to an argument without actually considering if it's relevant to that argument," College junior Navya Dasari said. "It's disturbing to me that so many students signed the petition that implied things were inaccurate about campus mental health."

The petition, which calls on administrators to "let students live," said Penn should direct resources to a "task force to combat skyrocketing depression rates." The University has actually had two different iterations of such a task force. Entitled the "Task Force on Student Psychological Health and Welfare," it was formed in 2014, and reconvened in 2016. 

Dasari also questioned the connection between social events and mental health assumed in the petition.

"The culture [at fraternity parties] can be really harmful in terms of mental health for students who are people of color, who are poor, who are LGBT," she said. "The petition implied that these parties have a positive impact on all students' mental health."

Greek leaders said they commend students for making their voices heard to the administration, but hope it leads to dialogue rather than protest. 

"The way that this is happening is going to require a dialogue to get it right," Interfraternity Council President and College senior Bradley Freeman said. "It sounds like there are events that are being shut down that maybe don't merit being shut down, which sucks, but I'm confident that the student body working with the administration [will] find a happy medium that allows students to have fun the way they want to have fun."

Panhellenic Council President and College senior Caroline Ohlson echoed this sentiment, writing in a statement that she hopes students sharing their opinions will lead to "honest and productive dialogue between students and administration." 

The Daily Pennsylvanian is writing a series of articles on this topic. If you have any information or would like to tell your story, please reach out to Senior News Editor Rebecca Tan at tan@thedp.com.

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