A s I’ve scrolled through my Facebook news feed recently, I’ve stumbled every so often on emphatic promotional blurbs urging me to “beat Harvard.” With a “like” to The Daily Pennsylvanian’s Facebook page, apparently, I can stick it to those sneering Cambridge-ites and help overtake the popularity of their altogether-too-revered Crimson. The DP page’s count stands currently at a rather anemic 5,437, despite enticements of hot chocolate, with The Crimson sitting ever-pretty at 30,084 . It did not take long for Harvard to respond, dryly and without fanfare, to this rather clunkily calculated campaign, scraping it off like a fly off a boot. The lack of drama with which this was accomplished demonstrated how tiny and desperate these attempts seem to the remainder of the world, and how they characterize a broader, significantly entrenched cultural problem at Penn that bears revisiting.
I am more than pleased having wound up at Penn, and in my first year, circulating as a freshman and taking stock of other new arrivals , I noticed a puzzling and troubling attitude. There was a serious resentment at Penn’s comparative lack of recognition present among some I encountered. True, the painfully generic “University of Pennsylvania” invites regular confusion with a far less glamorous state school. The name is cumbersome to wrap around a mug and is crunched to an unsightly, dense bar of text on sweatshirts — it lacks the elegant name-brand concision of a Stanford, a Yale, a Dartmouth . On the United States college rankings lists composed by various sites , we tend to hover in the top 10 somewhere south of five and have roughly one-tenth the likes on Facebook of Harvard.
However, these metrics of cachet should be considered exactly that — measures of the superficial glamour and marketability of a school, its likelihood of impressing everyone down to your building’s super who probably heard it name-dropped on TV. These should not matter in an actual evaluation of Penn’s merits.
But matter they did, and do. Big Three envy regularly manifests itself here, most recently in the form of this impotent Harvard tail-chasing. One promo, in which students were photographed holding signs declaring ways in which Penn is better than Harvard, included declarations ranging from the obviously defensive and insecure (“[We] are less pretentious” — one could argue otherwise) to the completely insubstantial (“I go here” and “Philly is awesome” among them).
Of the “pretentious” schools, Princeton, which sits conspicuously at the summit of the U.S. News and World Report rankings, seems to hold a special place in Penn’s complex. I suspect that the oddly rabid sports rivalry Penn stokes with that school — one which hardly seems reciprocated to an equal extent on the Princeton side — is a manifestation of a strange determination to take down Princeton in a forum where our schools are recognized as competitive. Penn isn’t spontaneously usurping the first slot on U.S. News any time soon, but goodness knows we can at least wallop their striped asses on the court Saturday.
Yet I don’t think Princeton spends much time licking its boo-boos after these matchups any more than Harvard spends up at night worrying about the DP’s advances over the social media field. Penn’s inferiority complex is unappealing, petulant and makes us seem delusional and dismissible.
I am not by any means saying that every student at Penn consequently walks around with a chip on their shoulder. I meet many extraordinarily talented people each day who are more than satisfied to make their home at Penn and don’t harbor illusions that they are anywhere else. One comment in the photo campaign stood out to me for its genuine validity — a girl wrote that Penn has a top-tier nursing program, while Harvard lacks one entirely. Something to be proud of indeed, I’d say.
This is precisely why I think this diseased mentality of insufficiency I’ve described should be addressed. The people of Penn are sound testaments to its quality, and it would reflect well upon us as an institution to show that we can respond with grace to frequently prestige-pedding metrics that do not favor Penn. It is inelegant and petty to grasp at such prestige while disregarding the excellence we possess ourselv es.
Dia Sotiropoulou is a College sophomore from Brooklyn, New York. Her email address firstname.lastname@example.org.Comments powered by Disqus
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