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I am so frustrated with Penn. I am a freshman who chose to come here because it was supposed to be the best of all worlds and the best in the world. I say I’m frustrated, but the thing is, Penn is everything I wanted it to be and more. Penn is a place where students work hard. We play hard. We are prepared for the future. We take classes taught by the most brilliant minds in any given field. We learn and we act and we serve and we speak up.

Penn is everything I wanted it to be.

But before Penn, I didn’t know everything I would need. I didn’t know that freshman year would bring the kind of homesickness that keeps you up at night. I didn’t know that the acceptances into social groups and clubs would not make up for the rejections and isolation that just seem to come with being here. I didn’t know that boundaries of race and class would play such a huge role in deciding my place on campus. 

I didn’t know that I would think about transferring, and I didn’t know that the idea of leaving Penn would not be a fleeting thought, but rather a constant question, always lingering in the corner of my mind. I didn’t know that I would feel trapped, like transferring wasn’t an option, like failure wasn’t an option. I didn’t know that, at some point, everyone else would feel the same way.

Penn is everything I wanted it to be, but nothing of what I needed it to be.

I need Penn to be a place that spends our tuitions not building shiny, new facilities to attract new students, but rather a place that invests in taking care of the students who are already here. I need Penn to be a place where freshmen don’t feel like they are not good enough to stay and also not good enough to leave. I need Penn to be a place where CAPS doesn’t have a reputation of being understaffed and underfunded and unsuccessful. I need Penn to be a place where students matter.

It’s possible that the only reason I haven’t transferred is that transfer deadlines had passed by the time I admitted to myself that I should look into going somewhere else. Maybe it’s something else though.

I researched transferring and thought, “But this school doesn’t have CityStep. Or Mujeres Empoderadas. Or my peer advisor who helped me get through first semester. Or the rabbi at Hillel who mentored me. Or my roommates for next year. Or… Or… Or…” My peers are the ones who made me second guess transferring, who made me realize that Penn is a place where students can change the status quo, but only if the administration follows our lead.

I am writing this because I believe that the administration has not done enough to make Penn what we all need. I want to tell them that the Huntsman Forum and Perry World House and fancy computers in every building will only attract so many students. Penn will become the best it can be when students are the number one priority. Penn will be a world-class institution when the budget, not the just the speeches and emails sent out to the student body, reflects that health and safety come before prestige and U.S. News rankings. 

If Penn can make this change, then students will want to come here even though this place is not perfect. They will come not because of what Penn looks like or because of what Penn gives them, but because of how Penn makes them feel.

Penn is not what I need it to be right now, but it has the potential to become a place that I love being part of. 

I hope that it gets there.

DEBBIE RABINOVICH is a College freshman.

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