Vice President Joe Biden early this month that he intends to set up shop at Penn after his term ends on Friday, and one Penn Law student organization leapt into action.
The group, Penn 4 Biden, has been working for the past few weeks to ensure that Biden comes to Penn.
Second-year Penn Law students Leah Wong and Jenny Reich spearheaded the Penn 4 Biden initiative alongside the Penn Law Coalition for Action.
“Biden coming is a way for Penn students to get motivated about caring for their community,” Reich said. “We can learn from someone who cares deeply about important issues.”
After he leaves office, Biden will continue working on his “cancer moonshot” initiative, which he at Penn in January 2016. Biden’s son, 1991 College graduate Beau Biden, died of brain cancer in May 2015, making this issue personal to him.
Reich noted that Biden is also planning on retaining a large staff to work on “domestic and foreign policy issues” at Penn.
The Penn 4 Biden initiative began with a simple petition for students to show interest in having Biden move to the University after his term in office. Petition responses largely focused on the value of having the vice president as a “mentor and someone to look up to” at Penn, Reich said.
By the time that Penn 4 Biden had collected responses to the petition, Biden had already announced his intentions to set up shop at the University. The group then quickly pivoted its attention to how they could help Biden connect with student leaders at Penn to aid in his work. They sent out another survey asking leaders at Penn whether they would be open to assisting Biden in any of his future efforts.
Penn 4 Biden members said that they were not the driving force behind Biden’s decision to come to the University.
“He had even formally announced that he was coming to the university before we sent out [survey results]. The coalition was not the reason Biden picked Penn,” Wong said.
The organization, however, is continuing to collect student input on what Biden should focus on while at Penn. It created a new survey that asks students which issues they think Biden should prioritize and how he can go about allocating resources to accomplish these goals. Its aim is to get to 300 responses on the survey — there are currently 150 — before analyzing the data and writing an official report to Biden’s staff.
Although Penn 4 Biden did receive help from some professors and faculty, it did not work with Penn administrators on its campaign. In fact, Reich noted that she would “be surprised if top members of Penn’s administration, like Amy Gutmann, even knew about their campaign.”
Leaders of Penn 4 Biden said its members are excited to keep up their efforts this upcoming semester to guarantee that Biden’s transition to Penn is seamless.