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Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush responded to graduate students' concerns about the administration's treatment of marginalized groups on campus, saying that a lot is happening “behind the scenes" to help students.

Credit: Luke Chen

The administration’s role in politics once again dominated the University Council Open Forum on Wednesday.

One student said the University “marginalized faculty and staff with different viewpoints” by sending the email that condemned Trump’s immigration ban, but another said the administration had not done enough for students affected by the ban. Yet another student asked the University to stay out of political matters altogether.

Hannah Victor, a Nursing senior pursuing a dual degree with Penn Law School, said that the she was “disheartened to see blanket statements made by the administration” about the executive order.

On the other hand, Julianne Rieders, a graduate student in the Perelman School of Medicine, said she was not satisfied with the administration’s reactions to the racist GroupMe situation or the executive order. Rieders — a member of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access and Leadership Committee — said she felt students do not feel supported in the classroom and asked the council to establish a central diversity office to “provide equitable support for marginalized students across campus.”

Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush responded to Rieders’ comment and said a lot is happening “behind the scenes” as far as supporting students and assisting with marches and vigils.

A philosophy professor present at the meeting also told Rush that he felt there was not enough open discussion on these issues, and a representative of Penn’s College Republicans provided a different perspective and asked the University to generally stay out of political matters, adding that the school “must remain an open forum for political debate.”

Outside of arguments over the University’s role in political matters, Zhan Okuda-Lim, a graduate student in the Fels Institute of Government, proposed recommendations for improving the administration’s accommodations of mental illness on campus, including shorter wait times at Counseling and Psychological Services, especially for initial appointments, and more publicizing of mental health resources to graduate students.

Members of Fossil Free Penn stood silently wearing face masks in protest as College sophomore Zachary Rissman listed recent political actions relating to the climate change. He was met with some opposition from the representative of the College Republicans, who said he felt that the group was dismissive of differing opinions.

A representative from Penn First also brought up how Penn should accommodate students affected by potential defunding of public education. She asked that the admissions office adopt a “no-apologies” initiative to waive application fees. She said that Penn should also work toward reducing submission fees for its standardized testing requirement as well as for financial aid paperwork like the CSS Profile.

“It makes no sense to pay money to receive money,” she said.

She emphasized that low-income students can be unaware that Penn is even an option for college. She asked that Penn Admissions reach out to counselors from low-income public schools with the “How to Apply to College” Coursera course and offer panels on Penn’s admissions process specifically.