The Daily Pennsylvanian has a challenging road ahead.
The entire media industry is changing. I’ve worked with a lot of dedicated people this semester to put us on the right track — toward quicker breaking news, more relevant and representative content, and tougher reporting. But we will improve only if talented students choose to work for this newspaper, and stay on to become leaders — even if fewer of them want to become journalists than their counterparts did 50 years ago.
Students must have an investment in the DP even if they don’t want to write, take photos or sell ads. Because building a better DP can help fix Penn.
Everyone knows Penn is flawed. Students’ struggles with mental health are painfully immediate. Horrific, racist messages left deep wounds this year. Controversy surrounding off-campus groups shows no signs of abating. All of these things and more have fueled complaints, activism and a ridiculous number of memes.
These problems need to be addressed. And the DP puts pressure on the administration to make sure action is taken. I have seen this happen with my own eyes. Especially in an age when a story can go viral, Penn’s administration and trustees want to protect its reputation, and they care about what gets written. This means reporting on the school is probably the most difficult it’s ever been in its long history, but it is also that much more important to keep at it.
This is not a rallying cry to report, or even work, for the DP, though I encourage everyone to do so. It’s simply an appeal to not let distrust, or worse, apathy, prevent you from feeling that investment. This is your paper. Tell us what you want to see, tell us what we’ve done wrong, and tell us when we do stuff right.
No one gets to the end of their time at Penn and says it was easy.
For me, getting to this point took injuries on the track team and a hard decision to quit. It took homesickness and feeling like I didn’t have friends. It took CAPS appointments. It took hours spent in advising offices trying to make graduating early work, despite a system that sometimes felt set up to make it difficult. And then it took trying my hardest to enjoy a hastily assembled senior year, while also panicking about not having a job.
I got through all of it by knowing I was doing some small part to make Penn a better place for others. I found this efficacy through my work with the DP, attempting to shed light and make our campus a better place. But other people find it through mental health advocacy organizations, or student government, or cultural groups. Every piece of the puzzle is important.
In between tougher moments, my time here was filled with wonder. I loved exploring art museums, restaurants, parks and picturesque tree-lined streets in the city of Philadelphia. I learned as much as I could from compassionate and fascinating professors, listened to famous actors, authors and activists speak, and got to know hilarious, kind hearted people. And I can’t express how much this newspaper has meant to me. It gave me a purpose and a drive. It gave me a window into the inner workings of Penn, a place to tell people’s stories and a means to have an impact on the University. It gave me strength in the midst of political attacks on the media. It has also been my community and my home.
Penn has enough good things going for it that it’s worth fixing, and I sincerely believe the DP can help. But it needs everyone’s investment to do the job. There’s more I’d like to do here, but my short time at Penn, and with this newspaper, is over.
It’s up to all of you now.
SYDNEY SCHAEDEL is a College senior from Alexandria, Va., studying English. She served as the senior news editor for the 133rd board. Previously, she was a senior reporter, administration beat reporter and summer editor-in-chief.