Close to 4,000 students from the Class of 2021 will start on the jam-packed itinerary of New Student Orientation this week. 44 of the 157 listed NSO events are mandatory, but what actually happens if students can't attend them?
Under the frequently asked questions on the NSO website, it states that "mandatory events will be clearly labeled in the Calendar of Events you will receive upon your arrival to campus," but does not mention any potential consequences for absences.
NSO events are often mandatory only for specific kinds of students. On the website, students can view which events are mandatory for all students, for specific groups of students — such as transfer or international — and for each school within the University. There are also mandatory activities for freshman college houses.
Administrators and students disagree on what they expect to be the actual consequences for missing a mandatory event.
Director of New Student Orientation and Academic Initiatives David Fox said administrators' response to absences from mandatory events varies and that certain events warrant closer tracking of attendance than others.
For example, events like "Safe Living," which is a guide to living safely at Penn, are very important for students to attend, Fox said. "When we know students aren't coming we turn that information over to the College Houses and let them deal with that," he said.
Fox added that public safety sessions like "Safe Living" are mandatory because they're essential to "central citizenship issues," and provide awareness for various resources at Penn.
However, various upperclassmen have a different point of view on mandatory events.
"I only went to two events for NSO, and it was with our peer advisors and the safety conversation in Irvine," College and Wharton sophomore Ana Isabel Baco said.
"Especially because my family was in town, and it was the last time I was going to be with them," Baco added.
Wharton sophomore Ghali Benlafkih made similar comments. "I kind of feel like there weren't really people there to tell you what to do," he said. "It felt like everything was a choice. Maybe I was told to go somewhere because it was mandatory, but because my parents were there, they were lenient."
Fox said absences for mandatory events have not appeared to be "a large-scale problem" during NSO in past years because students tend to be eager to get a sense of Penn.
Nonetheless, College junior Michael Krone, who is a part of the NSO student group Peers Helping Incoming New Students, which helps organize NSO, said the administration is always looking to increase attendance for NSO.
"At the end of the day," Krone said, "there is no one to take 2,500 freshmen and poke them with a stick to make them go to all mandatory events."
Many students think the most stringently mandatory event is the Penn Reading Project group session, which supplements the freshman writing assignment that must be submitted online beforehand. But College sophomore Johany Dubon said she completed the PRP writing assignment last year and didn't go to the group session and was not penalized for it.
"At this point, you're an adult," Dubon said of the freshmen. "So make the decision that you want to make … as long as it doesn't have super severe consequences."