A recent surge in event closures has spurred thousands of frustrated Penn students to sign a digital petition calling on the Penn administration to “let them live.”
Titled “The Ability to Have a Social Life at Penn,” the petition on change.org was posted on social media around 2 p.m. on Sept. 17, and has quickly garnered more than 2,100 signatures.
When reached out for comment on the "uptick in event closures," University spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy said he did not understand the term "event closures" and asked for examples. He did not address clarifications that students had noticed an increase in social events being shut down, including small movie nights and philanthropic events.
The author of the petition, Cami Potter, a College senior and writer for 34th Street, wrote a statement arguing for the benefits of maintaining a social life at Penn and chastised the University for its recent crackdown on student parties.
“Rather than spend money and time on creating a task force to combat skyrocketing depression rates from academic and financial pressures, Penn has decided to create a task force that debilitates one of the very things that keeps its students sane: their lives outside of school," Potter wrote.
Some students don't agree with the way the petition was written. College junior Naomi Elegant described the petition as "self-righteous" in a Facebook post.
Other students raised their concerns about the recent increase in event closures at an Undergraduate Assembly meeting held the night of Sept. 17.
While senior UA members expressed support for a healthy and safe social scene, they also voiced concern over the recent increase in event closures and stressed the need to better understand the situation by speaking with the administration.
“I am afraid that things will get more dangerous,” Samara Wyant, a UA representative, circulation manager for The Daily Pennsylvanian and College junior, said. “Students will be encouraged to take their events further off-campus, putting more students in danger and creating a greater socioeconomic barrier for low-income students.”
Members of the UA clarified that the task force created by the administration last year to address the “negative influence of unaffiliated and unsupervised groups” at Penn is not responsible for the party crackdown.
“They are not directly responsible for these closures. The task force is over,” UA President and College senior Michelle Xu said. Xu is a former member of the task force.
Members of the student body also offered anecdotes of recent gatherings that were shut down by Penn Police.
College senior Jacob Pardo said he and around 10 friends were chatting around a fire pit in their backyard when the police broke up the gathering saying that they were not allowed to have “three non-residents on the property after hours.”
Potter, who was also present at the meeting, recounted a recent experience where a small party was shut down by Penn Police.
"They showed up to somebody's house on a Friday night wearing bulletproof vests, as if we pose an immediate threat by playing very low music and having a nice group discussion — I find that offensive," she said.
Penn's Division of Public Safety declined to comment on the petition.
Other students raised examples of police shutting down philanthropy events, birthday parties and small movie nights. A common theme among the stories was the presence of campus event observers alongside Penn Police, which deviates from past protocol.
Some students at the meeting speculated that Penn Police have started relying on event observers to circumvent regular protocol, preventing officers from entering events without cause. They said that event observers function as lookouts who can tell the officers if illegal activity, such as underage drinking, is occurring.
Concerned students hoped the UA would be able to provide some concrete answers as to what precedent has allowed Penn Police to shut down these parties — especially those off-campus and outside Penn’s jurisdiction — but the UA members themselves were unsure.
“We need to find out if this is a Penn policy issue or DPS protocol issue,” said Xu. “We’ll be meeting with [Vice Provost for University Life] and DPS in the coming weeks to find out.”
The Daily Pennsylvanian is writing a series of articles on this topic. If you have any information or would like to tell your story, please reach out to Senior News Editor Rebecca Tan at email@example.com.