Note: At approximately 5:40 p.m. on Tuesday, the University suspended normal operations for Thursday, February 8, citing "significant logistical and transportation challenges" relating to the parade. Classes and events that day are cancelled.
For many Penn students, Sunday night was their first-ever trip to Broad Street. Philadelphians of all backgrounds came out in droves to celebrate the Eagles’ first Super Bowl victory.
On Thursday, the celebration will continue. Mayor Jim Kenney announced that the Super Bowl champions will be honored with a ticker-tape parade and a ceremony on the historic steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Attendance is predicted to be even greater than that of 2008’s Phillies World Series victory parade; up to 3 million people are expected to show.
By not suspending University operations, Penn — Philadelphia’s single largest private employer — isolates its community from the city at large.
This is the wrong decision.
We call on Penn to make good on its efforts to better integrate Penn into Philadelphia; to suspend normal University operations for the day and allow its students and staff to join this historic celebration of a long-overdue victory without fear of consequences. This is an opportunity for Penn to take part, if only for a day, in the culture and history of Philadelphia, to stand shoulder to shoulder with people from across the city in shared triumph.
By discouraging students and staff from joining in this seminal moment in Philadelphia history, the University is undercutting its campaign for community involvement. Penn students have historically felt disconnected from the larger Philadelphia area. According to Career Services data from 2015, only 10.67 percent of Penn graduates who accepted full-time employment stayed in Philadelphia.
But on Sunday night, hundreds of Penn students streamed towards Center City to celebrate the Eagles' victory — a rare instance in which a large number of Penn students showed an interest in Philadelphia and mingled with city residents. Since then, over 4,000 students have signed a petition asking Penn to suspend normal operations. Surely some of them just don't want to take their midterms, but many at Penn want to experience history in this city without academic penalties.
As Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum wrote in an email to all Penn students on Feb. 2, "we have all chosen to be members of a beloved Penn community nestled in the embrace of the vibrant City of Philadelphia … whether or not you follow, in the U.S. vernacular, 'football,' this is a very special time, a truly delightful moment, in the life of our City."
Now is the time for us to return Philadelphia's embrace.
If the University stays open, Penn's 35,000-plus employees — many of whom are Philadelphia natives — will be unable to witness their city's first Super Bowl parade after decades of waiting. Allowing dining hall workers, administrative staffers, grounds workers, professors, and other University employees to take a day off and participate in the celebration would show how much we value their contributions to our campus, and acknowledge that these people are more than their positions at Penn.
Decades from now, Penn employees' grandchildren will ask if they attended the parade. No Eagles fan wants to say they caught a few minutes of the parade on the TV in the break room.
Neighboring Drexel University has announced that all classes and normal operations are suspended for the day, citing the deep importance of the Eagles' win to the Philadelphia community as well as safety and traffic concerns. "The Eagles demonstrated what ambition, grit and teamwork are all about," Drexel's statement read. "The team united the city, lifted everyone's spirits and made us proud. Now, it is on to the victory parade honoring the Eagles on Thursday."
All Philadelphia public schools and courts, along with the Community College of Philadelphia, the University of the Arts, and Temple University, are closed as well. While some have cited travel concerns, which are certainly valid as many instructors may be unable to complete their morning commute to campus, Penn has an opportunity to make a strong statement by acknowledging what this parade actually is: an unforgettable cultural event.
To suspend operations would not be an endorsement of football, a sport which has been mired in political controversy and safety concerns. It would not even be an endorsement of the Philadelphia Eagles, necessarily. It would be an endorsement of the city of Philadelphia, and the joy of its people. Of course this alone isn't enough to bridge the gap, once and for all, between Penn and the surrounding city. That doesn't mean it isn't worth doing.
Over a million Philadelphians will be huddled together this Thursday, sharing free beer and trying to catch a glimpse of Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. The Penn community, if it is really part of Philadelphia, belongs among them.
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