Whenever someone asks me for my opinion of Penn, I typically give them two somewhat conflicting answers.
On one hand, years covering Penn’s administration for the DP has left me jaded about a sprawling, image-conscious bureaucracy that often fails to adequately serve its undergraduates. I do believe most administrators care about students and act with good intentions, but a general lack of transparency and condescending attitude towards reporters has frustrated me more times than I can count.
At the same time, the people I meet at Penn continue to surprise me with their intelligence, strength, kindness and humor. I’ve been fortunate enough to make several lifelong friends. And writing about the Penn community has given me the unique privilege to talk to dozens of inspiring people as I try to tell their stories.
What this leaves me with is that Penn is an amazing place, but not for the reasons we might think when we arrive. And, as we work to make it better, more welcoming, safer, we need to rely on ourselves to get there.
The administration still has a responsibility to address issues like mental health, sexual assault and diversity, but we can’t expect them to do everything. While we wait for the results of yet another vague, directionless task force, we can be there for our friends, supporting each other through the constant intensity of life on this campus. As we skim through verbose, perfunctory emailed messages from the President’s Office, we can strive for balance in our own lives, taking steps back when we need them and remembering the things that really matter.
We have more power than we think, and we don’t always need to rely on Penn to make things happen for us.
I’ve definitely had to learn this over the years. I sought out my own professional opportunities when it became clear that Career Services offers few resources for students who don’t want to work in finance, tech or consulting. I found the loving community I’d always wanted at the DP after growing disenchanted with Greek life. I’ve done my best to change this campus for the better by helping hold its leaders accountable.
And, as it turns out, all my favorite moments of Penn have had very little to do with the institution. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I think back to long nights talking with my roommates, ignoring our work and laughing into the wee hours of the morning. Dancing to live music performed by my talented peers during Fling. Watching thousands of polished Penn students drop everything to join my hometown of Philadelphia in celebrating the Eagles’ victory. Stepping into the press box at a political rally and realizing what I wanted to do with my life.
The people of Penn, not the institution, have made my college years unforgettable.
And, since this is a rare instance where I’m writing about myself instead of others, I’m going to use this opportunity to thank them.
Thank you to Ellie, Jess, and Dan, for being the most wonderful Blue Room. I couldn’t have asked for a better news team to cover the insanity of 2016.
To Jill, Lauren, and Kristen, for inspiring me and teaching me everything I know about journalism.
To all my other DP friends — Sydney, Genevieve, Carter, Colin, Charlotte, Tom, Tommy, Alec, Lucien — for making a dirty, windowless office so much fun.
To Hannah, Sheridan, Alice, Sarah, Jessica, and Emily, for keeping me sane and always being there for me.
To Mom, Dad, and Adam, for everlasting love and support.
Finally, thank you to everyone who’s picked up a copy of the DP, clicked on an article, agreed to an interview, trusted me to tell your story. It’s truly been an honor.
CAROLINE SIMON is a College senior from Oreland, Pa., studying English and communication. She served as the campus news editor on the 132nd board. Previously, she was a reporter. She most recently served as the opinion board chair.
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