While hundreds of prospective Penn students visited campus Wednesday for the last day of Quaker Days, student activists organized a teach-in titled, "What the F**k, Penn? Part II," where students spoke about Penn’s stance against paying PILOTs and the University’s refusal to divest from fossil fuels.
Student Labor Action Project, Penn Student Power, and Fossil Free Penn organized the teach-in, which took place at noon at the Perelman Quadrangle steps, and distributed flyers throughout the day to inform the prospective students. The students spoke about the low wages that subcontracted dining workers receive and Penn's decision against making voluntary payments to local governments in lieu of any property tax, despite being exempt as a nonprofit organization.
Fossil Free Penn member and College senior Zach Rissman, who gave one of the speeches, said the teach-in was necessary because incoming freshmen deserve to be informed of the actions that Penn does not publicize.
“A lot of times, [Penn] prioritizes profits over the well-being of their students,” Rissman said. “We just think it’s really important for incoming freshmen to hear that message and at least be privy to the same information that we are."
SLAP member and College senior Carl Fulghieri, who also delivered a speech, said Penn uses its power as an employer and landowner to "push around the city of Philadelphia."
“The motivation to reach out to prospective students is to remind the University that Penn's values matter to those considering matriculation," Fulghieri, a former Daily Pennsylvanian staffer, said. "If Penn can't fulfill the moral component of its motto, the school's vanity is clear as day.”
Prospective students said that while the event could be intimidating for incoming freshmen, they were surprised to hear student activists revealing what was happening at the Ivy League school.
Prospective Penn student Jenny Lu said it can be scary when prospective students are on campus for Quaker Days and they are exposed to things that current students dislike about Penn. But she added that she thinks it is crucial for students to voice their opinions.
“I think it’s very necessary they’re standing up for what they believe in," Lu said. "And we are a target audience because we should know what’s going on before we go into a school.”
Sasha Mills, another prospective student, said the teach-in provided a welcome alternative to the Penn Admissions presentations.
“I think it’s interesting because the entire day we’ve been getting like a cookie-cutter, like they’re smiling at us, telling what’s good. But I am getting this perspective of what actual Penn students are doing,” Mills said. “These problems are not something that should be happening at an Ivy League school. And I wasn’t expecting it.”
Prospective student Rodolfo Pena said although the teach-in taught him that many subcontracted dining hall workers at Penn receive low wages, there are advantages and disadvantages to every school.
“Overall, I believe it’s not going to affect my decision,” Pena said. “Wherever you go, you are going to have pros and cons to the school."
Prospective student Abdel Barbosa also said he is now thinking about participating in activist efforts at Penn because of the teach-in.
“Being here, there’s always going to be something to change,” Barbosa said. “If I come here, I can have a part in helping to make that change come into fruition.”
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