Students living on campus have been displeased by the noise from New College House West’s construction in recent weeks. They cite problems including being woken up due to early start times, the sounds from the unloading of equipment, and the fact that they may have to close their windows to deal with the noise outside. The needs of Penn students shouldn't come before those of the wider Philadelphia community — particularly the people who work long hours and are integral to the functioning of the University, like construction workers. This also risks the further labelling of the community as entitled and out of touch to the rest of the city.
Penn exists within a city with millions of non-Penn affiliated residents. It’s absurd to expect the city to cater to the University. Construction should be expected as a part of living in a city. While new buildings are rarer than rebuilding and renovation, the alternative is decay and increasing livable housing prices. Philadelphia is rich with culture, heritage, diversity, and, at times annoyingly, noise. Griping about these inconveniences is futile.
Expecting a construction crew to work around students’ schedules is ridiculous. NCHW’s construction occurs from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For these nine and a half hours, there is a team of construction companies working together to build housing for future students. These are normal work hours. It’s not realistic to ask workers to work later in the day — when daylight is diminished — or fewer hours, which will increase the time the project takes and essentially amounts to a pay decrease for the people working on the project.
The point isn’t that Penn students must love the idea of waking up before they’d otherwise have to. Rather, complaining about the workers starting their jobs when they are supposed to places your desires above the livelihood of others. This is particularly exacerbated by the position of privilege that many Penn students are complaining from. For example, while it might be annoying to get up and close a window, all students but those in Gregory College House are sleeping in air-conditioned rooms while the construction crew is already outside and hard at work.
This is also occurring within the context of the charged relationship between Penn and surrounding residents, due to gentrification, increased policing, and other Penn policies with negative externalities for Philly residents. If you don’t feel like building a new dorm is worth the noise and inconvenience, ask yourself why Penn’s administrators and big donors have invested millions in projects like NCHW and a new entrepreneurship hub instead of investing in better spaces for campus multicultural groups, a request that’s been hanging unanswered for years. Or ask why Penn enacted a new policy forcing sophomores to live on campus when they didn’t already have enough dorms to house them.
There’s a lot to critique about Penn’s decisions surrounding NCHW. If the fact that the noise is a nuisance is a motivating factor behind your criticism, that’s fine. But it’s wrong to denigrate the construction workers who have been hired to do the job and are just trying to do their work as efficiently as possible when they aren’t the source of the problem. Debate and resist not what causes minor malaise, but the despondent concerns that negatively influence the lives of everyone around us. Strive to be a better member of both the Penn community and our larger home in Philadelphia.
Editorials represent the majority view of members of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Editorial Board, which meets regularly to discuss issues relevant to Penn's campus. Participants in these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on related topics.