At Penn, we often forget about life in Philadelphia outside of campus. Between academics, clubs, Greek life, and internships, our calendars are filled with countless activities, all within the isolated Penn ecosystem. Although many student groups prioritize social impact both within the city and across the world, for most, Locust Walk continues to be the epicenter of student life.
Of course, campus is where students live and work and sleep and eat, so why wouldn’t the focus of a Penn student’s four years be Penn itself? The doors of Huntsman Hall may seem like a door to a world disconnected from Philadelphia. But they aren’t.
The security guards standing at the front desk are Philadelphians; they have families and lives and passions all within this great city. Stopping by Bento to pick up lunch, it’s easy to grab your sushi without a second thought as to where it came from or who prepared it, yet the chefs are Philadelphians too. Bathrooms, dining halls, and libraries are cleaned every single day, yet we seldom consider the long hours put into these laborious tasks. Our lives are made easier by thousands of employees here at Penn — employees whose work commonly goes both unnoticed and unrecognized, employees who are members of both the Philadelphia community and the Penn community, just like us. So why do we treat them as anything less than family?
Indeed, the staff at Penn are just as essential to the success of the community as a whole, yet so often we neglect this, rarely offering more than a cold thank you or a passing nod. Yes, we all have extremely busy lives to attend to, but so do they, and oftentimes, their efforts and importance are ignored, forgetting to treat people like people.
As Penn students, it is our duty to vouch for those shorthanded by the University. We must reflect on the position of opportunity we are afforded both by attending a school of Penn’s caliber and, for some of us, by being raised within economic comforts. In doing this, we must also examine how starkly this contrasts with the situation in which so many of the faces we see day in and day out find themselves in. The failure to accept the staff here at Penn as part of our family and community is unacceptable and cannot continue. As a university, we must advocate for our entire community.
We are extremely privileged to be afforded opportunities scarce elsewhere, but so often we overlook the power this privilege offers us to make tangible impact in our community. Instead of using our platform to actively facilitate change within the community, we simply sit on it.
Administration and students alike must recognize the importance of facilitating strong, close relationships with the Penn staff. Advocacy from the student body can go far, and acknowledging the issue is the first step. Penn’s staff is just as much a part of the Penn family as you or I, and our family is being mistreated, so I urge you, fight for your community.
Next time you walk into Huntsman or Hill College House or College Hall, acknowledge those who are a part of the community, consider the injustices they are facing, or at the very least, ask them about their day. When push comes to shove, we all share Locust Walk, and we all share Philadelphia — deans, students, and chefs alike. If you are going to stay insulated within the Penn bubble, don’t pick and choose your alliances, fight for all of Penn.
McCARRON KINCHELOE is a College freshman from Staunton, Va. studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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