The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Credit: Brandon Li

As an incoming freshman, securing a room in the historic Quad can feel like a massive victory. But once arriving on campus, students may realize that not all rooms provide the same amenities.

Freshmen with personal sinks in their bedrooms can avoid trekking to communal bathrooms when they need to rinse their faces, brush their teeth, or simply wash their hands. However, not every room in the Quad has this perk — one-third of the rooms in the Quad do not have personal sinks, Director of Residential Services Pat Killilee said. 

Some freshmen living in the Quad say their lack of a sink is frustrating because they pay the same $10,600 in fees for year-long housing.

“It’s pretty unfair,” Engineering freshman Jiwon Kang said. Kang, who has a single in Fisher-Hassenfeld without a sink, described his room as “really small and depressing.” 

College freshman Yoni Zisblatt also lives in a single room without a sink. “I think it’s a little bit unfair, especially if we’re all paying the same, also considering how much money Penn has,” he said.  

Credit: Sunny Jang

Sink distribution throughout the Quad is arbitrary and stems from the fact that the Quad was built in different phases, Killilee said. The Quad was originally built as a "cottage-style" residence made of smaller buildings with varying amenities, he said, later evolving to become a more traditional "corridor-style" residence. 

The Quad was built in 1895 and additions were made in 1899, 1905, 1908, 1911 and 1928, according to the Penn facilities website. Each of these additions was unique and reflective of contemporary architectural styles. 

“The Quad was built over the course of 60 years, and each phase had some different programmatic stance at the time,” Killilee said.  

Killilee said some additions to the Quad included sinks in their architectural design but others did not, leading sinks to be built in some rooms but not others. There was no original plan for all Quad rooms to have sinks, let alone one overarching architectural model that would make all Quad rooms uniform, since the residence was not built all at once. Killilee claimed the diversity in the Quad’s design “is part of its charm.” 

A Quad bathroom in 1917 (Photo from University Archives and Records Center)

Though the physical discrepancies cannot be changed, some students believe the rates of Quad rooms should be adjusted to compensate for the presence or absence of perks like sinks, or room size. 

Kang said since his room is small and lacks a sink, it "would be nice" to pay less than those with larger rooms or more amenities.

“There should be a sort of ‘you get what you pay for,’” Zisblatt said.  

In response, Killilee and Penn Business Services Director of Communications and External Relations Barbara Lea-Kruger said changing rates on a case-by-case basis would be too complicated. The fixed rate, they said, is meant to make the housing process more “egalitarian,” even though Quad rooms vary in size and facilities.

Just as freshmen are assigned rooms through a computer system to equalize the process, Killilee and Lea-Kruger said the fixed rate eliminates bias by ensuring that all freshmen, regardless of economic background, have the same potential to receive a “good” room or a “bad” room.  

Despite this, both Kang and Zisblatt said Penn could be more transparent about the Quad’s facilities — such as the variation in room dimensions and the potential of perks like sinks — before assignments are actually released. This would give students a chance to decide whether other college houses would be a better fit for them than the Quad.  

“It wasn’t clear what you were or weren’t getting,” Zisblatt said.  

For more uniform housing freshman year, Killilee and Kruger suggested considering newer residences such as Hill College House, rather than the Quad. 

Want to read more housing content? Check out the project page here.