On Dec. 18th, Wharton graduate Donald Trump became the third president in United States history to be impeached by the House of Representatives. Though his defense team rested their case earlier this week, his fate remains up in the air as the Senate debates whether to allow witness testimony in his trial. Admittedly, some of the impeachment proceedings have been surprising; but for the most part, the information brought to light by the process feels like old news. As a society, we have grown so accustomed to the lies and deceit of this president that the actions which prompted impeachment may seem like more of his typical unethical and immoral behavior. However, now is not the time to sit back in indifference. As students at the president's alma mater, we are in the unique position to control how we will be remembered at Penn, whether it will be associated with corruption, manipulation, and abuse of power or with a commitment to social activism, diversity of thought, and a respect for all people no matter their identities. Now is the time to reflect on who we are as a university and how we wish to be seen. Most importantly, we should take this as an opportunity to reemphasize our values as a community.
Over the course of Trump’s tenure, we have had our own share of controversies on campus which harken back to some of the messaging from the White House. From the renaming of Penn’s Law School and the question of Professor Amy Wax’s continued tenure to the fallout of the AAU Campus Climate Survey and efforts to address mental health, our campus has been grappling with issues of inclusivity, open expression, mutual support, respect, honesty, and protest. How can we consider ways to bring about change on campus in an effective and conscious way, while our country struggles to process the present blight on our republic marked by dishonesty, disrespect, and gross misconduct? At times it may seem disingenuous to ask students and young adults around the country to uphold honor codes and commit to good citizenship when the person occupying our highest office fails to pass even the simplest of tests. Nevertheless, instead of giving up and giving in to the debauchery, this impeachment should serve as a reminder that Trump’s values need not reflect our own – in fact, they should never reflect our own.
There have been times when we have faltered. The AAU survey alone suggests that we have not come far enough as a community to make all students feel safe on campus. A crop of controversial speakers invited to Penn has only drawn further lines in the sand. One only needs to look at The Daily Pennsylvanian's Opinion section or the Penn meme page to view divisiveness and discontent with the status quo. Times like these truly test our ability to be good citizens, to uphold the values of Penn.
Yes, President Trump attended Penn. It’s quite likely that his time here contributed to the values that make him the man he is today. It’s okay to acknowledge that the dishonesty, the abuse, the corruption, and the misconduct perpetrated by Trump does sometimes manifest itself even in our era at Penn. We see it in toxic pre-professionalism, the sexual assault testimonies from Coalition Against Fraternities and Sexual Violence, backdoor course transactions, or the disrespect of fellow students based on identities and views, to name just a few.
But while President Trump did attend Penn, his values do not have to represent the University. It is up to current students to do the following: stand up for what’s right, consider ethics, uphold honesty and kindness, and live up to our ideals. While we have faltered at times, we have also succeeded in coming together as a community. Everything from the vigil for the Iranian plane crash and organizations like Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault to protests against hate and mental health awareness initiatives reminds us that there are still many reasons to be proud of our university.
My advice then is to take all of this as an occasion to reflect on your values and reach across divides. Interact with the students who invite controversial speakers. Tell them why you feel unsafe with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement director on campus. Greek life, meet with CAFSA and the 6B minority coalition. Discuss why you love your sorority. Talk about the value of diversity. Engage. Listen. Refuse to accept the status quo. Realize that we are all students at the Penn – and if that’s really the only thing that unites us, then it’s up to us to not only be students but teachers. Teach about privilege. Teach about the experience of mental illness. Teach about consent. Teach about humanity. And be open to learning. Only in this way can we act as a force against the toxicity that has invaded the presidency and our country.
AGATHA ADVINCULA is a College sophomore from Brooklyn, N.Y. studying Health and Societies.
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