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Updated Credit: Alana Kelly

Harnwell College House will welcome two new student-designed communitiesPolicy, Politics, and Social Change Part II and Muslim Life — for the next academic year.

An SDC is a type of program community, previously known as a residential program, that places students interested in a similar topic on the same floor of a college house and hosts activities related to the theme. Unlike other program communities, SDCs are designed and run by undergraduate students.

Penn College House and Academic Services launched SDCs in fall 2019 after students said they had ideas about new program communities that they wanted to implement, Director of Four-Year Houses and Residential Programs at Penn CHAS Ryan Keytack said. 

Wharton first-year and student coordinator of PPASC2 Carson Sheumaker said PPASC2, which will be located on the third floor of Harnwell, will be an upperclass "sequel" to the first-year Policy, Politics and Social Change Program Community in Fisher Hassenfeld College House. As a current resident in the Policy, Politics, and Social Change Program Community, he said that he and other students in the program proposed PPASC2 because they wanted to continue exploring topics related to politics and political interest.

“A bunch of us wanted to continue doing what we are doing, like watching debates and being close together," Sheumaker said. "We really liked the community that we had of political discourse in our hall."

Sheumaker said that with the 2020 presidential election in the fall, PPASC2 will host debate-watching events, speaker events, and a trip to the presidential inauguration if their budget permits. 

Wharton and Engineering junior Mohamed Aly, who led the Muslim Life SDC proposal, said that the program will provide students with a space to celebrate Islamic culture, food, and history, and explore how Islam influences daily life in Philadelphia, one of the largest Muslim communities in North America. The Muslim Life SDC will be located on the ninth floor of Harnwell.

Credit: Zihan Chen The two new program communities will be located on the 3rd and 9th floors of Harnwell.

Aly added that the program will likely include trips to Islamic cultural sites in Philadelphia, events that feature traditional Islamic foods, and a speaker series to discuss Islamic history and culture.

"There is a lot of history of Islam in the city," Aly said. "It's been here for a very long time and very engrained in the culture, so especially in West Philadelphia, [there are] a lot of cool sites we can check out and places we can visit."

Aly said that he hopes to create an SDC that is "applicable to anyone, and anyone can just come and benefit from."

At least 12 students must come together to propose an idea for a residential program, according to Penn's SDC website. After the program is established, students can choose to open the program up to other residents, though those first involved in designing the SDC will receive priority. 

Keytack said there were four program proposals sent to CHAS for the 2020-2021 academic year by Nov. 1, from which CHAS selected two. Keytack added that the review criteria for proposals included completeness and quality of the application, presence of academic content, house partnership potential, and the ability for the program to connect residents under a single theme. Keytack said that a residential program "working group," which consisted of students, house deans, and housing staff, reviewed the applications.

Faculty Director of Harnwell College House Kent Bream wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian that funding for SDCs comes from regular floor budgets, normal house program budgets, and a supplemental budget provided by CHAS, the amount of which will be based on the demand of the SDCs. 

Keytack said that the implementation of SDCs is not directly related to the Second Year Housing Policy. Starting with the Class of 2024, all sophomores will be required to live on campus to strengthen the sense of community among sophomore students.

“That said, I think [SDCs] dovetail nicely with the [Second Year Housing] requirement, because it gives upperclass students, who are sticking around, new opportunities for program creation, community creation, and a whole host of things," Keytack said.

Nursing senior Pamela Espinal said that the SDCs can help students find a community and meet people with similar interests.

College sophomore Johanna Doherty echoed Espinal's thoughts, adding that she thinks SDCs are a great way to build community within where you live.

“The student-designed ones are a good idea, because they are probably more relevant to what people are interested in than the ones that the school designed," Doherty said.