Students expressed frustrations with the University's lack of clarity and short notice for moving out after Penn announced on Wednesday afternoon that all classes would move online for the spring semester to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The email sent by President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett to the Penn community instructed students who are on campus to move out by March 15 and those who are off campus for spring break not to return. The email read that University staff will work with students living in the College Houses or University housing who do not come back to campus from spring break to facilitate the return of their belongings.
Engineering sophomore Jasper Huang criticized the short notice from Penn, adding that the March 15 mandate may require him to stay with a friend living off campus until flight prices to San Jose, Calif. go down. Huang said he did not go back home for break after canceling plans to go to Paris with friends due to the coronavirus outbreak.
He added that other universities had responded to the outbreak more quickly.
“Penn seems to be behind the curve compared to other universities,” Huang said.
College junior and former DP reporter Shana Vaid agreed, adding that she felt the University was late in announcing the move to online classes, particularly after five other Ivy League institutions had done so earlier this week. Harvard College announced on Tuesday morning that all students would have to move out of their dorms by March 15, the same date Penn has asked students to leave the dorms by.
Wharton senior Rosie Nguyen echoed Huang's and Vaid's thoughts, describing the four-day notice as "ridiculous," particularly for first-generation, low-income students, international students, and students who live far from Penn.
Nguyen added she is disappointed that a traditional commencement ceremony may not happen for the Class of 2020.
“Being first-generation, [commencement] was something that was going to be big for my family,” Nguyen said.
Engineering senior Michelle Shen added that she and her friends were also disappointed to have to spend their last semester off campus and possibly without commencement.
Shen said she was surprised at Penn's “drastic” decision to move classes online for the remainder of the semester and require students to move out.
“I thought large public gatherings and events would be canceled, but I didn't really think people would be forced to move out of dorms and stop going to classes,” Shen said.
Shen said she did not know whether she would remain in her off-campus apartment or return to her home in Saratoga, Calif.
Nguyen said that she will stay in her off-campus apartment for the rest of the semester, because she had already paid rent for the semester and the cost of a flight hack home is a barrier to her as a FGLI student.
Wharton first-year Jianan Zhang said she plans to fly back to Philadelphia tomorrow to bring her belongings home to Miami but is unsure how she will find storage on such short notice for the items she cannot bring on the plane.
Zhang added that she wants more clarity from the University about meal plans, housing, and summer programs.
“I think we deserve to know whether or not we will be refunded for meal plans or housing, and whether summer programs like PURM [Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program] are still happening,” Zhang said.
Vaid said she also wanted clarity on whether the dining hall and other hourly workers at Penn would continue to be paid.
Wharton and Engineering first-year Aryan Chauhan said that he was not surprised about the decision after many other colleges made the decision to send students home. He said he had already booked a ticket back to India for this weekend.
Online classes held on video conferencing services such as Zoom and BlueJeans will pose a challenge for himself and other international students because of the time zone difference, Chauhan added.
Nguyen said this was not the way she imagined ending her time at Penn.
“A lot of people are going home without goodbyes,” Nguyen said. “That was my last time seeing a lot of people."
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