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letter-to-admin

Photo from Penn Student Government 

Dear President Gutmann, Provost Pritchett, Mr. Carnaroli, Dr. Cade, Dr. Emanuel, and Dr. Dubé, 

As members of Penn Student Government, we hope to advocate for the needs of those most vulnerable in our community at this time.

We are concerned.

What makes the Penn community so special is the people. Penn prides itself on its diverse student body, composed of people from around the world with a wide range of socioeconomic, racial-ethnic backgrounds, and lived experiences. It is Penn’s responsibility as a university and community to ensure that all students feel safe and comfortable during this unprecedented time. After speaking with numerous undergraduate students, we are sharing a unified message to express that Penn has not fully met this commitment. 

While we applaud the University’s efforts to help keep our community safe, we cannot help but feel stressed and scared for our peers, some of whom are unable to safely return to their home environments. Many are returning to areas that are facing war, Level 3 COVID-19 advisories, or homes that are emotionally and/or physically abusive. There are also international students whose visas expire at the end of the semester.

We believe it is our duty as student representatives to bring attention to the severe impact the University’s response has had on students’ wellbeing. Taking all these thoughts from students, the University, and public health leaders into account, we have compiled four key recommendations regarding students' needs at this time.

  1. Alleviate strict housing limitations that have caused numerous students to be required to leave on-campus housing regardless of if they have somewhere to go.
  2. Inform students regarding why they were denied housing.
  3. Provide more accessible and tangible resources for students to find alternative housing if they are unable to return home (e.g., publishing the Mutual Aid Form, publicizing the financial support being offered).
  4. Actively distribute a more tangible and comprehensive financial aid reimbursement FAQ outlining resources available to students.

Numerous Penn traditions and on-campus events, from sporting to performing arts, have abruptly been canceled, generating feelings of shock and sadness from most students. To make matters worse, students now face the last-minute stress of finding alternative living and learning accommodations, despite already expressing their evident lack of such options to the University.

We understand that honoring all requests seemed neither feasible nor medically wise from the University’s perspective. However, we strongly believe that many of our peers' needs are compelling enough to overcome any barriers that stand in the way of them being able to safely remain on-campus. When taking into account some students’ risks for mental or physical harm by returning home, it is clear that staying on campus is the more appropriate, or only, option. Despite this, the University has, with no apparent criteria, concrete reasoning, or alternative options, approved only a few students’ requests to remain on campus for the remainder of the semester.

We are concerned for the members of our community who are under insurmountable stress as they attempt to find somewhere to move in just 48 hours. We know you share these concerns with us and see the importance of maintaining the wellbeing of our student community. Moving forward, we want to have a more transparent dialogue with administrators regarding their decisions to ensure that our community members feel informed and heard. We hope to be able to work with you, no matter the distance, to resolve this problem facing the Penn community. 

Sincerely, 

Mercedes Owens (C’21) 

Undergraduate Assembly Secretary 2018-2019 | mowens9@sas.upenn.edu

Anthony Scarpone-Lambert (N’21)

Class Board 2021 Executive Vice President | antsl@nursing.upenn.edu

In Collaboration With:

Lizzie Youshaei, Sam Strickberger, and Derek Nhieu, members of Class Board; Olivia Crocker, Abraham Sandoval Iniguez, Deika Albert, Elizabeth (Bizzy) Vinton, and Urooba Abid, members of Nominations and Elections Committee; Carson Eckhard and Karen Herrera, members of Student Committee on Undergraduate Education; Chris Mountanos, Linda Ashmead, Fisher Taylor, Helen Zhang, Josh Rosenberg, Delaney Keenan, Natasha Guy, Daphne Wiredu, Marilyn Pesantez, Jane Huang, Navpreet Reehal, Shanaya Cross, and Bernie Wang, members of Social Planning and Events Committee; Grayson Peters and Janice Owusu, members of Student Activities Council; Kevin Zhou, Mary Sadallah, Jude Dartey, Kristen Ukeomah, and Ryan Bush, members of Undergraduate Assembly; Lucia Gonzalez, member of FGLI Dean’s Advisory Board; Daniel Gonzalez and Abby Laform, members of Penn First. 

MERCEDES OWENS is a College junior from Lexington, Tenn. studying economics. She was the Secretary of the Undergraduate Assembly from 2018-2019. Her email is mowens9@sas.upenn.edu.

ANTHONY SCARPONE-LAMBERT is a Nursing junior from Chalfont, Pa. in The Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation. He is the Executive Vice President of Class Board 2021. His email is antsl@nursing.upenn.edu

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