The Class of 2020's junior year at Penn saw a record-breaking turnout at the 2018 midterm elections and the emergence of an admissions scandal that took the nation by storm in spring 2019.
Penn students turned out in record-breaking numbers for the 2018 midterm elections. On Nov. 6, 2018, a total of 2,762 ballots were cast on campus, more than double the count from the 2014 midterms.
In February 2019, former Penn Law professor and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) officially announced her candidacy for the 2020 presidential race. In April 2019, former Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor and former Vice President Joe Biden followed suit. The former Penn professors joined a crowded Democratic field that included figures such as U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
Former Penn men’s basketball coach Jerome Allen pleaded guilty in October 2018 to accepting bribes in exchange for the recruitment of a player. In March 2019, Allen testified in a federal trial that Penn parent Philip Esformes paid him to facilitate his son’s recruitment in 2015.
Days after Allen's testimony, court documents unsealed by the United States Department of Justice charged 50 people for partaking in a bribery scam to get prospective students into elite schools. The crimes included bribing college officials to falsify identities of students as recruited athletes and cheating on entrance exams.
Although Penn was not among the institutions named in the national scandal, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda told The Daily Pennsylvanian that Penn would consider revising its recruitment and admissions processes.
On March 18, 2019, bank records showed that Esformes sent more than $400,000 to the charity of William Singer, CEO of college preparatory company The Key Worldwide Foundation.
On April 4, Esformes was found guilty on 20 charges, including bribery, in Miami federal court, and later sentenced to 20 years in prison, according to the Miami Herald. Allen was sentenced to four years of probation, 600 hours of community service, and a fine of $202,000 on July 1. The next day, Penn Athletics removed Allen from its Hall of Fame.
In September 2018, Penn announced that all undergraduate sophomore students must live in college housing beginning with the Class of 2024, who will arrive on campus in fall 2020. The decision was part of an initiative to create a "Second Year Experience Program" for sophomore students.
"We believe that a two-year College House system will measurably strengthen the sense of community among our first and second-year students — promoting students’ achievement and well-being, enhancing support for students’ academic and social lives," Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett wrote in an email to the Penn community.
Former UA President and College 2019 graduate Michael Krone told the DP that Greek leaders from the Panhellenic Council and Interfraternity Council met with administrators earlier that week to discuss the implications the decision would have on Greek life at Penn. Greek leaders raised concerns that they may struggle to fill their houses and eventually risk losing them if sophomores are no longer able to live in these chapter houses.
In October 2018, Executive Director for Business Services Doug Berger told the DP that the Quad would undergo a renovation as part of the University's plan to overhaul major buildings on campus. The renovation, which will likely take place three to five years from now, will be the Quad's first renovation in approximately 20 years.
The same month, nearly two dozen rooms in the Quad experienced mold issues, prompting health concerns and students relocating to other rooms on campus.
On Dec. 3, 2018, Penn broke ground on the construction of its record-breaking $163 million dorm, New College House West, on the corner of 40th and Walnut streets. NCHW is slated to open in fall 2021.
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