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Credit: Isabella Cossu

Class begins in 18 days. However, on Tuesday, Penn boldly reneged on its original plan to bring thousands of students to campus. 

Since the first announcement two months ago, a lot has transpired. Cases across the country have continued to rise sharply. The pandemic’s staggering trajectory continues: the U.S. recently confirmed its 5 millionth case of COVID-19. With over 1,000 families losing loved ones a day and with no end to the rampage in sight, Penn’s fall revision plans are well-warranted. That doesn’t make them any less disappointing to the many students who planned to return to campus in the coming days. 

Penn should have made the decision to keep students away from campus in the fall months ago. That would have given the Penn community more time to adjust, especially when this year has all of us craving stability. Nevertheless, we should embrace the new plan and allow it to be a piercing reminder of how dangerous the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be. 

There are multiple reasons to react with a round of applause for Penn's updated plans. Firstly, it is safer for everyone - including the West Philadelphia community and the city of Philadelphia as a whole. Philadelphia's communities do not need heightened opportunities of exposure to COVID-19 - they are already struggling enough. With young children being murdered, gun violence rising throughout the city, poverty pervading, and unemployment rates skyrocketing, Philadelphia’s highest priority needs to be constructive change. Ultimately, Penn’s new plan will lead to weakened chances for transmission and less loss of life. Through the updated plan, Penn is offering a timely positive impact on the City of Brotherly Love. 

Penn should also be applauded for its 3.9% decrease in tuition and 10% decrease in the General Fee. Back when Princeton announced they were shaving off 10% off their tuition, I had hoped Penn would implement a similar policy. Under the circumstances of the pandemic, and with the economy growing more shaky by the day, spending less is becoming increasingly important. The economic turmoil the pandemic has created and will continue to create are an undeniably uncertain territory. We need to be mindful of new financial developments.

The updated plans also include an expansion of last spring's opt-in pass/fail grading system. This vital protection is an important option that needs to be accessible to Penn students, along with no change in financial aid budgeting and the availability for aid to support food costs. With these advancements, Penn is both assisting its vulnerable students and responding to the academic related stresses that will crucially impact the Penn community. 

It is important for Penn to step up in these vital ways. With political divisiveness being at an all time high, so much so that children are being placed in the middle of fierce debates surrounding the impact of the pandemic and school openings, it is imperative that the entire Penn community lead by example and pursue practical safety measures.  

Between Penn’s revised fall plans, the announcement of major college football cancellations, and former Penn Professor Joe Biden’s historic selection of Senator Kamala Harris as his vice presidential nominee, this week has been full of intriguing and forward-thinking developments. Ultimately, these developments incorporate more optimism for a less chaotic future than much of the last few months have provided.

JESSICA GOODING is a rising College senior from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania studying History and English. Her email address is jgooding@sas.upenn.edu.

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