This week, many Penn students celebrated the victory of former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
This election cycle was preceded by a wave of student activism, as Penn students spent the preceding months working to get out the vote and call attention to political and social issues. Students served as poll workers, helped register voters, participated in protests, and others petitioned the University to provide paid time off for employees on Election Day. A number of students even took leaves of absence to work for the Biden campaign, engaging voters both on Penn’s campus and beyond.
This engagement at the campus, city, and national levels is certainly inspiring. However, it should not come to an end with Biden’s election. Instead, Penn students must remain politically involved and work to hold leaders accountable.
Although the presidential election may have ended, there is still work to be done to ensure that Biden’s election will lead to policy changes. The Biden campaign features policy proposals for reforming healthcare, criminal justice, environmental laws, and more. However, it is not clear that all these policies will be enacted in practice, especially given the uncertainty whether Republicans or Democrats will control the Senate come January. Because of this, Penn students must continue to engage with their representatives and lobby for policy changes. Additionally, those students who feel that Biden’s policy proposals do not go far enough must continue to push for more significant reforms and hold the Biden administration accountable. By taking these steps, Penn students can help make sure that their work during the presidential campaign will lead to real change.
The United States also faces many structural issues which are larger than the president alone; these also deserve attention from Penn students. Earlier this year, many students participated in protests against police brutality and racism in the United States. The recent police killing of Walter Wallace Jr., which took place in West Philadelphia, highlights the need for police reform close to home as well. Structural issues like police brutality will not disappear with Biden’s election. Because of this, students must build on their pre-election activism by continuing to protest and work for political change.
Penn students face an added responsibility to engage in activism because they are Penn students. As the largest employer in Philadelphia, Penn is not separated from the city, but instead has a profound impact on the surrounding community. For instance, by choosing not to pay Payments In Lieu of Taxes, the University fails to support Philadelphia schools and communities as much as it could. Students should recognize the University’s role in the community and work to hold Penn’s leaders accountable when necessary. They can get involved through organizations such as Penn for PILOTs, Police Free Penn, and Fossil Free Penn, which are working to change Penn’s role in the community. Even while engaging with national issues, students must recognize the importance of being involved at the campus or local level.
Students should not see a Biden victory as a reason to disengage from politics. Rather, they should devote themselves to the many areas where there is still work to be done.
Editorials represent the majority view of members of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Editorial Board, which meets regularly to discuss issues relevant to Penn's campus. Participants in these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on related topics.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.