A few weeks ago, Penn announced plans to host a hybrid format for the spring. Although most classes will still be online, students have been formally invited back to Philadelphia, a modified version of the on-campus housing experience will be available, and a number of campus spaces will reopen.
Penn's announcement regarding the spring also kicked off a desperate scramble by many to find housing, with students who stayed home in the fall desperate to find leases. Given the student body's general trend towards FOMO (or fear of missing out), there is considerable pressure for students, especially upperclassmen who haven't seen their friends in months, to come back to campus. However, there are a number of arguments in favor of staying home, such as the possibility of a lackluster social experience, the nature of the housing search, and the health of West Philadelphia. Owing to this, upperclassmen should not feel pressured to come back in the spring.
Arguably the most important reason for many upperclassmen to come back is the social experience. Many have reported experiences of loneliness during the fall semester, with the isolating nature of the pandemic taking a mental health toll. Coming back to campus could certainly help to alleviate that for many. However, if one feels that the social experience on campus would not improve their mental and physical well-being, they should not feel pressured to come back. While lacking in some regards, there are ways for students to safely socialize with their friends at home, such as through Zoom.
The chaotic nature of the housing search is another reason for upperclassmen not to feel pressured to come back. Housing is difficult enough to find as is. In the age of COVID, students are faced with health concerns, the possibility of another last-minute University cancellation, and higher prices off-campus due to increased demand. All of these combine to make living in Philadelphia, on-campus or off-campus, less attractive.
Furthermore, an increased number of Penn students, some of whom will inevitably behave irresponsibly, will likely increase community spread of COVID. While Penn students are certainly unlikely to suffer long term consequences from the disease, the same cannot be said for other members of the West Philadelphia community, especially if there is an influx of students in the area. While it is unreasonable to expect every student to stay home, it is reasonable to ask those who are able and willing to stay home to do so, and not to feel pressure to come back.
None of this is to say that all upperclassmen should not come back to Philadelphia in the spring. It is certainly understandable that many upperclassmen want or need to return to campus, owing to mental health deterioration, unsafe home environments, or being locked into off-campus leases. However, nobody should feel pressured to do so.
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.