This week, many Penn students who have spent the entire semester on or near campus will travel back to their home states or countries. For all, Thanksgiving is a much-needed break from the stresses of school. With that period of relaxation and associated travel, however, comes the threat of COVID-19.
Once the holiday is over, students have the unfortunate reality of continued classes and finals, possibly stretching as late as Dec. 22. For some, the nearly month-long period remaining serves as a temptation to return to campus. In particular, students who live in or relatively close to Philadelphia may make the impulsive decision to do so. However, when possible, Penn students should avoid coming back to campus after Thanksgiving, and should instead stay home for the rest of the semester.
There are several arguments for students to stay home for the rest of the semester. Among the most obvious is the social environment one will likely encounter. In addition to those who decided to stay home for the entire semester, there will be many more who choose not to come back after the Thanksgiving holiday. This will create an isolated feeling, one similar to the one that occurred last spring after campus was evacuated. Isolation is bad enough at Penn in the age of COVID-19; there's no need to make it worse by returning to an empty and isolated campus.
Additionally, not coming back allows one to spend time with their families and friends. In normal years, students who spent months on campus could make plans to spend a weekend or two off-campus. However, in the age of COVID-19, that is a non-starter, as the added travel could potentially jeopardize people. Staying at home for the rest of the semester eliminates that barrier, and would allow students to gain some much-needed family time.
Staying home benefits the West Philadelphia community as well. While Penn students are typically young and healthy, the same cannot be said for all residents of West Philadelphia, many of whom interact directly or indirectly with the Penn community on a daily basis. With a lack of adequate health infrastructure in certain areas of West Philly, such interactions could prove harmful, possibly even deadly. Moreover, students returning wouldn't necessarily help the local economy, especially in light of dining and business restrictions recently imposed due to a COVID-19 spike.
Not every student can or should stay home. For those with unsafe or unsatisfactory home environments, going back to Penn may be the best, if not only, option. However, there are a significant number of students who can afford to stay home. Those students should 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.