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34st_2021
Credit: Mia Kim

To say 2020 has been a difficult year has become a cliché at this point. Between event cancellations, rampant systemic racism, the loss of numerous American icons, and almost 300,000 deaths from an out-of-control virus, Americans have endured much over the past 12 months.

Many of these impacts have hit Penn students, faculty, and staff directly. Virtually all classes have been online since March of this year. The Ivy League has canceled multiple sports, with more to come. And a year of little in-person interaction has taken a significant toll on the physical and mental well being of students, many of whom were struggling even before the outbreak. Despite all this, Penn students should look forward to the coming months, for 2021 promises to be a better year for Quakers everywhere.

Most obviously, the resumption of campus operations will provide a tremendous boost to the spirits of Penn students. Penn students will be able to live in dorms, have more days off than this past semester, and have access to some campus facilities. The Penn community will obviously still have to be cautious, wearing masks and practicing social distancing, but those sacrifices will be worth it if it means having a campus community again. Moreover, although the Penn community is skeptical that the University will go back on its plans, expanded testing capacity makes this possibility less likely. 

For first-year students, this return will be particularly significant. Penn's Class of 2024 has been denied the benefits of a normal college experience, being forced to learn from home with minimal social company. Going your first semester without friendship, campus life, or freedom is a burden unique to first years. While the return to campus won't solve all of these problems, it will help Penn's youngest students in more ways than one. 

Furthermore, 2021 promises a fresh chance for student activism. With the conclusion of the presidential election and the approach of a new inauguration, the eyes of campus will finally turn away from the White House, and the notorious alumnus who occupies it. The resumption of relative normalcy in Washington D.C. gives students the chance to turn their full attention to issues closer to home, such as PILOTs, police reform and/or abolition, and the status of cultural houses

Finally, and most significantly, a vaccine appears to be on the verge of widespread distribution. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is significant for this country; it means a resumption of complete normalcy is in sight, and a likely significant decrease in deaths due to COVID-19. For Penn students and faculty in particular, a vaccine means the full resumption of all in-person classes, the ability to hold social gatherings without the possibility of distributing a deadly disease, real graduation ceremonies, and going back to a traditional college experience. While all of this is exceedingly unlikely to occur in the spring, it is entirely possible that the majority of Penn students will get these experiences again before they graduate.

Both Penn and the nation have been through much over the course of 2020. A global pandemic, systemic racism, police brutality, and a contested election have all taken a toll on our mental healths. The problems from this calendar year won't go away on Jan. 1, 2021. But better days are ahead.

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.