At long last, Penn’s campus has reopened. With extensive testing procedures in place, vaccinations initiated, and students permitted in on-campus housing, Penn students and faculty are able to return to some degree of normalcy, albeit through a hybrid semester and mostly online classes.
However, our semester is already in jeopardy. Online, there have already been reports of first-year students partying in on-campus locations such as the Quad. However, for the sake of themselves, the University, and the West Philadelphia community, first-year students must hold back from partying or attending large gatherings indoors.
The temptation to hang out with peers and make new friends is understandable, especially given the very real isolation COVID-19 has brought to campus. However, it is one that first-year students must resist. Partying in the middle of a pandemic is something expressly prohibited by the University’s Student Campus Compact and could result in serious disciplinary consequences. Furthermore, campus closure is a real possibility if there are a sufficient number of COVID-19 cases. If students contract COVID-19 through a party or other large gathering, they're not just punishing themselves; they’re jeopardizing a semester that hundreds of people have worked so hard to build for thousands.
More important than University consequences are health ones. As a whole, 18-year-olds are unlikely to be hospitalized due to or die from COVID-19. However, unlikely does not mean impossible. Moreover, long-term health consequences, including cardiac and lung problems, are a very real possibility for young people who have recovered from the disease.
All of this comes on top of the risk that students pose to the broader Philadelphia community. COVID-19 has devastated Philadelphia residents, particularly the elderly and communities of color. By the time Penn students are infected, they will likely have interacted with restaurant employees and grocery store workers who may not have the same access to treatment as an Ivy League student.
None of this is to say that all first-year students must isolate themselves from the campus community. Small outdoor gatherings, as well as time spent with individuals in your household or pod, are good alternatives to attending parties. Nor is this to say that only first-year students are likely to engage in risky behavior. Upperclassmen, especially members of off-campus fraternities, hosted prohibited gatherings in the fall, and they must refrain from doing the same this semester.
COVID-19 has been hard for everyone. First years have made countless sacrifices, giving up social gatherings and happiness, and they have been robbed of a traditional college experience for the time being. However, that experience will come. For now, first-year students must remain diligent — and refrain from partying.
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.