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Students are required to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week. Credit: Kylie Cooper

COVID-19

After initially planning to reopen campus in the fall, Penn reversed its plan and closed on-campus housing following a nationwide spike in cases just weeks before students were scheduled to move in. 

Many students — including many members of the Class of 2021 — still returned to the Philadelphia area in off-campus housing, prompting the University to offer weekly COVID-19 testing in Houston Hall to all students living near campus. The University-wide case count reached a semester high largely due to three individual households in late October when 3.3% of undergraduates tested positive and a total of 107 Penn community members contracted COVID-19. 

In the spring, Penn reopened on-campus housing to an overwhelmingly successful degree, with a semester positivity rate of 0.61%.

While the University avoided a large COVID-19 outbreak on campus, it saw a spike in cases in early February, when the undergraduate positivity rate reached 4.72%. Since then, Penn's COVID-19 positivity rate decreased for seven straight weeks to a semester low of 0.09% in the last week of the semester. 

On April 14, Penn administered the first COVID-19 vaccines at its on-campus vaccination site, a monumental step towards the University's reopening. Penn began vaccinating students five days later to widespread praise. Ahead of the University's planned in-person fall 2021 semester, Penn announced it will require all students to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Politics

Despite COVID-19 related guidelines and campus being closed, Penn community members turned out in droves to vote in the historic 2020 presidential election, which featured two candidates with strong ties to the University. 

A total of 689 ballots, not including dropped-off mail-in ballots, were cast in person on Election Day, according to election judges at the three campus polling sites. Eighty-three percent of ballots were cast for President Joe Biden, a former Penn presidential professor of practice.

Penn President Amy Gutmann and her husband were two of the 503 voters at Houston Hall on Tuesday. Before she voted, she spoke with The Daily Pennsylvanian about the importance of voting, particularly in the current political and social climate.

"Every election is incredibly important, but this election, given the pandemic, given the fight against racism, given that Philadelphia is the birthplace of freedom and justice, all of our students, members of the Penn community, and everyone across America should be voting in this election," Gutmann said.

Admissions

Penn accepted 5.68% of applicants to the Class of 2025, a record low and a significant decrease from last year's 8.07%. This year marked Penn's largest application pool in history, with 56,333 applicants — a 34% increase from last year.

The University also experienced a shakeup at the top of the Admissions Office for the first time in 12 years as dean of admissions and 1987 College graduate Eric Furda announced he would leave the Admissions Office at the end of 2020.

Vice Dean and Director of Admissions John McLaughlin assumed the role of interim dean of admissions and will serve in that capacity until July 1. Whitney Soule, the current senior vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid at Bowdoin College, will take over the position on July 1 and serve as the University's next vice provost and dean of admissions.

The Penn Admissions Office and the student-led Kite and Key Society debuted live, student-led, virtual tours. The live virtual tour was the first of its kind in the Ivy League and has continued to run throughout the 2020-2021 academic year.

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