World-renowned for its quality of education and notable alumni, Penn is deemed among the top universities for both undergraduate and graduate students alike, and it can be said that the Wharton School plays a considerable role in its prestige. For the same reason that former President Donald Trump did not waste any opportunity throughout his presidential campaigns, speeches, and interviews to mention his Wharton education, with fewer references to the University as a whole, many students can likely attest to the fact that Penn’s business school tends to receive a disproportionate amount of attention as compared to its other schools.
Ultimately, this translates into a commensurate discrepancy in the resources available to Wharton and non-Wharton students. While differences are certainly to be expected for students in different colleges and programs, there are some fundamental services that Penn need not provide only to a fourth of its student body. Now that we are on campus again, it is more evident than ever that this inequity exists.
For starters, Wharton offers two fully-funded programs for students and professors to meet off-campus and dine at local restaurants. Traveling off-campus and meeting outside of the traditional classroom environment provides a meaningful opportunity for students to interact with professors on a personal level and engage in non-academic discussion. Free meals with professors not only facilitate close student-faculty relationships but also offer an excellent way for students to network and develop insight into career paths with advice from experts across many fields. The Student-Faculty Meal Program invites undergraduate and MBA students to dine with a professor, and the Lunch & Learn program provides Wharton undergraduates the option to invite professors out. While such programs are currently on hold due to COVID-19 health concerns, students and professors would normally be given a budget that is fully-funded by the Wharton school.
While non-Wharton students are allowed to participate in the Take Your Professor/Mentor to Lunch/Dinner program, they can only dine with professors at a dining hall or at the Inn at Penn. Because students already have access to dining hall food, there is evidently a lower budget than that provided in the Wharton programs. The dining hall also remains an academic environment due to the fact that other students and members of the Penn community regularly congregate in such spaces, while Wharton students receive the unique opportunity to explore local restaurants.
On a more academic note, Huntsman Hall confers a host of exclusive study areas and services on Wharton students. Spread throughout the building are perhaps Huntsman Hall’s most distinctive feature, the group study rooms, which Wharton students can book on for a range of purposes, including peer collaboration, interviews, and presentations. Without a Wharton affiliation, students cannot reserve these rooms, whereas there are no limits to what campus facilities Wharton students are permitted to use. Huntsman Hall also provides Wharton students with a $20 printing budget and access to the public computers in the building, another two perks of attending Wharton which can easily be extended to the rest of the student body.
Some are eager to point out that opening the Huntsman GSRs to the entire student body would be a logistical nightmare. It is already difficult enough to book the GSRs, and multiplying this demand by four would make matters worse, not to mention crowd a building dedicated to Wharton classes. At the same time, many affirm that there are a number of viable alternatives, including the libraries, Weigle GSRs, and countless outdoor study spots.
However, it cannot go both ways. If these alternatives are equally appealing and as conducive to studying as the Huntsman GSRs, demand would not skyrocket even after a policy shift; it would only sharply increase if other on-campus study areas currently fall short. In other words, either this would not pose a logistical challenge, or we need to acknowledge that Penn should do a better job of creating study areas of similar quality to those in Huntsman Hall for all undergraduates. Non-Wharton students do in fact attend Wharton classes in this building. Denying access to GSRs, free printing, and public computers for no reason other than exclusivity undermines the experience of studying in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of Nursing.
At the end of the day, this is not a matter of whether or not Wharton students deserve certain benefits. It is a question of why the rest of the student body does not deserve the same treatment. Penn can do much better to guarantee equity regardless of a student’s chosen discipline.
ANDY YOON is a College and Wharton sophomore from Seoul, South Korea. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. EMILY CHANG is a College sophomore studying sociology from Holmdel, N.J. Her email address is email@example.com.