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New College House West under construction in Aug. 20, 2019. Credit: Chase Sutton


In 2018, turnout among Penn students for the Nov. 6 midterm elections was higher than that of any midterm election in the previous 12 years. Turnout more than doubled from 1,113 votes cast in the 2014 midterms to 2,762 cast in 2018 at Penn’s six on-campus polling stations. 

The midterm elections were dominated by Penn alumni, and other candidates with ties to the University, such as U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Mt. Lebanon), who graduated from the College in 2006. Penn Law professor Amy Wax, who is currently under University investigation for her history of promoting racist rhetoric, criticized the women behind the sexual misconduct allegations levied against then-Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh. 

In April 2019, former Penn Presidential Professor of the Practice Joe Biden, founder of the Penn Biden Center, declared his candidacy for U.S. president. He later secured the presidency against former President and 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump in November 2020. 

Housing and Dining

The Class of 2022 began its first year at Penn amid a citywide heat wave. Temperatures in Philadelphia during 2018 New Student Orientation reached a high of 95 degrees – which caused  a number of first years living in Kings Court English College House to sleep in lounges and computer labs to cool off. In October 2018, Penn said it planned to install air conditioning in KCECH and Du Bois College House during the summer of 2019. 

In September 2018, Penn announced it would require all undergraduate sophomore students to live on campus in college houses beginning in the fall of 2021, when New College House West opened with a capacity of 450 students. Construction of NCHW first began on Dec. 3, 2018. 

Dining options at and around Penn continued to change during the 2018-2019 academic year. In December 2018, Penn Law students protested the closure of the now-former Starbucks location at 34th and Chestnut streets, and the largest Panera in Philadelphia opened in May 2019 on the west side of Penn’s campus. 


In December 2018, Penn men’s basketball pulled off a historic upset against Villanova in front of a raucous crowd at the Palestra. The loss, by a score of 78-75, was Villanova’s first against a Big 5 opponent in six years and its first versus the Quakers since 2002. 

While Penn was not one of the institutions named in the nationwide college admissions scandal of 2019, attention centered on bribery allegations against former Penn men's basketball star and coach Jerome Allen, who pleaded guilty to receiving thousands of dollars in bribes from Penn parent Philip Esformes. Esformes also sent more than $400,000 to the charity of William "Rick" Singer, the college consultant at the center of the admissions scandal.

On April 5, 2019, Esformes was found guilty on 20 charges, including bribery. Allen was ultimately sentenced to four years of probation, 600 hours of community service, and a fine of $202,000 on July 1. The next day, Penn Athletics removed Allen from its Hall of Fame.