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.
The death toll from the Feb. 6 earthquake in Turkey and Syria exceeds 46,000 — it is one of the deadliest earthquakes worldwide since 2000. Countless apartment buildings were flattened and even conservative estimates of repair costs are in the billions. It is also not over. There was a 6.3 magnitude aftershock just this past Monday, with more to follow.
In such a dire and desperate situation, members and groups in the Penn community have come together to support the Turkish and Syrian people. Penn Arab Student Society, Fenjan: The Middle East Journal, Penn Muslim Students Association, Penn Afghan Students Association, and Penn Students Against the Occupation all joined forces to collect donations for survivors. More recently, the Assembly of International Students hosted a bake sale with Turkish pastries throughout this week to raise further funds and awareness for the cause.
So why haven’t we received ‘A Message to Penn Undergraduates’ from Penn’s administration, or any official statement from President Liz Magill?
Thus far, the only communication that Penn has sent out regarding this tragedy has been from secondary sources. In a Feb. 16 email to students in the College of Arts and Sciences, Dean Paul Sneigowski addressed the “death, injury, destruction, and displacement on an almost unimaginable scale.” Penn Medicine has pledged to match the first $50,000 in community donations dollar for dollar, and a Penn Today article outlined the most effective ways that we can respond. However, undergraduates in the School of Nursing and Engineering, as well as both undergraduates and graduate students at Wharton have yet to receive communication acknowledging the disaster.
Though these are all admirable efforts on the part of certain groups within the University, key members of the Penn administration have remained silent. In a Feb. 13 letter to President Liz Magill, Provost Beth Winklestein, and other Penn administrators, Penn’s Middle East Center called for University-wide public statements and, if possible, donation-matching.
Penn’s silence from its key leaders is particularly disappointing given the action taken by neighboring Philadelphia universities: both Drexel University and Temple University have shared donation links with students. It is important to highlight events that Penn deems email-worthy during this time — all undergraduates were notified for Super Bowl Sunday, as well as invitations to holiday study breaks and open forums (all events occurring after the destruction in Turkey and Syria). When Russia invaded Ukraine last year, ‘A Message in Support of Ukraine’ was sent out to all Penn students on Feb. 28, four days after the invasion began. As of publication, it has been 17 days since the earthquake, and Penn has yet to send out a response or make a public statement.
As an educational institution that prides itself on its commitment to global engagement and social responsibility, it’s surprising that Penn has not sent any University-wide email regarding the crisis in Turkey and Syria. In times like these, unified support from the entire University community sends a powerful message to the Penn community highlighting the significant impact the earthquakes have had on society and even students on campus. While it is commendable that certain groups from the University have expressed their support for Turkish and Syrian students, this lack of unified support from the University sends a message of indifference on the part of key leaders.
Unfortunately, we are not the only student body that feels this way. Harvard, Yale, Brown, and Princeton have also yet to receive any communication from their university administrations. It is disheartening to see such a tragic event being overlooked by other prominent academic institutions. Students at Harvard and Princeton have both called on their universities about the lack of unified communication, stating that “the letter will bring awareness to fundraising organizations that are working to help those affected by the earthquakes” and “perhaps we are simply not considered a part of the humanity that Princeton serves.”
Columbia’s President Bollinger, on the other hand, has taken the lead in providing an acknowledgment of the event promptly a day after the first earthquake: “On behalf of the entire University community, I send my profound condolences to all those affected by this devastating tragedy.”
We call on President Liz Magill and other administrative associates to take action in providing support for those affected by the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. We urge them to use their platform to raise awareness and to help organize fundraising efforts towards a centralized donation system. We also call on Penn to match the donations collected through community efforts — similar to Penn Medicine. By doing so, we can make a meaningful contribution towards providing aid to those in need and send a message that Penn values global citizenship and social responsibility. It is time for us to come together as a community and take action towards supporting those affected by this tragedy.
Best stated by Dr. King, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Penn must be held accountable for its silences on global tragedies, and we must do our best to show support for those in need.
Places to donate and show your support:
- The Philadelphia Inquirer: Where to Donate
- Islamic Relief USA
- Syrian American Medical Society
- Center for Disaster Philanthropy
- Plan International
- Direct Relief
- Charity Navigator
- Turkish Philanthropy Funds