The Penn community saw an increase in student protests related to the University’s relationship with the wider Philadelphia area.
Over 100 protestors interrupted President Liz Magill’s Convocation speech in August, organizing against the eviction of University City Townhomes residents and demanding University support.
Fossil Free Penn members camped out on College Green for over five weeks in the fall. They demanded that the University divest from fossil fuels, commit to preserving the UC Townhomes, and make payments in lieu of taxes to Philadelphia public schools. FFP stormed the field during Penn’s Homecoming football game against Yale, interrupting play for over an hour and leading to 19 arrests.
Students also organized in opposition to the proposed Philadelphia 76ers arena near Chinatown. Students for the Preservation of Chinatown, a coalition of college students in the Philadelphia area, marched across Penn’s campus in November to protest the development. In March, they demonstrated outside a Board of Trustees meeting, calling on the University to cut all ties with the proposed arena’s developers.
The influx of student activism ignited discussion over the University’s open expression guidelines, which are intended to protect free speech on campus. The Daily Pennsylvanian spoke with administrators and student organizers to better understand the responsibilities of the Committee on Open Expression and the guidelines’ practical effect on protests. Recently, FFP members have objected to new proposed interpretations of the open expression guidelines.
Housing and dining
Penn entered a three-year lease with The Radian, converting the off-campus apartment complex into a student housing option starting August 2023. The University made the decision to ensure there would be enough rooms for upperclassmen during the closure of the Quad for renovations, which are set to happen bit by bit until 2027.
Over 700 rising juniors and seniors landed on the waiting list for on-campus housing for the 2023-24 school year. Many students said that the random selection of applicants caused them stress and uncertainty as they waited for a housing assignment.
Penn Dining expanded its food offerings based on student responses in the Fall Dining Survey. The changes included smoothies at breakfast, more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at Gourmet Grocer, and more frequent made-to-order pasta at the dining halls.
In a winter inspection by the Philadelphia Office of Food Protection, Penn Dining locations received 100 observations of health code violations. Hill House and 1920 Commons failed to meet compliance standards set by the Philadelphia Department of Health. Penn Dining pledged to create a new action plan for meeting health and safety regulations, and Hill successfully completed its re-inspection.
In April, Penn Dining reinforced its policy of requiring students to show their PennCards before swiping at dining locations. Some students criticized the stricter policy for limiting their autonomy over the meal plan and preventing them from using excess meal swipes to grant other students access to dining facilities.
The DP analyzed food options for students beyond the meal plan, such as the on-campus food truck scene and the affordability of nearby Bring-Your-Own restaurants.
Penn received the largest number of applications in its history, with over 59,000 students applying for the Class of 2027. The University declined to share the admit rate and demographic data of the admitted class, continuing its decision from last year. Penn also eliminated the enrollment deposit for the Class of 2027, meaning admitted students no longer need to put any money toward their tuition until the first semester.
Hundreds of admitted students visited campus for Quaker Days in April, marking a return to all-day programming. Kite and Key tour guides received compensation from Penn for their shifts for the first time beginning in the fall of 2022.
The DP spoke to alumni, students, and college admissions experts to examine the refinement of Penn’s legacy admissions policy. The policy’s wording changed under Dean of Admissions Whitney Soule, who began her post in July 2021, suggesting a phasing out of a policy favoring legacy applicants. Jordan Pascucci stepped into her role as the new vice dean and director of admissions in March 2023, replacing John McLaughlin.
Penn also planned for the potential overturn of affirmative action by the Supreme Court this summer. Administrators said that the University remained committed to creating a diverse student body and that the admissions office’s exact response would depend on the ruling.