In 2020, the Daily Pennsylvanian published an editorial encouraging students to look forward to 2021. After all, at that time, students were being welcomed back onto campus, a COVID-19 vaccine was on the way, and there were bountiful new opportunities for student activism beyond the 2020 presidential election.
Three years later, our trajectory as a campus community is considerably less certain. We have been shaken by international war and tragedy in Ukraine, in Israel and Gaza, and in countless other regions. There is no foreseeable end to these conflicts, and we are entering into another precarious presidential election year. While there will likely be sunny moments in 2024, it would be dishonest to say that 2024 is only clear skies ahead.
We don’t know what is going to happen, and we don’t have control over it. What we do have control over is how we respond.
When moving forward through difficult times, it is critical that we practice and recognize compassion. Give what you can provide and what those around you need. Compassion is not just about grand gestures. It’s also holding a door open, handing someone a box of tissues when they sneeze, or offering a kind compliment when it wasn’t expected. It’s waiting for your friend to finish collecting their thoughts before you jump in. It’s providing extensions and flexibility for peers who are struggling to finish assignments. It’s being a shoulder to cry on or just being physically present when someone needs you.
Compassion reminds people that they exist, that they are heard, and that people care about them. In tumultuous times like these, not all of these feel like a given, even if we think they are.
At Penn, we struggle not only with macroscopic global trends but also with the minutiae of the University student experience. Our challenges extend beyond the headlines that have attracted national media attention. While answering big questions about free speech, political influence, and rampant fraud at Penn and peer institutions, we have also dealt with issues that are closer to home. How do we access the academic and mental health resources we need? How do we burst the Penn Bubble and address homelessness, public safety, and drug use in our community? How do we decide what to study or who we study with? How do we do our laundry?
It is important that both the Daily Pennsylvanian and Penn as a community continue to address the macroscopic and the microscopic of our news cycle, as the two often intersect and overlap. We must also be mindful that, at the end of the day, we are all human. And as members of this community, we have many shared experiences, responsibilities, and thoughts about the world around us, despite our many differences.
We never really know, definitively, what other people are going through. So, in difficult times such as these, it is important that we avoid rapid-fire and knee-jerk reactions and each do our part to spread understanding and kindness.
What this can mean in practice is engaging in conversation with people we disagree with —moving beyond our status quo and being open to having our opinions challenged. It can mean purposefully looking for common ground, listening actively, and asking thoughtful questions. It can also mean being vulnerable and honest about when words hurt and when we need to step away from a stressful situation. Throughout all of this, compassion is key — both for others and for yourself.
As we all wrap up our final exams and projects and depart Penn for our holiday break, let’s contemplate what lies ahead in 2024 and reflect on all that has happened in 2023. Let’s weigh the toll that the year has taken on our psyche whilst acknowledging the compassion that we have been given and that we have given out in turn.
Let’s be deliberate about continuing to bring compassion into our lives in 2024; with it, we can make the days ahead better.
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. Editorial writers are not involved in any news reporting on related topics.