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College Hall on Dec. 9, 2023. Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

The First-Generation, Low-Income Dean’s Advisory Board commemorated the life of College sophomore Nathaniel Gordon in a March 30 statement.

In the statement, FGLI DAB also pointed to barriers that FGLI students face at Penn — listing club fees, textbook costs, and "outright discrimination." The statement called on Penn administration and student body to "recognize how apathy and exclusion thrive on this campus, especially towards FGLI students." 

"FGLI students face more barriers with less means to overcome them in comparison to our affluent peers," the statement reads. "This is not to say that affluent students do not struggle, but rather that Penn has a pattern of treating FGLI students and their experiences as an afterthought."

A University spokesperson and College of Arts and Sciences Dean Paul Sniegowski did not respond to requests for comment.

A FGLI DAB leader — who wrote the statement with assistance and review from other members of FGLI DAB — called on Penn to better support FGLI students through further investment into mental health services and ensuring students are aware of the resources available to them. 

"Whether it's a matter of drawing attention to these resources, or better funding them and increasing the amount of support they're given by administration, or training professors and club advisors on how to run an inclusive space — there are so many things the University can do," the leader, who was granted anonymity in fear of retaliation, said. 

FGLI DAB wrote the statement following Gordon’s death on March 23. The FGLI DAB leader said the statement was published in an effort to commemorate Gordon, a member of their community, and that the Board was “not trying to take a shot at Penn administration.” 

Gordon graduated from high school through the Gateway to College Program of the Community College of Philadelphia, which provides academic support to students and helps them earn college credit while in high school. Gordon was the first participant in a Philadelphia School District alternative program to attend an Ivy League university in recent memory, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

According to the statement, Gordon told Gateway Director Monifa Young that he "lacked a sense of belonging" at Penn, and described the "affluent environment" as a "culture shock."

"We as FGLI students are incredibly concerned with how these feelings shaped Nathaniel's experiences at Penn," the statement reads. "Penn capitalizes on our resiliency and struggles without acknowledging its role in perpetuating it, and we are here to say that we deserve better."

The FGLI DAB leader explained that, while the FGLI DAB Board never met or knew Gordon, they were "devastated" to learn about him "through his obituary, and not through him as a person or the accomplishments he would have made at Penn." 

The statement calls upon all Penn community members to hold themselves accountable for contributing to a campus environment “where students are forced to suffer in silence" and see their pain often ignored.

"We deserve to be acknowledged, our pain should not be normal, we deserve to be happy and have the same opportunities as everyone else here," they said.

FGLI DAB is a student group charged with hearing the "academic and social challenges of FGLI students" and discussing them with Sniegowski and other administrators. The group focuses its work on the College but advocates for students in all four undergraduate schools.

The group’s statement ends with a commemoration of Gordon.

“We write this statement to honor Nathaniel Gordon. May he rest in peace,” the statement reads.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to provide additional clarity about FGLI DAB’s statement on the death of College sophomore Nathaniel Gordon.

Additionally, shortly after this article was published, a source mentioned in this article contacted the DP requesting their name be retracted from the article after receiving significant retaliation. The request was granted after receiving approval from members of the DP’s Executive Board, following our company-wide policy on retractions outlined here.