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Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

My time at The Daily Pennsylvanian taught me an important lesson about the communities we’re a part of and why we pour so much of ourselves into the spaces we inhabit. I originally joined the organization during my first semester at Penn, hoping to surround myself with like-minded people while my classmates were all scattered across the globe due to the pandemic. Four years later, I now know that in addition to managing classes, work, and other commitments, we must be intentional about immersing ourselves in spaces that help us grow and be a positive force for change.

When I joined the DP, I thought that this was the place where I could do just that. I saw the impact of my words, and I am grateful for the opportunity to amplify stories from students and local activists about police violence, Penn’s culpability in the underfunding of local public schools, and the University’s role in the displacement of long-time Philadelphians.

The people I spoke with for these articles embodied this positive change that I wanted to make. Simultaneously, however, I also began to learn more about how the DP can cause harm. Other columnists have explored the DP’s exclusionary history and how the problems we see today are often the result of poor representation or access. Spearheaded by the recently created Diversity Committee, the DP’s 2023 demographics report highlights the underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic students within the DP when compared to Penn’s undergraduate population, the low level of participation among Muslim students, and the disparity between the percentage of first-generation, low-income students on the company’s board versus those just on the staff.

I began to understand that these discrepancies do not just “happen.” Rather, they are the consequences of poor-quality coverage or editorial ignorance directed at these communities over time, coupled by the institutional barriers and apprehension that many marginalized groups feel toward the DP. 

Given these factors, why did I commit so much of my college experience to the DP? 

I believe that we have a duty to leave the world better than we found it. I saw the importance and potential of the DP, and I wanted to be a part of the process to rebuild relationships with these communities the DP has neglected. Disappointed by the knowledge of the harm caused by previous editorial coverage and internal decisions, I put everything I had into my work at the DP, aiming to leverage the organization’s platform to create a more equitable environment for journalists to come.

Even at the end of my tenure as editor-in-chief, I know the DP remains imperfect, and there is so much more work to be done. At the same time, I know it is important to recognize and commend the good work that my team accomplished last year. I am proud of the news department’s intrepid coverage of labor organizing and Penn’s alleged union-busting tactics, the first staff editorials being published since 2021 thanks to the opinion department, and the growth of the @dailypennsports Instagram account supported by the collaboration between the sports, multimedia, and social media departments.

More than any of that, I am proud of the intentionality and thoroughness that went into every piece of content we published. As the person who fielded suggestions, feedback, and criticism from fellow Penn community members, alumni, and other stakeholders, I understand people’s frustrations and concerns. There is still a lot that can be improved, but I can confidently say that the staff approached each day with a desire to do better than the day before.

My time at the DP has given me the privilege to learn so much about different niches across the University. The problems I see within the DP are far from unique to just one organization: they are emblematic of the issues that exist within the wider Penn community. At a campus that has historically housed one of the most depressed student bodies across the country, being intentional about creating spaces centered in care and justice becomes even more vital. 

As I prepare to leave Penn and I reflect on how resources and spaces are distributed across campus, the inequities become strikingly noticeable. For decades, students have advocated for diversifying Locust Walk — arguing that this main fixture of Penn does a disservice to the diversity that exists across the University due to the prevalence of administrative and fraternity buildings. The first major changes to Locust Walk in 1973 were a result of collective action when students and other community members occupied College Hall for four days to protest a series of rapes on campus, eventually leading to the creation of the Penn Women’s Center

Change doesn’t stop there, though. We can see these same conversations happening today when looking at cultural centers’ continued requests for more space on campus. After being located in the basement of ARCH for years, the University finally dedicated the entire building to the cultural resource centers last school year — even though the leaders of Penn’s main minority coalition groups have repeatedly asked for their own buildings on Locust Walk to ensure students from marginalized backgrounds feel embraced and empowered on campus.

These conversations are also exemplified by the work of students protesting Penn’s response to the ongoing genocide in Gaza. Student protesters and organizations like uPAO (formerly known as Penn Against the Occupation), Freedom School for Palestine, and Penn Faculty for Justice in Palestine established an encampment and created a space where Palestinian students feel heard at a university that remains complicit in the genocide of an entire state. They have shown us what it means to take up space to raise awareness and make positive change.

Aside from organizers’ primary demands surrounding the disclosure of Penn’s financial holdings and the divestment from corporations that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine, they also urge administrators to support the creation of an independent Middle Eastern cultural center at Penn. Although the importance of a cultural space pales in comparison to the tragedy occurring each day in Gaza, it is an important part of how we think about repurposing space more equitably on a campus where Muslim and Arab students often feel overlooked and isolated. Organizing around a shared vision of a more just future allows us to reach new potentials.

At the end of my tenure as editor-in-chief last December, I could not help but be scared of letting go of something that I put so much time and effort into — not knowing if any of the positive changes I pushed for would outlast my one year at the paper’s helm. At the same time, I recognized that I had to trust that there will continue to be students who care about pushing the DP forward and leveraging the space we already take up for justice. Despite my initial fears, I must be confident that the DP can be used for good — just like the tireless student journalists who paved the way for me have believed.

Moving forward, we must continue to be intentional about the spaces we are a part of and think more deeply about how we can improve them. Whether this be on campus — ensuring our clubs and our university reflect the values we hold important — or in the places we go once we leave Penn, I urge all of us to reimagine a more just society and put the work into demanding progress. 

IMRAN SIDDIQUI is a College senior studying political science from Grosse Pointe Park, Mich. He served as DP editor-in-chief on the 139th board of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Previously,  he was the politics desk editor, a politics beat reporter, and an assistant to the social media deputy editor. His email is