I have never enjoyed making resumes. They focus only on the big moments — the kind of stuff that makes for a LinkedIn post. I don’t want to waste my last words for The Daily Pennsylvanian telling you about the big moments in my last four years here. Honestly, it would be boring, a waste of both of our time, and not at all what has mattered most to me here. I’m also going to say something sacrilegious at this school — the little things are what define your Penn experience, not your resume.
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The academic umbrella of Penn is expansive. For undergraduates there are four schools— the School of Arts and Sciences, the Wharton School, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of Nursing.
Maybe Sidechat never disappeared from Penn’s cultural landscape; however, until Greek life formal recruitment, Sidechat had not been in my daily vocabulary since its introduction to campus nearly a year ago. As an active sorority member running recruitment, I was glued to the app, curious about what was being said about my sorority and the others.
I am not a STEM person. As a PPE and Italian Studies double major, I am happy to leave my application of mathematical and scientific skills in the past as a relic of my high school career. The current Physical World Sector requirements for students in The College of Arts and Sciences, however, force students in non-STEM majors to take STEM courses with high difficulty levels, according to PennCourseReview, for the Physical World Sector. This requirement must be altered.
Penn has not shied away from making University housing decisions that do not put students’ needs first, the requirement for sophomores to live in on-campus housing being a recent instance of this. Penn neglected to factor in the added expense that on-campus housing imposed on many students who would have otherwise chosen cheaper off-campus options.
“Work hard, play hard” has grown to become an informal motto for Penn students. The world of play at Penn, however, is far more bourgeois than the basement fraternity parties or tailgates seen in the media. Having a social life is not consistently free, and we do not mean the cost of an overpriced drink at a bar or buying a new outfit to wear out at night. Downtowns are ticketed events, often hosted by fraternities, held at clubs or venues in Philadelphia, which can cost anywhere from $80 to $100 for a ticket directly purchased from the host.
Once upon a time at Penn, sophomores did not have to live on campus. Now that Penn mandates sophomores to live on campus, the future of Greek life housing is a tumultuous vortex of financial burdens and stress for house managers and executive board members, as they search, and often fail, to find juniors and seniors willing to live in their housing. Penn created this policy, so Penn should provide the much-needed financial assistance to cover the costs imposed on Greek chapters who are unable to reach capacity in their homes.
Under the looming, Death-Star-like shadow of Huntsman Hall, it is hard to forget Penn’s deep-rooted connection to finance, big business, and all things economics. As a PPE major, I am no stranger to the allure of consulting and have been enrolled in a variety of economics courses in my Penn student career. ECON 001 is popular amongst first-year students — there is the Econ Scream after all — but the popularity of this course is rooted in the preprofessional mindset of the institution as a whole. To say that this class is vital to a robust education neglects the difficult nature of it, the varying interests of students, and its uselessness in providing everyday financial literacy.
Isabella: In the summer of 2019, I was blissfully unaware of just how jarring my first fall semester at Penn would be. I had never heard of Penn Course Review, I did not know how to navigate the convoluted web of Penn’s social scene, and I had no clue what exactly finance was (although that one may still apply). Most importantly, however, I had no clue that other people felt the same way. Until I began meeting upperclassmen through Greek life during my second semester, I had wrongly resigned to the fact that I was the only person who felt completely disjointed from the University’s culture, lying to those around me that I was really loving it here. The adjustment from high school to college has historically been an unsettling one for many students. Now an upperclassman, I try to find sly ways of working my own experiences into conversations with underclassmen, ensuring that they feel validated in their experiences.
Fraternity culture is synonymous with outdated notions of masculinity, status, and a certain 'look.' Most media depictions of a fraternity brother fits this definition — a built boy, usually white, decked out in mismatching colors, white sneakers caked with mud and beer, and a backwards hat. We laugh at this stereotype, dress up as it for Halloween, and turn it into memes. But while we may joke about it, the reality is that this culture bred by fraternities still tends to promote certain values including toxic masculinity, elite status, and conformity. And these values come at a price — propagating rape culture, racism, and violence in the social life of Penn.
The chorus of coughs in lecture halls points to the reality of Penn right now: People are sick with colds, allergies, and COVID-19. In light of the fact that COVID-19 is still a fact of life, and many of the new symptoms of the Delta variant mimic those of the common cold, students are forced to miss classes in the hopes of avoiding spreading the disease. With the inconsistent attendance of students, professors need to create useful resources for students missing classes, ensuring that their education and ability to succeed are not impeded by sickness.
When I took MATH 114 as a first year, I thought I had reached an unparalleled level of confusion; however, reading Penn’s contradicting web of COVID-19 policies and protocols, I reached entirely new levels of confusion, frustration, and stress.
“Hi everyone! My name is Isabella, and I am planning on studying philosophy, politics, and economics with a minor in Italian studies. In my free time I love watching TV shows like ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Parks and Recreation.’ I am always down to go out or have a chill night in. Can’t wait to meet everyone!”
You are not a hero for walking a drunk girl home. You do not deserve praise for your silence as “the boys” objectify women. You should not be put on a pedestal because you could have been a bad guy, but “you’re not like that.” That is not enough. You should not only care about what happens to women just because we are your sisters, your mothers, your classmates, and your friends. You should care because we are people and the comments some write off as “compliments,” the grazes that last a second too long, and the constant cycle of violence in the news have aggregated to a boiling point of frustration and exhaustion.
This past September, I caved in. The permeating and ambitious spirit of Wharton finally crumbled my willpower — I made a LinkedIn. A decision I made with reluctance has shown to be worthy of my original trepidation. Scrolling through the feed, it is natural to feel overwhelmed by announcement after announcement of impressive internships, job offers, and other opportunities touted by one’s own connections. This stress is magnified during internship season. The anxieties stemming from internship season are twofold: Some are founded in the general pressures of competition and the nagging feeling that one should be doing more, others are associated with the pandemic’s continued impact. As students are once again feeling the pressure of summer and the internships it potentially holds, it is vital to stay grounded in one’s own interests and remember the pandemic’s lasting effects on the internship landscape are still affecting some industries and opportunities.
Remember the days of sitting in a lecture hall spaced out from your classmates, filled with anxiety and dread? Of course, sitting far away from one another then had nothing to do with social distancing; it was simply midterm and finals seasons. Thinking back to one year ago, I am flooded with memories of cramming insignificant details into my brain moments before entering an exam room, eager to write them down on the margins of the paper as soon as the test began. As I struggled to remember authors of academic papers on the values and downfalls of the Nordic Model of a welfare state, I was plagued with one question: why do I need to memorize this? The shift to online school radically changed the administration of education, including the way exams are given. Though many exams are still timed, the pandemic has forced a widespread open-book test policy. Looking to the post-pandemic world, professors should continue to offer exams this way.
Penn’s administration has made their intentions quite clear in bringing the student body back to campus; the West Philadelphia community comes second to their own plans. West Philadelphia residents were frustrated with the University’s decision to open campus this semester, anticipating the wave of COVID-19 cases that came to fruition last week. Penn, however, ignored their concerns, neglecting to offer the local residents any legitimate safeguards from the health risks posed by bringing Penn students back to campus, and not even consulting them about their plan to bring students to campus. Penn administration must take concrete steps to protect the West Philadelphia community — not just their students, faculty, and staff — from COVID-19.
As this semester unfolds, Penn and the organizations it supervises are creating COVID-19 guidelines that are often unrealistic. While students try their best to navigate the complex maze of dos and don’ts, the University appears blind to some of the most egregious violations. If Penn hopes to have a successful semester, it must have realistic expectations of students’ actions and rightfully discipline those who violate its rules.
For some, the second semester at Penn stirs up memories of long lines of black parkas snaking the sidewalks, social calendars packed with date nights and formals, and newfound bonds of brother and sisterhood. These are elements of the Greek life culture that capture the attention of some Penn students during formal recruitment each spring semester. This year, recruitment will look different as Greek organizations adapt the rush ritual to comply with Penn’s Student Campus Compact. While formal rush is virtual and sets a good precedent for the incoming first years, this adherence to COVID-19 restrictions should not be a facade. Greek life organizations must follow Penn’s Student Campus Compact despite the temptations to host events; the actions taken by Greek organizations will set the tone for the semester and affect more than just their members.
2020 demanded a level of civic engagement not seen in recent times as a global pandemic, social justice movement, and contentious election season gripped the nation’s attention. Penn’s response was to name the 2020-2021 school year the Year of Civic Engagement, a very fitting theme for the Class of 2024’s reading project and various other academic initiatives throughout the school year. However, Penn as an institution has not taken civic-minded actions that reflect the theme they put forth or actions that demonstrate an understanding of the civic missions of their own community. As 2020 comes to a close, it is important to reflect on Penn’s failures to encourage and support students’, faculty’s, and staff’s civic engagement. In 2021, Penn’s student body must demand that the university do better.