Have you ever walked down Locust, hunkered down in a slightly damp jacket, dodging some freezing sleet, and stumbled into a basement classroom with no windows and flickering fluorescent lights that feel like they penetrate the depths of your brain? I have. I can tell you it is not a pleasant experience. Many of Penn’s classrooms and buildings feel outdated and stale, and often lack proper lighting, adequate space, and modern amenities.
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A quick glance while walking down Locust, if one ignores the masks being worn, will reveal the plethora of diverse students the University of Pennsylvania calls its own. According to Penn's website, over 13% of 2021 first year students were classified as “international” — students who do not call the United States home. In total, Penn states that there are 6,392 international students enrolled as of fall 2021. This means that nearly one in every five people you meet at Penn is likely to have lived or been born outside of the United States.
One early morning, 140 college students, including myself, fall into their seats in a state of general confusion about the class material, only to write down a dreary set of lecture notes and listen to a far-off human voice mumble something about related rates. And so begins a day in the world of the lecture system.
For decades, abortion has been one of the most polarizing issues across the country. Yet, for many at Penn, it may be hard to recognize views opposing abortion, considering Philadelphia’s and the University’s stance on abortion. There are three local centers within five miles of campus. Penn Medicine itself offers abortion services. Philadelphia was given a four out of five on a local reproductive freedom index. All of this combines to make exposure to anti-abortion and pro-life views less likely. Thus, it may be easy for some Penn students to view anti-abortion individuals as a small minority not worth understanding. This is a trap we must avoid.
Satan is good. Although I'm a confirmed Roman Catholic, I’m happy to say that. Truthfully, I do love playing devil's advocate. And you should, too. Not because I love the devil, but because I think it can help everyone else. A devil's advocate is someone who "expresses a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of the opposing arguments." Their aim is to try and poke holes in a plan, proposal, or any sort of idea. Regardless of personal opinion, they challenge a proposition to show any potential weakness. A true devil's advocate doesn't challenge for the sake of challenging. They aim to improve a proposition by making sure any flaws are pointed out. Too often does group consensus lead to failure. If no one is willing to present an alternative, then mistakes and improvements are often overlooked.