In 1993, a Penn first year, Eden Jacobowitz, yelled at a group of Black sorority sisters making noise outside of his dorm: “Shut up, you water buffalo! If you're looking for a party, there's a zoo a mile from here.”
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Meeting the chants of dozens of protesters crashing one of the largest first-year events, new Penn President Liz Magill simply replied with: “My message tonight is about the importance of productive disagreement. … May I go back to my speech?”
From the moment we entered preschool until now, we have received constant, systematic training on how to exist. The cycle of socialization follows us throughout our lives — don’t speak in class unless you are spoken to, don’t question authority, sit still for eight hours, study until you receive at least an 80% on the state-mandated multiple choice exam. Absorb information until you can regurgitate it in your sleep, then come back the next day and do it all again. These norms of behavior — specifically, imitating and obeying authority — are so deeply internalized in students’ psyches that it doesn’t even occur to us to act differently. So by the time students enter the workforce, we’re perfectly socialized to be the perfect employee.
A towering house, fit for a king. A cardboard sign reading “Racists live here,” and a crowd of students chanting “Silence is violence.” Chalk graffiti on the red bricks of Locust asking, “No one did anything. Would you?”
Sit in any Penn lecture hall and you’re likely to hear a chorus of coughs, sneezes, and sniffles — something that, as COVID-19 cases rise and new variants develop, is enough to make any person uneasy. Colleges across the country have been experiencing the consequences of in-person learning amidst the pandemic. Just weeks after opening their doors, numerous colleges — including Connecticut College, the University of Dallas, Liberty University, and Rice University — temporarily transitioned back to online learning after an outbreak of cases, many of which were among vaccinated students. And despite a vaccination rate of 85%, La Salle University in Philadelphia temporarily went virtual last week after a “concentrated increase” of COVID-19 cases.
The story always seems to be the same: each year, global carbon emissions hit a record, “unprecedented” high. And each year, we creep towards a dystopian future plagued by environmental destruction. Time and time again, scientists have warned us that the only way to slow this existential threat is through immediate and significant action.
In many ways, COVID-19 transformed college into an unrecognizable institution: internships and trips were canceled, the once bustling campuses became quiet and deserted, and lecture halls were replaced with computer screens. Yet one thing remained the same: the cost. Despite largely remote instruction, Penn joined a long list of colleges that elected to freeze tuition instead of lowering it, capping the cost at $53,166. Ultimately, the full cost of a Penn education in the 2020-2021 school year came out to be $76,826.
In the winter of my senior year of high school, every checkbox on the Common Application felt like the be-all and end-all of my entire life. I was obsessed with crafting the perfect college experience. At the end of my four years, I wanted to be able to fondly look back and remember my first foray into independence: navigating through a journey of self discovery, partying on lively and laughter-filled weekends, and meeting new friends from around the world.