Next Tuesday, Philadelphians, including Penn students, will be faced with a number of choices on the ballot. While much attention has been paid to the presidential race, far less heralded are local issues, including four ballot questions. The Daily Pennsylvanian Editorial Board recommends handling the questions as follows:
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A Daily Pennsylvanian poll found that former Vice President Joe Biden leads President and 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump 84% to 10% among Penn undergraduates.
Penn professors have spent about 100 times the amount of money on former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign than on President and 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump's campaign this election cycle, according to an analysis by The Daily Pennsylvanian.
This Friday at 6 a.m, Acme Markets will open at 40th and Walnut, replacing The Fresh Grocer after a six month transitionary period. The opening of an additional culinary option on campus will likely come to the relief of many in the Penn community, who have lacked easy access to a grocery store for months on end.
The news that longtime campus staple Magic Carpet Foods has been forced to rely on donations for survival may come as a disappointment for many in the Penn community. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily surprising — the COVID-19 pandemic has caused substantial financial challenges, with small businesses losing 20% of their revenue and many being forced to close down entirely.
With the 2020 elections less than a month away, politics remains at the forefront of much of the Penn community's priorities. Although it is likely that many students and University employees will vote using absentee or mail-in ballots, a significant number may also vote in person.
In an unprecedented election year, with critical contests up and down the ballot, preserving our democracy’s integrity is more important than ever. With the COVID-19 pandemic, however, municipalities across the country are facing a poll worker shortage. Many regular poll workers, who tend to be older than the population at large – a majority being over the age of 60 – are choosing to sit this election out due to their added risk for complications from COVID-19.
This past Thursday, the University announced major changes to the spring 2021 calendar, postponing the start of the semester and reducing spring break to a two day, mid-week break to reduce student travel. Many students slammed Penn’s decision in the immediate aftermath, with over 100 students signing a petition urging Penn to reconsider. The petition cited concerns surrounding both mental and physical health as reasons to reinstate a full spring break.
This semester, Penn students are facing a learning experience which is far from typical. One of the larger changes is the lack of a fall break, typically held in early October. After Penn's announcement that the fall semester would be conducted remotely, more than 700 students signed a petition calling on the University to reinstate fall break, which had previously been canceled in June. Penn, however, has stood by its decision, citing a desire to limit student travel and a possible resulting spread of COVID-19.
The School of Arts and Sciences announced last week that it would temporarily pause admissions for Ph.D. programs funded by the school. This decision was met with immediate surprise and confusion from members of the Penn community. Moreover, there is little cohesion between different departments. Some departments, such as the Department of Chemistry, will continue to admit new students next year, while many others will not be able to.
Greek life is a substantial aspect of life at Penn, with an estimated 25 percent of Penn undergraduates actively involved in fraternities or sororities. According to an analysis by The Daily Pennsylvanian, a number of these organizations are worth tens of thousands of dollars.
The University announced on August 11 that it will not be offering on-campus housing for the vast majority of students this fall, and almost all classes will be held online. This was a reversal from its earlier announcement in June, which promised a hybrid academic model and guaranteed on-campus housing for first years, sophomores, and transfer students.
In the coming weeks, the thousands of Penn students who will come to campus from around the world globe face a unique set of challenges as they adjust to a hybrid semester. These hurdles will be faced most intensely by residential advisors and graduate associates, who are students that work for the University and are integral to dorm life.
As the start of the academic year approaches, students, faculty, and families alike continue to worry about exactly what the fall semester will look like. The University announced its plan for a hybrid semester in late June, with all students invited back to campus but most learning taking place remotely. Penn’s announcement also included a Student Campus Compact which stated that all community members must agree to wear facial coverings in public, avoid large gatherings of all types, and follow other health-related guidelines. Still, many questions about social life and safety remain.
Since Penn announced its decision to pursue a hybrid model for the upcoming semester, students are trying to decide whether or not to return to campus this fall. With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Philadelphia and elsewhere, it is not unlikely that quarantine restrictions will be reinstated and University operations will need to be adjusted. The University’s June 25 announcement of the hybrid model acknowledges that “some plans could change, depending upon the progression of the virus and/or applicable state and local government guidance,” and Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé reaffirmed that the University’s plan to bring students back to campus is “not immutable.”
Although Penn announced that students can return to campus for the fall 2020 semester, the experience will be very different from what students are used to. Among other changes, all classes with 25 or more students will be conducted online, on-campus housing will be less dense, and all in-person activities will conclude before Thanksgiving break.
Penn announced Thursday that students will be invited to return to campus for the fall 2020 semester under a hybrid model of instruction. The official announcement detailed changing housing and dining policies, an updated academic calendar, expectations for adherence to a new Student Campus Compact, and other new policies relating to campus life.
The novel coronavirus pandemic and subsequent nationwide shutdown mean the coming academic year will be unlike any the Penn community has experienced before. If students are allowed back on campus in a few months, masks will be the norm up and down Locust Walk, in-person classes will likely be outnumbered by Zoom meetings, and group activities will be limited to small gatherings.
For the past few days, cities around the country have erupted with protests against racist policing following the brutal murder of George Floyd and many other Black individuals at the hands of police officers. Philadelphia has been no exception, as citizens flock to the streets to join the nationwide protests. Penn must hear the voices of these protesters both in the streets and online through petitions to take concrete actions to reduce its complicity in racial violence. The University can take immediate action by disarming the Penn Police Department, and banning the “box” asking about prior criminal records from its application for admission.
If there is anything to be learned from this time of rampant unemployment and violent protests, it is that our lives are fragile and our institutions are fallible. The pandemic and police brutality against Black Americans highlights the need for policy that outlives political cycles — policy that has staying power even as the world becomes a world that we do not know. Furthermore, the global crisis has emphasized that our society relies deeply on the strength of its workers, and that the laws that protect them in return often fall short of their sacrifice.