Penn Disorientation Guide - Fall 2017

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DEAR BEST PENN CLASS ADMITTED EVER: Congrats, you’ve made it to the top university in the world!! There are a few things we forgot to mention in your glossy orientation packets. Like our larger white capitalist imperialist values that are central to the core of our money sucking busine--err higher-education institution. But we get it! If you want to live the fantasy version that we definitely mailed to you at least 16 times, put this down/slip it into someone else’s bag/use it as wallpaper in your luxury apartment suites/whatever! This Disorientation Guide is a critique on Penn as an institution, a resource for people fighting against injustice, and a documentation of Penn’s blunders and resulting campus activism. Most of us are only here for a few years. That means that institutional memory is very short; we don’t know what happened six, eight, ten years ago, what the last cycle of student activism looked like. Your Penn journey might have just began; this institution has been around for more than two centuries with a history inevitably reflecting the politics of this country. This Guide is inspired by many other Disorientation Guides that have come before ours at different institutions. We recognize that as students who chose to be here, we are consumers of this institution. And that it can do better for itself, for us, for the Philadelphia community and beyond. Love, Some people committed to shaking stuff up


TABLE OF CONTENTS 1 Welcome Letter 3-8 Penn’s Legacy of Racism 9-10 Remember Last Year? A Refresher 11-14 Being First Generation, Low-Income 15-17 Neglect @ Penn and the Importance of Care 18-19 Dealing with Frat Parties During NSO 20-22 Challenging Rape and Fraternity Culture at Penn 23-25 Fossil Free Penn 25-28 Students for Justice in Palestine 29-32 Stop Killing Ethnic Studies! 33-34 Neighborhood Relations & Gentrification 35 West Philly Leftist Resources 36-37 Resources to Actually Thrive At Penn


HISTORY AND TRADITION: PENN’S LEGACY OF RACISM By Kellie; contributorJordyn (African American Arts Alliance (4A))

WHAT PENN WANTS YOU TO KNOW ...AND WHAT IT’S HIDING If you look at Penn’s Timeline of Diversity online, you will see that Penn proudly flaunts its achievements in helping students overcome adversity. For example, Penn’s first black students enrolled as early as 1879, the same year Penn’s first Japanese student graduated. In the years following, people of color earned degrees from Penn, W.E.B. Dubois conducted research here, and Hillel was established. Martin Luther King, Jr. even audited classes at Penn from 1949-1951. While these are clearly significant advancements and accomplishments, if you want to read between the lines and discover what it was like for those first students of color, or read up on racist incidents at Penn, you’ll have to dig a lot harder. Luckily for you, I’ve done my research. THE BLACK EXPERIENCE AT PENN: BREAKING DOWN WALLS AT AN INSTITUTION MADE UP OF PEOPLE WHO HATE YOU EARLY YEARS So yes, Penn is wonderful and amazing for allowing people of color to enter its hallowed halls, but Penn is first and foremost an institution, founded by white people for white people (actually white cis men, let’s be honest). Resources like the cultural houses (Makuu, PAACH, etc.) and Dubois College House didn’t exist when those first PoC students attended. Penn proudly advertises that those students earned degrees here, but what did Penn do to protect those students? Sadie Alexander, a 3

black student from the class of 1918, stated: Can you imagine looking for classrooms and asking persons the way, only to find the same unresponsive persons you asked for directions seated in the classroom, which you entered late because you could not find your way? Just suppose that after finding your way to a seat in the classroom, not one person spoke to you. To put it mildly, white students at Penn were extremely hostile to their nonwhite peers. Additionally, none of the dining halls or restaurants on and around campus would serve black students, and most gathering places were segregated. Track and field and cross country were the only sports in which Penn allowed black students to participate, and black athletes were often not recognized or photographed in yearbooks. When Dr. Cummings, a black man, graduated from the Dental School in 1919, he wasn’t invited to the dinner in which graduates received their certificates-- Penn didn’t rectify this until 1972. 1950s ONWARDS Clubs and greek life are incredibly popular and possess a great deal of power here at Penn-- some groups and fraternities have been around for years and claim to uphold the university’s traditions and values. One of those groups is the esteemed and respected Mask and Wig Club, which was founded in 1889 as an all white male performance group. The club has expanded and diversified since its founding, but most current Penn students don’t know about a Mask and Wig tradition that used to be a crowd favorite-- minstrelsy. That’s right, everyone’s favorite comedy group performed “The Golden Fleece” in 1953, and the actors executed the show in blackface. According to an article from the Daily Pennsylvanian that year, minstrelsy was an old Mask and Wig tradition, since “the twelve founders had been fascinated by the color of burnt cork.” Penn is famously proud of its history and tradition, but has managed to keep this shameful 4

aspect well-hidden. If you would like another disturbing historical example of racism at Penn, look no further than ZBT’s suspension in 1988. A Daily Pennsylvanian article from that year states that the Judicial Inquiry Office accused the fraternity ZBT of “hazing, harassment, alcohol use, open lewdness, prostitution and indecent exposure.” The fraternity allegedly hired two black women to perform at a rush event. While they were performing, ZBT brothers shouted racist remarks such as, “Where did you get them n*ggers?” and then sexually harassed the women and hazed ZBT rushes. The fraternity ended up facing several charges and was suspended for 18 months, but black campus leaders fought for a harsher punishment. The then-president of the Black Student League, Traci Miller, argued that ZBT should have faced indefinite suspension, as 18 months was “inadequate.” Other black student groups expressed frustration with the administration and with the university’s judicial system. PRESENT DAY This might come as a shock to some of you but-- racism isn’t dead. The past year alone at Penn demonstrates just that. In November 2016, right after DJT was named president-elect, Penn made national headlines when black freshmen were added to a racist and vulgar groupme, entitled “Mud Men.” The groupme included horrific racist and sexually violent images and messages, as well as events entitled “daily lynching.” After an investigation conducted by Penn in conjunction with the FBI, the university notified students that the person responsible for the groupme was a University of Oklahoma student. Though a Penn student did not create the groupme, the incident amplified an already frightening time in many students’ lives, and left students feeling angry, troubled, speechless, and even helpless. 5

Even more recently, Penn Law Professor Amy Wax has caused controversy with her blatantly racist and culturally elitist statements in an op-ed piece she wrote, published on Wax discusses what she calls “the breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture” and makes some truly outlandish remarks such as “all cultures are not equal,” and society ought to “return to the 1950s posture of celebrating” bourgeois culture. Wax also describes “the anti ‘acting white’ rap culture of inner-city blacks” and “the “anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants” as both incompatible with an advanced free-market economy, and destructive to solidarity among Americans. To top it all off, in an interview for the Daily Pennsylvanian, Wax stated, “Anglo-Protestant cultural norms are superior,” and, “Everyone wants to go to countries ruled by white Europeans.” Wax’s offensive statements have caused outrage within the Penn community, including protests and petitions from different student groups. Wax, who has worked at Penn for several years and has made racist comments before, is just one more example proving that Penn has a tremendously long way to go in terms of including, defending, and empowering students belonging to all races and backgrounds. WHY THIS SHIT MATTERS So what is the point of drawing attention to Penn’s racist history? Why not leave the past in the past? And why do I stay at Penn if I have all of these awful things to say about it? The fact of the matter is, this information is important. Penn claims to be progressive and a safe place for its students, but this information reminds us that Penn is an institution that serves best its own interests. Penn is an ivy league, a pristine, good school that wants to preserve its reputation. If we ignore its disturbing past and its flawed and frustrating present, we fail to improve it and make it a safer, better place. My thoughts are perfectly articulated in a quote I first heard at the African American Arts Alliance’s gala last year. Travis Richardson, a 6

United Minorities Council chairman in 1988 said, “Oh yes, in answer to the inquiries about why I (or any Black student) am here if Penn is so bad, most of us believe that strength is not in flight, but in fight. Penn is but a microcosm of America. I could not escape it if I tried. What I can do is try to make it better.” WORK CITED “Daily Pennsylvanian Digital Archives.” Daily Pennsylvanian Digital Archives, University of Pennsylvania, Dunn, Richard S., and Marvin P. Lyon. “Blacks at Penn, Then and Now.” A Pennsylvania Album: Undergraduate Essays on the 250th Anniversary of the University of Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania, 1990. Griffin, M.I.J. “Behind ‘The Golden Fleece’.” The Daily Pennsylvanian, 17 Nov. 1953, pp. 4–5. “Penn Diversity Timeline.” Timeline, University of Pennsylvania, diversity_at_penn/facts_figures/diversity_timeline/. Snow, Caroline Simon Will. “U. Of Oklahoma Student to Be Suspended for Racist Group Message after Penn Police, FBI Investigation.” The Daily Pennsylvanian, The Daily Pennsylvanian, 14 Nov. 2016. Spinelli, Dan. “‘Not All Cultures Are Created Equal’ Says Penn Law Professor in OpEd.” The Daily Pennsylvanian, The Daily Pennsylvanian, 14 Aug. 2017. Taubman, Geoff. “ZBT Fraternity Faces Suspension.” The Daily Pennsylvanian, 26 Feb. 1988, pp. 1–11. Taubman, Geoff, and Patricia O’Donnell. “ZBT Suspended for 18 Months.” The Daily Pennsylvanian, 4 Mar. 1988, p. 1. “UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES.” University Archives, University of Pennsylvania University Archives, University of Pennsylvania Archives and Records Center. Wax, Amy, and Larry Alexander. “Paying the Price for Breakdown of the Country’s Bourgeois Culture.”, Philadelphia Media Network, LLC, 9 Aug. 2017.



REMEMBER LAST YEAR? A SHORT REFRESHER. By Student Organizing for Unity and Liberation (SOUL) There are several incidents of intolerance that happen on our campus every year - and here we are going to outline just a couple of them. We think it’s important to be aware of the fact that while the majority of this campus is tolerant, there are still instances of intolerance and it’s not all peaches and cream. Racist and misogynistic fraternities, homophobic and misogynistic preachers that frequent campus just to spew hate, and other Alt-Right groups that use our campus as a place to post their hate-filled flyers - they’re all here. So let’s take a look at a couple of highlighted incidents. You read a little bit above about the racist groupme incident of November 2016. At a time on campus when Prez number 45 had just been announced President-elect, and many on campus were worried for what this new president would mean for the safety and security of themselves and their families, many Black Penn freshman one Friday morning woke up to their being added to a groupme chat named “Mud Men”. This chat showed images of black people being lynched, messages calling them nigg*rs, and showed “daily lynching” events. The images in the chat were triggering and completely despicable. The Black Penn community immediately mobilized to protect our Freshman, the most vulnerable group on our campus at the time considering they were still new and fresh faced. UMOJA held a town hall to allow for those affected to have a safe space to share their feelings and receive the support they needed, in which Amy Gutman was present for part of the town hall, and SOUL organized a rally and march from Huntsman Hall to the Football Stadium to express their frus9

tration and outrage. The University did act quickly, which we do commend them for - they immediately contacted the FBI to figure out who was responsible for creating the Groupme, and reassured Black Penn students that they were on their side and they would see to it that nothing would happen to them while they were on campus. They eventually found out that the Groupme had been created by a student at the University of Oklahoma who had been admitted to Penn and attended Quaker Days in 2016, and that is how he had the contact information of the Black Penn students. He was expelled from the University of Oklahoma. Though the University handled this situation well, many of their words of reassurance did not leave Black Penn students feeling safe at all. Many of us were worried, because if this student had been admitted to Penn, who is to say that there were not other students on campus (which I’m sure there are) who thought the same way and would put our lives in danger? Many Black parents of the students called the University to figure out what was going on, and the University told our parents that if we were worried for our safety, we should “go home for the weekend”, as if that would solve the problem. The incident left our community shaken to its core, but we continued to persevere, as we have every right to this education as everyone else on this campus and will not be silenced.


BEING FIRST GENERATION, LOW-INCOME By David, a first gen low-income student Tuition this year is a little over $70k. For those of you whose daddies and/or mommies can fully financially support them to be here, gr8 and congrats~ On the other hand, for those of you who are like me, on full or partial financial aid plus scholarships, we’ve managed to survive mostly on someone else’s dollar. I’m writing this to you because when I entered Penn three years ago, no one warned me about how costly it actually is to be at the prestigious ~*UnIvErSiTy Of PeNnSyLvAnIa*~ I thought I’d take a hot second to share with you my thoughts. PARTY SCENE First thing’s first: enjoy NSO as much as you can. NSO is one of the few experiences in your undergraduate career where practically anything and everything is free. Soon enough, you’ll be bombarded with invitations to BYOs, downtowns, formals, and whatever form of debauchery that tickles your interest. (For the purpose of this segment, I won’t be talking about the ~free~ frat parties that happen practically every weekend.) I didn’t realize how ostracizing it was for me to constantly turn down invites from friends and student groups who could afford these social gatherings. No one told me that karaoke/ BYO/dinner nights were about $20+ a head when split evenly — I learned this after my first two BYOs. It took me the second time to realize how badly my bank account was crying because I was too drunk the first time around to notice I venmo-ed someone $26 for “ken’s seafood byo ;)”. When frats, sororities, and other student groups host formals 11

and downtowns, they neglect to tell you how expensive it is to join everyone for a drunken night and (sometimes) open bar, especially if you’ve already paid an initial ~membership fee~ to join. (Oh yeah, speaking of which, joining a frat/sorority is expensive af but obv they don’t tell you that when you’re sucking up to them during rush.) I seldom went to formals and downtowns because 1.) I was underage and couldn’t pay for $60+ for fake IDs and 2.) I couldn’t pay for the event itself, regardless if it was $20. Some groups - and I’ve been fortunate to be involved with these particular groups - are understanding and will help you out financially. But I didn’t realize this until I finally broke out of my little bubble and explained why I was consistently MIA. Keep in mind that while it’s expensive and pressuring af to take part in some of Penn’s traditional party scene, you can still get free alc and dank music at some frat house down Spruce St. FINANCIAL AID Penn can easily scheme you if you don’t know who to speak to or know what to ask/say cause SFS looooooves playing games! Every semester, your tuition/bill will fluctuate (it rarely stays the same) and you’ll most likely have zero clue as to why. If you decide to address this with SFS (which I highly recommend you doing), your initial visit (and probably the next five) will be daunting, intimidating, and nerve-wracking af. Damn, I’m getting chills just thinking about the first time I went in! I do NOT want to relive that. It’s extremely difficult as a low-income student to walk into SFS, a place where these people can make a few clicks on a keyboard and either make or break you, and seek financial help. Despite working our asses off, balancing family responsibilities, and doing God-knows-what to get here, we may feel as though we’re lucky to be at Penn. Because of this, I believe, we’re reluctant to seek help and ask for more. We might feel the need to be grateful for what we have and what’s already being provided by Penn (especially financially). But I urge you to look past 12

these insecurities. It’ll take time for you to develop the confidence (if you already don’t have it, and if you don’t, that’s alright!) to stroll into SFS and demand answers and support. It took me about a year before I felt comfortable to even voice my concerns before I took action. I am writing to let you know that as scary as SFS might be, you have every right to seek help and gain support from the institution you’re attending. And here’s a friendly tip: if the SFS advisor you have isn’t doing much good, ask to switch advisors. Gain the support you need instead of settling. Seriously. Don’t. Settle. SOCIAL AND PROFESSIONAL CAPITAL You might not be thinking about this but knowing all of you overachievers (I can say that cause I was in your shoes ok pft) you might actually be thinking about summer internships and jobs already. When it comes down to the internship and job search, you might feel as though you’re at a huge disadvantage. At least for me, I felt at a disadvantage because my parents, aunts, and uncles couldn’t hook me up with an internship at Google, Facebook, Goldman Sachs or some other gnarly place. We clearly didn’t have those types of connections. As a first-generation college student, it was difficult to navigate the professional world because I lacked not only the appropriate connections but also the social and professional capital. Prior to entering Penn, I only knew a handful of people whose parents went to college, and to top that off, I knew like two people whose grandparents went to college. However, at Penn, the majority of students here actually come from families of higher education, a privilege I clearly did not have. (I am by no means shaming that at all, lol.) This privilege, I believe, has fostered the confidence and capital for many Penn students to successfully navigate the professional world, among 13

many others. As the son of two immigrants who both gave up education after escaping their home country, I don’t blame my parents for not having gone to college, getting a degree, and getting a job that can pay for a $70k tuition; I don’t blame them for not being able to connect me with people who can facilitate my professional and career development; and I don’t blame them for not teaching me how to speak confidently to professionals and equipping me with the soft skills needed to thrive in a competitive world. If you find yourself resonating with some of my sentiment, I want to pass along a few words of advice: you can do it. You can, lol, honestly. It’s going to be difficult, but it’s not impossible. I believe in you.


NEGLECT @ PENN AND THE IMPORTANCE OF CARE By Malkia Penn Face. You will hear this a lot when you get to Penn. This is when you put on a mask (success, happiness, etc), which acts like a facade over who you are as a person and your mental and emotional health. Despite consistent calls to call it out, identify it, and deconstruct it, Penn continues to replicate this toxic cycle. The pressure to adapt to pre-professional culture forces you to put on these masks. There will come times when you may feel like you do not belong, or are doing something wrong, simply because you are not properly conforming. Know that you don’t need to act the same or dress the same. Wharton kids are not better than anyone else. Do your own thing. It’ll serve you for the better. Suicide. You will also hear this a lot when you get to Penn. As of 2017 there had been 13 suicides within four years. These headlines sting. There are students at this school in pain, and many are painfully unaware until it is too late. CAPs, or Counseling and Psychological Services. You will also hear this a lot, often as a joke or jab, when you get to Penn. People do not have a lot of nice things to say about CAPs. Don’t depend on them for emergencies. If you have patience, use them as a resource since they are included in your tuition. Prepare to wait days and even weeks to get connected to a therapist, with the possibility of trying out multiple therapists. If you choose this route, don’t be afraid to ask a friend to be there to make the call with you and realize you’re not alone in this!! It can be daunting. But you can do it. Many of us have been there. We believe in you.


A lot of the information up until this point has been negative. A lot of people, including myself, struggle to find adequate resources for handling mental health. I’ll be honest, I am still struggling. Therefore, here is a list of things you can do for yourself or your friends when you are particularly struggling: Take Breaks: If you can, try to make going to class a priority, but do not feel ashamed if you feel like you have to miss a lecture or two. This tip is mostly geared towards your extra-curricular life. You might want to join and run every club there is to offer, and clubs are fun and rewarding, but do not worry if you cannot make every meeting or BYO. You don’t need to go out every weekend either, and as a freshman you may feel pressure to. There is no shame in binging Netflix, or just getting in that few extra hours of sleep! Leave Campus: No need to hop on a regional line to the Pennsylvanian countryside (although that could be fun), but explore the city. Get off campus. You’d be surprised at how the environment at Penn in and of itself breeds tension. Go to a park, perhaps Clark Park, Bertram’s Gardens, Rittenhouse Square, Washington Square, etc. Explore! Walk! No need to call an uber or scrape out $2.25, Rittenhouse is a 30 minute walk. And it’s a fun walk too! Community Care: With self-care being the current trend, we tend to get absorbed within ourselves. It is absolutely fine and necessary to take time for yourself, and care for your needs. After all, you need to be able to take care of yourself before you try helping others. However, this can easily slip into a hegemonic interior struggle, resulting in self-isolation. I strongly suggest finding or creating a safe support system. A community system in which you can confide in others and they in you. It could range from a friend, to a group of people. Take the time to check in with one another, and share your feelings. Don’t expect or rely on others to save or cure you, but don’t fall for hyper-individualism either. 16

If you have network insurance, there is also the option of seeking counseling off campus through your network. This might take a little more labor, but it can be very helpful if you find the right therapist. Penn and the culture that comes with it does not make it easy for students with mental health problems. But just know that you are not alone. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255


DEALING WITH FRAT PARTIES DURING NSO By SS SO you’ve decided to go to a frat party. Free alc, loud music, and the chance to drown your social anxiety in mindless dancing. I get it! It’s definitely a huge part of NSO, and an interesting experience (even as like an anthropological study – what young white boys are like when drunk with power (and also drunk with alcohol)). If you’re going to do this, there are a couple of things you should be careful and critical of, let’s walk through them: RACE AND BEAUTY STANDARDS: Getting turned away from a frat party because your group does not abide by straight/ cis-passing, white beauty standards seems pretty gross, but it happens. Or, at least, if the party is super full they somehow always still have room for pretty white girls. Check your morals, are you okay with giving social status to the power crazy white boys at the door? THE RATIO: Many frats use a horrible “ratio” system to see if a group is worthy of entering their sticky-floored, mediocre-music filled, predatory party. They want to make sure there are more women than men in the group because they know if there are too many men, the women will have more choices for hook-ups/dancing/whatever they want to do and will probably not choose them. DANCING: For women passing party-goers, you may find random boys suddenly appear behind you and start grinding against you without any sort of introduction while you’re dancing. This is creepy af, but for some reason has been normalized. It is not ok to approach someone and touch their 18

body without their consent. If it happens to you, know that it’s ok to decline. As we talked about before, partying is a pretty dominant part of NSO. When I first got to Penn, I was so excited to try new things and get to know cool people that I didn’t take the time to consider how the activities I participated in reinforced the same social structure that accuses rape and racism and applauds objectification of women. If I could go back, I know I’d be able to meet the same cool people and have amazing experiences without being complicit in this oppression. So have fun, but don’t forget to be thoughtful and critical.


CHALLENGING RAPE AND FRATERNITY CULTURE AT PENN By Anon Remember to fight for what you want and what you deserve. Many of the resources on Penn’s campus that serve underrepresented and oppressed groups were fought for. Like the cultural resource centers. Here, I’ll specifically address the creation of the Penn Women’s Center, which happens the oldest resource center at Penn. It’s also one of the oldest women’s centers in the country, something that Penn will proudly claim as evidence of its commitment to equity and social justice. But it wasn’t like the Penn administration handed PWC (and the other cultural resource centers for that matter) to the students on a silver platter. TRIGGER WARNING: misogyny, sexual assault, rape, violence In March 1973, five women were raped in 3 days. After this series of rapes, a group of women met with Penn’s director of public safety to address recent events. The director of public safety made a suggestion that many non-men have heard in their lives: if you want to be safer, don’t “wear provocative clothing.” After this meeting, a group of students, faculty, and staff organized a sit-in at the president’s office in College Hall, in which 200 people participated. Their demands included better security, a women’s center, medical and psychological counseling services, and free women’s self-defense classes. After four days, Penn administration agreed to improve security measures and create a women’s center that would include medical, psychological, and legal support of sexual assault victims, self-defense classes and training, and “other academic and non-academic University functions and services pertaining to women.” And thus the Penn Women’s center was created and given a space within College Hall. 20

Of course, even though it’s awesome that the campus rallied around this issue and created a resource center, it’s always important to question and critique what happened to learn for the future. I’m not going to present only the positives to all of this. Part of the reason why students were feeling unsafe on campus was because they thought it was too open to the public; many buildings were unlocked 24/7, and this was the time before fancy electronic swipe cards. Much like today, students feared the community outside of Penn. What does this say about Penn’s view of and relationship to West Philadelphia? What does it mean when white women students imply danger in living near non-white men? How do those dynamics affect the university’s willingness to respond? Perhaps most importantly for us to think about now and in the future, how can we change our feminist movements to be more intersectional, to center groups like women of color? This is a question that people on campus are asking and trying to answer all the time; don’t be afraid to join the conversation. I know when I got to Penn I felt grateful for the existence of things like the cultural resource centers, which many of my friends who ended up at different colleges didn’t have. At first, I was grateful to the administration for providing us with resources. But as I went through the Penn Experience (™), I started to interrogate why I should be grateful to the administration for something students deserve, why I should be grateful to an administration that doesn’t nearly support its less privileged students enough. I’ve realized gratefulness wasn’t the wrong emotion, just misdirected; now, I’m grateful for the students who came before us who fought for the things we have today. Remember your predecessors, and remember that you can impact the lives of future generations of Penn students too. Here’s something that students are talking about right now: the overwhelming presence of fraternity houses on Locust Walk. When I walked down Locust during NSO, one of the 21

first things I noticed was the frat stars hanging out in front of their houses, sitting on the couches, watching TV, playing loud music, drinking beers, and “people-watching.” Woah, did not sign up to be stared at by random men as I go to class! Indeed, 12 of the buildings on Locust are fraternities. Locust is the most central part of campus; why is so much of it allocated to the housing of fraternities? There’s a messy history if you’re interested in reading more. Emily Hoeven wrote a detailed Daily Pennsylvanian article called “It’s time to end Penn’s century-long fraternity subsidization” last April (http://www. about it all. To summarize the article, basically, the University needed more housing as it was expanding in the 1920s and 30s, and many of the houses that were outside of the original campus were owned by individual fraternities. So, they made a deal with said fraternities to use their houses as dorms in exchange for granting benefits like paying for all the costs that are associated with owning a property. Fraternity brothers would also get preferential housing and decreased residence fees. To make the deal even sweeter for the fraternities, both back then and today, many of the fraternities housed in University-owned buildings have contracts with the University that would allow them to buyback the property if it stops being used for student housing. And while these 12 fraternities take up all this space on Locust, the three cultural centers (Makuu, La Casa Latina, and Pan-Asian American Community House) are relegated to a few rooms in the basement of the ARCH building. It’s not impossible to replace the frat houses with something different. In fact, the spaces PWC and LGBT Center currently occupy were former frat houses.


FOSSIL FREE PENN. By Fossil Free Penn The University of Pennsylvania falsely claims to embrace principles of environmental sustainability. The “Green Campus Partnership” sub-section of the Penn website, for instance, aims to demonstrate to prospective parents and students that Penn is an environmentally conscious academic institution, making progressive decisions to reduce its impact on the natural world. Most, if not all, of the self-congratulation presented on this emerald, leaf-laden webpage surrounds the 2007 Climate Action Plan and the 2014 Climate Action Plan 2.0. These initiatives surely brought about positive changes in Penn’s waste management, carbon emissions, and environmentally oriented curriculum and research. These Plans’ provisions, however, do little to counterbalance the carbon emissions associated with the hundreds of fossil fuel corporations in which Penn invests its endowment. It is odd, then, that President Gutman claims, in the preface of the roughly worded Climate Action Plan 2.0, to be at all interested in the development of “environmental strategies that will impact our local community, our nation, and the world.” Given Penn’s holdings in the fossil fuel industry, it is hard to know whether these “strategies” refer to installing LED light bulbs in the Furness Shakespeare Library or to increasing the performance of drill bits for deep-water crude extraction.1 On September 22, 2016, Penn’s Board of Trustees rejected Fossil Free Penn’s proposal to divest the University’s $10 billion endowment from the fossil fuel industry.2 This pernicious industry, comprising hundreds of coal, oil, and natural gas companies, is responsible for scores of social and societal ills, including but not limited to: increasing the likelihood of severe medical disorders for persons living in proximity to coal mining sites and power plants;3 the corruption of American 23

politics;4 the denial of science, especially with regard to anthropogenic climate change;5 the destabilization of the global climate, precipitating, to note only a few consequences, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, sea level rise, national security threats, more frequent outbreaks of climate-sensitive diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, food shortages, and water shortages.6 According to the Trustees Guidelines and Procedures, a divestment proposal must address four criteria of social responsibility to merit consideration. Our comprehensive, 48-page proposal, available to the public for review on the Fossil Free Penn (FFP) website, clearly meets these four criteria, thoroughly addressing each individual criterion. Criterion 1, for example, states: “There exists a moral evil implicating a core University value that is creating a substantial social injury.”7 Seemingly, applying this criterion to fossil fuel combustion is simple and undeniable. Yet, our proposal meticulously demonstrates the social ills that coal and oil industries perpetrate. Solely in the case of coal, we cited up-to-date reports published by Science, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and researchers at various universities all showing the damaging effects of coal burning and mining practices on human health, irrespective of carbon dioxide emissions and climate change.8 One may wonder whether all of this was necessary. I mean, come on, how hard is it to convince a body of reasonably minded people that burning fossil fuels is, in a word, bad? Shockingly, it is very hard. The Executive Committee of the Trustees, according to a letter issued by Chairperson David Cohen to the members of FFP, “unanimously approved a Resolution accepting the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee’s findings and recommendation to not divest from holdings related to fossil fuels.”9 Cohen specified in this letter that “the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee concurred in what the Trustees consider to be the linchpin of any divestment decision at Penn: the interpretation of moral evil as an activity on par with apartheid or genocide.”10 While the term ‘genocide’ generally implies the 24

deliberate perpetration of evil against a group, or number of groups, of people, who would argue that the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians is not an event on par with mass killing? How can Penn be “a model of environmental academics and stewardship” if it invests hundreds of millions of dollars in the very instruments responsible for bringing about environmental destruction? I invite all who read this to critically examine our coherent proposal, to be incensed by the Board’s preposterous claim of our failing to meet the divestment criteria, and to join Fossil Free Penn’s fight to topple the hypocrisy that currently guides our University’s behavior. For more information, visit -----------------The University of Pennsylvania, Climate Action Plan 2.0 (Philadelphia, 2014), 5. 2 David L. Cohen, Letter to Members of Fossil Free Penn (Philadelphia, 2016). 3 Fossil Free Penn, Proposal for the Formation of an Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Divestment from Fossil Fuel Holdings (Philadelphia, 2015), 10. 4 Ibid, 17. 5 Ibid. 6 Ibid, 10, 14-17. 7 Office of the University Secretary, Guidelines and Procedures for Consideration by the Trustees of Proposals for Divestment from the University Endowment or Other Holdings Based Upon Social Responsibility Concerns of the Penn Community (Philadelphia, 2013), 3. 8 Fossil Free Penn, Proposal, 10. 9 David Cohen, Letter to Fossil Free Penn, 2. 10 Ibid, 1. 1


STUDENTS FOR JUSTICE IN PALESTINE By Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) are a group of activists that organize for the destruction of various systems of oppression. Though we vary in our interests, we all come together to educate and organize in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for justice and human rights. We host educational and cultural events, public demonstrations, and organize campaigns to bring awareness to systematic human rights abuses in Israeli occupied Palestine. Below are some of the events we’ve organized over the past year. “WHAT IS LEFT OF A DEMOLISHED HOME?” The first was a visual campaign to bring attention to the illegal Israeli army practice of Palestinian home demolitions. Using zip ties, we strung up disheveled teddy bears on the lampposts along Locust Walk to represent the items left behind by the countless children displaced and made homeless by home demolitions. Underneath the bears were signs that read “What is Left of a Demolished Home? In 2016, Israel has illegally demolished 1033 buildings in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, forcing Palestinian children and civilians into homelessness”. We tried to get permission from the administration for our demonstration but they were unwilling to grant it. We decided to go through with it anyway and when we did get an email from the administration, we offered to take it down ourselves later in the day. That way we didn’t 26

burden the maintenance workers and we could leave the the installation up for the rest of the day THE APARTHEID WALL

Another annual event that we organize is the Apartheid wall. We erect a lifesize wall along Locust Walk meant to mirror the 450 mile long security barrier Israel has built in Palestine. Though allegedly for security purposes, 85% of the wall does not run along Israel’s internationally recognized borders and it has been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice.1 27

We spend the day talking to students, faculty, and community members about the security barrier and the various human rights abuses it is implicated in. This year’s wall demonstration was even more sobering given the election of Trump and his eerily similar proposal to build a wall. In fact, the stock of the security company that built the Israeli security barrier (Magal Security Systems) jumped up by 25 percent the day after Trump was elected, a sobering reminder that all oppression is interconnected. GAZA MEMORIAL

For the past few years, we have also organized a memorial for the victims of the 2014 Israeli army assault on Gaza in which more than 2100 Palestinians and 66 Israeli soldiers were killed. We print out flags with the names and ages of all those who were killed and plant them in front of College Green as a visual reminder of the ruthlessness of occupation and war. During the past few years we’ve had this memorial, some 28

students have ripped flags out of the ground and thrown them in our faces. We’ve had signs put up calling the dead civilians human shields. We have frequently been called terrorists Like all struggles for justice, changing the status quo is a very uphill battle, but we will continue the fight against all forms of settler colonialism and imperialism. We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, NODAPL, and every other marginalized group who stands against imperialism,settler colonialism, white supremacy, the patriarchy, capitalism, and all other forms of discrimination We share the views of academics and activists like Judith Butler, Edward Said, Ilan Pappe, Jimmy Carter, and Desmond Tutu that the Palestinian people deserve self determination and freedom from human rights abuses. We believe in the words of Nelson Mandela, that “Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”2 If you are also passionate about human rights, both domestically and abroad, and care about the role the US plays in perpetuating these abuses, you can join SJP by sending us an email at If you are interested in learning more about the Israeli occupation of Palestine, visit and keep an eye out for our upcoming Palestine 101 event this semester. -----------------“International Court of Justice Finds Israeli Barrier in Palestinian Territory Is Illegal.” UN News Center, United Nations, 9 July 2004, asp?NewsID=11292 2 Lembede, Nolwalzi. “Israeli Apartheid Week: South Africa Rejoins Palestine.” Al Jazeera, 17 May 2012, 1



STOP KILLING ETHNIC STUDIES!! By Anonymous Penn loves to tout its Asian American Studies Program (ASAM) as unique leader among East Coast schools in brochures and other advertising materials, but its existence at Penn has been marred with struggle since its founding 20 years ago. The program, founded after Asian American students, faculty, and staff rallied on College Green and demanded an ethnic studies program, faces a restrictive budget, faltering institutional support, limited physical space, and undervaluation as a legitimate course of study. Ten years later, students rallied again for more support from the university for the Asian American Studies Program and yet, just this past Spring 2017 semester, students took to College Green and Locust Walk again to protest the program’s lack of support. Sparked by the departure of founding Asian American Studies Program faculty member Dr. Grace Kao, the Asian American Studies Undergraduate Advisory Board (ASAM UAB for short) published an OpEd in The Daily Pennsylvanian and released a petition garnering more than 1,200 signatures of support. Dr. Kao’s departure marked a vacancy in one of ASAM’s core course requirements, making it a real fear that some students may not be able to finish their minor given the current course offerings, especially considering that other ASAM instructors would be disincentivized to continue teaching ASAM courses on a volunteer basis and the program could essentially dissolve. This leaves ASAM on course for an uncertain future as the vacancy left by Dr. Kao is up for the time-consuming rehiring process by the Sociology Department and the ASAM UAB continues to lobby for more support.


Despite the significant barriers to ASAM’s growth and continued success, the program’s core classes are consistently fully enrolled and extremely popular. They are among the highest enrolled classes in their respective crosslisted departments (e.g. HIST, SOCI, ENGL). The program is undoubtedly meeting, and even surpassing, its goals, yet is receiving no additional funding or resources to facilitate program growth, resulting in stagnation. The future of ASAM requires your support! Underclassmen are vital to continuing movements as the administration expects them to die down when their leaders graduate after four or five years. Enroll in ASAM courses, go to ASAM events, and support the other ethnic studies programs at Penn (AFRC, LALS, NAIS)! PROTEST OPED PETITION


NEIGHBHORHOOD RELATIONS & GENTRIFICATION By SOUL One of the things you may hear during NSO is “don’t go past 40th street.” Penn emphasizes this every year - they say it’s too dangerous to go farther than 40th street because past 40th street is when you leave the Penn Bubble. For those who are not familiar with what the Penn Bubble is, it is basically University City, the neighborhood that Penn creates for itself within West Philadelphia simply by existing as a prestigious institution and attracting all kinds of wealthy people. In the Penn Bubble, you feel safe right? You can see Penn Security and Police riding around on bikes and in cars on almost every corner, there’s the blue light system that you can use in case you need to call for help, and we have access to things like Penn Walk and Penn Ride if you need someone to take you back to your dorm room late at night. But what is the main difference between the Penn Bubble and the rest of West Philly? The people. The real reason Penn always tells incoming Freshman not to go past 40th street is because in UCity you will find people who are here only because of their affiliation with Penn, and once you head into the residential areas of West Philly, you find residents - because this is people’s home. They were here long before the University of Pennsylvania, but they are demonized by the institution that has gentrified their neighborhood to seem as if they are all criminals who will rob or harass you just for walking through their neighborhood, when that is not the case. If you have common sense, you won’t have issues exploring outside of the Penn Bubble. Granted, many people that come to Penn do not come from city backgrounds, so they’re used to walking around with no sense of awareness because you 32

don’t have to worry about that in the suburbs or a small town. However, if you decide to come to school in a city, you need to learn how to adjust and accommodate to the city lifestyle you can’t come to someone else’s home and demonize them for living the way they live. Penn has had a rocky relationship with West Philadelphia for a long time. To get straight to the point, here is a timeline of Penn’s gentrification of West Philly - or “Penntrification” as SOUL calls it:


So as you can see, Penn’s history of gentrification runs deep - all the way back into the late 1800s. Gentrification is dangerous for obvious reasons - because it forces long time residents out with higher prices, forces out small business owners, and erases the history of a whole neighborhood. You’ll never hear about the Black Bottom from Penn, but that’s why this Disorientation guide has you covered - so you can understand the history, and use your privilege as Ivy League students to combat it when necessary.


WEST PHILLY LEFTIST RESOURCES By Malkia Get off campus and see what the West Philadelphia community has to offer! Learn more about your neighbors and support their initiatives and businesses EDUCATIONAL A Space - anarchist community center tht hosts movie screenings, various workshops, and benefits, such as books behind bars Community-Center-30987050865/ The Wooden Shoe - anarchist and radical lit bookstore, that also hosts workshops, roundtables, and activist guest speakers LAVA space - Lancaster Ave Autonomous space. A DIY zine library that hosts local shows, but also political meetings and activist workshops. Lava-space-254183187961826/ Bindlestiff Books - independent radical bookstore. Media Mobilization Projects - activist media production. SELF DEFENSE 8 Limb Academy - Holding a FREE self-defense class Sept 3rd! Also hosts pay-per-session self defense classes for queer and trans folx!


RESOURCES TO ACTUALLY THRIVE AT PENN By United Minorities Council (UMC) So, obviously, we’re not done yet. Join our communities to fight for what’s good. Here are some of the spaces that we feel are doing some of the good work: PHYSICAL SPACES (all created only after direct organized action between faculty, staff, and students) Civic House Greenfield Intercultural Center (GIC) La Casa Latina LGBT Center Makuu Pan-Asian American Community House (PAACH) Penn Women’s Center (PWC) Spiritual and Religious Life Center at Penn (SPARC) ORGANIZATIONS/PROGRAMS ON CAMPUS Asian Pacific Student Coalition (APSC) - umbrella APIA group Lambda Alliance - umbrella LGBTQIA+ group Latinx Coalition - umbrella Latinx group Umoja - umbrella Africa diaspora group United Minority Council (UMC) - umbrella minorities group Penn Association for Gender Equality (PAGE) - umbrella gender equity group Penn’s Spiritual & Religious Life Umbrella organization (PRISM) Student Organizing for Unity and Liberation (SOUL) Penn Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) African American Arts Alliance (4A) Natives@Penn Excelano Project Penn First 36

7|8 (APIA FGLI space) Asian Pacific American Leadership Initiative (APALI) Mujeres (Latinx women’s space) Sister, Sister (Black women/woc’s space) South Asian Women’s Space Spice Collective (APIA women’s space) ACADEMIC PROGRAMS Africana Studies (AFRC) Asian American Studies (ASAM) Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies (GSWS) Latin American and Latino Studies (LALS) Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS)


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