On March 15, parents and guardians of students at the University of Pennsylvania received an email from Wendell Pritchett, the provost of the university. The email detailed that Penn had already shut down the campus and was advising students to cease engaging in social activities like parties and clubbing. He instructed all students who lived on campus to leave by March 17. These statements are all reasonable precautionary measures in light of the current coronavirus pandemic.
However, the email went on to advise parents that Penn is expecting all off-campus residing students to also vacate their current homes. To be clear, these are students who do not live at the University, students who pay rent, and students who are all adults.
Then, to make matters even worse, Penn’s email continued, “We have communicated Penn’s position to local landlords and asked them to work with their tenants to support this public health necessity.” But, according to student non-profit organization, The Daily Pennsylvanian, the two largest off-campus landlords used by students hadn’t received any communication from Penn.
To their credit, both of the two landlords have publicly stood up for the rights of their tenants to remain where they are. With one of them stating, “This is your home and you are welcome to stay. No one at the University has a right to require you to leave your apartment, or to move out of University City or Philadelphia.”
Whether Penn has contacted other smaller landlords in the area and attempted to convince them to evict students by March 17 is unknown, however, nobody has come forward to say that they have been contacted by Penn. This and the lack of a followup or public statement in regard to the students’ outrage over the email has led many to believe that Penn may have lied in their email to parents.
Many students were understandably shocked and angered by the email, with The Daily Pennsylvanian publishing an article featuring students’ accounts of the situation they have been left in by the university.
While there are likely some students who will leave town and move back in with their parents because of the impact of the coronavirus, that is not an option for all students. As is the case with all schools, some students are financially independent, some students do not have an alternative home to move to, and some students are experiencing difficulty with returning home, particularly international students.
The current crisis is having serious and harmful effects across all of society, health-wise but also economically and socially. People are worried about the health of their families and themselves. People are worried about their ability to financially support themselves if their workplaces are forced to shut down. Students are no less affected by the current crisis than other members of society are, and students should not have to worry about their university trying to convince their landlords to evict them.
The university has yet to release a statement in response to the criticism via their official Twitter.
And both the spokesperson for the university and the Chief Communications Officer have failed to respond to The Daily Pennsylvanian’s request for comment.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.