Returning From a Leave

It’s hard to return from a leave of absence. It’s even harder to come back knowing that you feel worse than before.

Let me explain: I took a leave after fall semester last year because of unbearable circumstances and experiences that rattled my emotional core. I could write an entire book on the events leading to my leave, but this is sufficient for now.

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Female Freshmen: Perceptions of Danger

How do you feel late at night on Locust Walk?

Do you feel like you’re in danger? Do you think your college campus is perfectly safe?

The United States Department of Justice defines sexual assault as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” [1] Many different actions fall under the category of sexual assault.

Women in college are three times more likely to be sexually assaulted than women in general—23.1 percent experience assault during their college years, as well as 5.4 percent of men [2]. And scarily, according to a 2015 report, 20.8 percent of female undergraduate students (and 4.5 percent of male undergraduate students) at the University of Pennsylvania have experienced unwanted sexual touching [3]. This year welcomed a new freshman class to Penn—the Class of 2020. With these frightening statistics, it would be understandable for women to feel apprehension about this potential campus danger. However, perceptions of this underlying threat seem to be very mixed within the freshman class.

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A Brief History of Racism in Redlining

Redlining [red-lahy-ning]: noun: a discriminatory practice by which banks, insurance companies, etc., refuse or limit loans, mortgages, insurance, etc., within specific geographic areas, especially inner-city neighborhoods.

(via dictionary.com)

The practice of redlining in cities across the United States, including Philadelphia, started with the creation of the Federal Housing Administration in 1934 and ended in 1968 with the Fair Housing Act.

A key that shows different rankings of regions, as written on security maps. [via The Atlantic]

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) created maps that ranked residential neighborhoods based on their desirability for further investment in a color-coded system. Often, higher ranks of “A” or “B” were likely to receive loans, while ranks of “C” or “D” were likely to be denied loans.

The FHA used various factors to differentiate rankings of zones, among which was the description of the kinds of people living in the area. Often, areas that were predominantly African American communities, or even immigrant communities, were ranked low on the scale. The common, but unstated, thought was that the arrival of African Americans and Immigrant in a community signaled the decline and ultimate demise of a neighborhood.

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Glen’s Journey of Resilience: West Philly Streets to the Ivy League

Penn prides itself in selecting a diverse student body. That being said, I never expected to meet someone at Penn who had been a crack cocaine dealer and had come from one of the most rough areas of West Philly. And I never expected that person to be so accomplished and ambitious.

I was first introduced to Glen’s story when I serendipitously decided to attend a random documentary screening last year.

I left amazed by the different journeys students take to arrive at Penn and stunned by the reality so different from our own that’s ever present only a few streets further west into Philadelphia.

The film “Glen’s Village” was commissioned by 5th Borough Films and the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, a non-profit newspaper that reports on the city’s education system. It was directed and co-produced by Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist and filmmaker Dorian Geiger and  Paul Jablow, a veteran Philadelphia education reporter. The film has been to more than 15 film festivals across the U.S and has won 5 awards. Glen’s village is also currently nominated for a Education Writers Award.

The only thing more impressive than the accolades the film has accrued is Glen’s story itself.

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Top 5 things I learned in the Streets of Philly

For the past month and a half, I’ve stepped outside of the Penn bubble and gone downtown with a group from the Newman Center. Our intention was to talk to the homeless offering them some coffee, giveaways, and empathy. Through this experience, I listened to their stories, both sad and hopeful, and I also learned a few things. Some things surprised me and others just increased my concern. So, here are the Top 5 things I learned in the streets of Philly.

1. Some people just want to be heard.

On my first night, I met an old gentleman. It was a cold night, and I had never done anything like this before. When I introduced myself, the man shook my hand and smiled. One question, as simple as ‘where are you from?’ triggered an hour and a half of conversation. He talked about the way people looked at him and how one of my friends looked like Superman. He spoke frankly about the assumptions people made about his abilities, and complained about the football season. ‘The teams are not what they used to be’, he would say, and whenever we tried to answer him, he would just acknowledge and keep on talking. He just needed someone to hear him.

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Behind-the-Scenes of Penn Benjamins

Each Thursday night, two Penn students make their way over to Van Pelt Weigle Information Commons rooms 128 and 129. Inside, they place water boilers, piles of cups, and assortments of snacks onto the table—their standard arrangement for the following hours. While it may appear as if they’re setting up for another lengthy evening in the library, the students are actually preparing for their upcoming shifts as Penn Benjamins Peer Counselors.

Every Tuesday and Thursday from 7 to 11 PM, Van Pelt WIC Rooms 128 and 129 are transformed from study to support spaces for the Penn student body. (On Sunday and Monday at the same time, this transformation takes place in the Harnwell Library). During the following hours, these two counselors, along with several other Penn students, will welcome undergraduates into the Weigle Commons GSRs for confidential counseling sessions. In the midst of environments associated with work and stress, these makeshift offices provide the space necessary for a good breather and emotional release.

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