Penn, you failed us.
Penn, you failed us. You failed the friends of Olivia, and you failed every single member of the undergraduate community. This week, you continued to mishandle a matter of the utmost importance and further convinced us of what we have thought for so long: you do not care about us.
We found out about Olivia’s death through an email that caused more confusion and fear than it could ever bring clarification. You told us that a “successful, well-liked junior girl had died.” To us, that became every one of our friends, loved ones, and sisters. In that moment, every woman we have known in our classes, every woman we have worked with or seen from afar — in that moment they died. Until you gave us a name, we were in a panic that could not be stopped. You took a campus already on the brink, and instead of pulling us into your embrace, you pushed us over the edge. You failed us.
Then you finally gave us a name, but only to those in Wharton. We had to wait for the news to trickle in, as community after community breathed a sigh of relief, began to mourn, or too often had to grapple with both emotions at the same time. Penn, you forced us into this situation and you failed us.
Then you gave us a “gathering for sharing and support,” or so we thought. What you gave us was a press conference. You brought us into a Huntsman classroom — a chillingly ironic location — that filled quickly with people standing in the back. Then you kicked us out, told us that only those with seats were fit to be in that room, and you sent us to an overflow simulcast. You gave us a series of thirty-second lectures about the alleged resources that exist at this school. Resources we know, and resources that now seem more hollow than ever. And what was the one point that was echoed throughout each presentation? That we should not feel pressured to talk to reporters. In that moment of self-service, Penn, you failed us.
You have failed us time and time again. You have not provided us with the resources to seek mental health, and you have promoted a culture of single-minded strength in a world that so clearly needs to show vulnerability. You have thrown blow after blow at us, and this week we broke. It was not our own weakness that did us in. It was your failure.
But we will not fail each other. This week we have seen outpourings of grief, of compassion, of unrequited support. We saw love and despair and hope and fear. We exchanged hugs and tears and small looks that spoke volumes. We will not succumb to you.
Penn, you have failed us, but we will not fail each other.