6:59 a.m. EST this morning marked the end of the first week since the suicide of University of Pennsylvania junior, Ao ‘Olivia’ Kong. On the morning of Monday, April 11, 2016, the Wharton School student passed as she jumped to the tracks of an oncoming train on SEPTA’s Market-Frankford line in Philadelphia, PA.
I first heard of Olivia’s loss like most of my peers did: via Facebook posts. Only a handful of my friends having known her personally, all but two of these posts were complaints rather than grievances. Complaints that Penn can do more. Penn doesn’t care. Penn had failed us. Each filled with distinctly chilling accounts of Penn’s screw ups. I wanted to find out for myself — religiously monitoring the Penn community and administration’s responses this past week.
The Penn community wasted no time in rallying multilateral support through services, vigils, and walks amongst other memorials.
The Penn administration sent an email — two, if you are in Wharton.
For the implied less-deserving rest of the student body, some of which lost a roommate, friend, associate, or that girl-I-met-during-NSO for that matter: an email. An email worded as if Ao ‘Olivia’ Kong’s name was unspeakable, meriting only a “report that a Penn undergraduate student was struck and killed this morning,” from University of Pennsylvania President and Provost. Specifics included her sex and class year, narrowing possible victims to female juniors: just over 1,200 students.
Excusing this as a vague early notification, one pending communication with the 21-year old’s family, I patiently waited for follow-ups. And waited some more. ‘Maybe tomorrow’ I told myself, feeling the need to justify the wait.
Six ‘Penn News Today’ emails since, but not one with a mention of Olivia Kong. Day after day, social media posts faded but the campus drive for change fortified. A petition by Olivia’s friend and fraternity president, Sophie Phillips (W’ 2017), that tallied over 2,000 signatures on the first day alone, resonates strongly within the campus atmosphere. Despite recording 4,450 signatories at 10:30 p.m. EST tonight, the effort encroaches its goal solely in arithmetics, not action.
As Concerned Penn notes in their story cited below, the inefficiently formal responses the administration conveyed not only failed the Penn community in a time of need but also dangled its failures in creating the community it purports. Five days after this story, six days after the petition, and seven days after the tragedy — this remains true.
Despite each passing day, family, friends, and concerned petitioners are committed to an official response. Committed to closure. Maybe tomorrow, they hope. But Penn’s silence is significant: maybe tomorrow, but probably not.
“Penn, you failed us.”, Concerned Penn: https://medium.com/@ConcernedPenn/penn-you-failed-us-49003e135da2#.namcb5egb
Mental Health at Penn Petition, Sophie Phillips: https://www.change.org/p/amy-gutmann-addressing-mental-health-resources-at-the-university-of-pennsylvania?recruiter=526201730&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_term=mob-xs-share_petition-reason_msg&fb_ref=Default#delivered-to