Penn recently took an impressive milestone. 99% of undergraduates are fully immunized. With a 0.31% positivity rate, one might consider Penn to be a relatively safe campus for COVID.
For the most part, the campus is back to normal. Crowds of maskless students walk on Locust every day, a sight that was only common during pre-pandemic life. Parties and other social events are held with few or no restrictions. But, part of campus life remains to remind us that we are not yet in a post-pandemic world: PennOpen Pass.
During that semester, you probably walked into a building without hesitation and security told you “Open Pass”. After hearing these two words, you quickly start filling out the questionnaire. You check the usual boxes in the usual order: no, no, no symptoms, no. Your screen lights up with big green letters and you are allowed to continue with your day.
According to Practical guide for PennOpen Pass, “It is recommended that members of the Penn community complete their symptom and exposure checkup an hour or two before the start of the work or school day. In reality, this is not the case. Walk into the Van Pelt Library or one of the campus buildings that require the PennOpen Pass and it’s common to see students standing in the lobby completing their daily symptom check. At this point, the students have already made the decision to enter this building. In fact, they have already entered this building. There is no incentive to be truthful in their answers.
The practical guide further says: “As of August 25, all professors, staff, post-docs and students of the University are required to use PennOpen Pass every day, including weekends and regardless of their immunization status. There is no effective application or maintenance of this so-called requirement. A system like PennOpen Pass can only be successful if it is built on consistent use, which means every building needs it to enter.
Even though more and more buildings, such as Houston Hall, are starting to require the PennOpen Pass, that is not enough. The choice of buildings that will require the PennOpen Pass seems arbitrary. Dining rooms, arguably the most high-risk COVID-19 transmission areas, don’t make the cut, but Perry World House does.
If the non-compliance testing situation was any indication, the PennOpen Pass system is deeply flawed, not in its issuance of 9,130 red passes, but in the fact that students were allowed to attend classes in person. and enter campus facilities with these red passes. . And then this week a number of people I know got red non-compliant passes again but continued to enter buildings because the passes weren’t verified.
The practical guide continues: “Across campus, schools and individual centers may require a green pass to enter the building. Penn prides itself on being an interdisciplinary school. Students travel across disciplines, both figuratively and literally, as they move around campus. However, schools are urged to act independently on how COVID-19 protocols should be applied, or lack thereof. How did that make Penn as a whole safer?
For example, you must have a green pass to be in any Wharton building. Still, you can enter Huntsman, Steinberg-Dietrich, or the Academic Research Building without showing the PennOpen Pass. Even the message within individual schools is not clear.
TO Colombia, students are required to present green passes to enter all buildings on campus. TO Harvard, students are not required to complete a daily symptom check, only if they have symptoms, potential exposure, or test positive. It’s not impossible to imagine PennOpen Pass working in either of these ways: as a preventative measure with full standardization or as a reactive measure once a COVID-related issue arises. Other Ivy League universities have done so. Still, Penn wants to have it both ways with partial standardization. By getting rid of a PennOpen Pass as a preventive measure, our lives will be made easier to no obvious cost.
The successful implementation of PennOpen Pass is a matter of strategy. If Penn wants students to complete daily symptom checks, they must require proof of a green pass to enter each building. Students will be encouraged to complete the PennOpen Pass daily because, in return, they are guaranteed access to all buildings on campus. Where there is little risk of refusal from buildings, there is little incentive to complete PennOpen Pass. But, it doesn’t look like Penn is ready to do it.
There are no clear advantage the partial implementation of the PennOpen Pass. It’s all or nothing. I don’t choose anything.
YOMI ABDI is a first year studying finance at Wharton in Chicago. His email is [email protected].