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Penn’s Commencement Plans Overlook Orthodox Jews and Those Who Already Booked Their Bora Bora Tickets


Photo by Biruk Tibebe / The Daily Pennsylvanian

Penn’s decision to host a partially in-person commencement on May 17, 2021 was received by many graduating seniors with appreciation and celebration. For many other students, however, the decision also led to anxiety and uncertainty regarding the date of commencement, which is the same day as the Jewish holiday Shavout, as well as Stephanie and her friend group’s flight to Bora Bora.

The conflict poses numerous difficulties and complications for Orthodox Jewish students and families, as well as Stephanie and her loved ones. The commencement ceremony hence becomes far from equitable: Because of religious practices in addition to a well-fucking-deserved vacation (amidst the pandemic, granted) to the Pacific island known for scuba diving, many students will be unable to attend commencement in any way.

The solution is simple: Penn can move the date of commencement to a date that does not conflict with Shavout or Stephanie’s long-awaited trip to Bora Bora. Even by moving commencement just a single day earlier, the University could correct the situation and accommodate Orthodox Jewish students, as well as Stephanie and her sorority sisters who have been looking forward to Bora Bora for so long — like, they’ve been looking forward to this literally ever since spring break, during which they spent five days in Miami. 

To be clear: The University’s efforts to produce an in-person commencement are appreciated and commended. That being said, to the Orthodox Jewish community in the Class of 2021, as well as Stephanie and her social circle, the prospect of a commencement that isn’t fully inclusive is simply unacceptable. 

Penn’s willful ignorance of Orthodox Jewish students’ religious practices, as well as Stephanie’s well-planned-out schedule to live it the fuck up in Bora Bora, however, can be corrected. Penn can do better. By switching the commencement date, Penn can make a move to actively include students who would otherwise feel overlooked.

LIWA SUN used to be a communist youth pioneer. She is now blonde, melancholy, and a little bit of a bitch.