Penn is a bubble. It is a college campus in the middle of an urban center. We are students in a campus that is older than the neighborhood around it; so old that the city has virtually grown around Penn. For many of us, it is easy to forget that we are actually residents of the city of Philadelphia, not just Penn.
I am from Philadelphia; Mt. Airy to be specific, and I have friends all over the city. So, when I got into Penn, my friend gave me some advice: “Don’t get too annoyed when people assume they’re going to get shot if they go past 41st.”
I have been all over the city—from Fox Chase to Old City to the Stadiums. Most of these places are sections of the city that Penn kids will never know exist. Many of these places are lovely neighborhoods—some of them are not. In any large city, Philadelphia in particular, it really just depends where you are. I know far better than to set foot in some parts of Southwest or North Philly, but I also know that the neighborhood surrounding Penn is one of the most desirable places to live in the city. The area is filled with middle–class families and young adults. Most Penn kids do not know any of these geographical nuances—they don’t need to.
Philadelphia is not on Forbes’ list of the “Top 10 Most Dangerous Cities,” and in 2013, Chicago, New York and LA all had higher murder rates that Philly. Given that a large portion of Penn’s population draws from these cities, it's disorienting that these students are as afraid of a middle class neighborhood as they seem to be.
One night the other week, a friend told me that he had felt unsafe walking up to 43rd Street to grab dinner that evening. I almost scolded him—I had made the same walk the night before and thought nothing of it. Most Penn students will only be in Philadelphia for four years, and I don’t really care how much of the city they see. However, I do care about the general attitude maintained on this campus about the city.
You are not automatically going to get shot if you go past 41st Street. That doesn’t mean you should go gallivanting around by yourself in the middle of the night, but doing that in any major city is unsafe. University City is a good area, and we are lucky to be here. You should always be careful, but we could all benefit from being a little less afraid.