They are many in number. They are stoic. They are strong.
They are the guardians of Penn’s campus– of our souls and ourselves.
They are bound to stand by us, in sickness and in health.
They are the support we need, not the support we deserve.
They are walls.
These are their stories.
* * *
He stands. He stares. Blankly, his eyes fix at the horizon while he speaks.
“Every once in awhile, we notice these buildups of tension between West Philadelphia residents and our appropriative neighbors in University City. This time, the students at the University of Pennsylvania have simply gone too far. They are not West Philadelphia residents and have never been West Philadelphia residents. They have not contributed to the community in any constructive way and do not have the lived experiences to draw upon which would allow them to act in such a way,” he said, stationary. “Graffiting a wall on campus to make it look ‘urban’ more than crosses the line.”
West Philly and Penn students have always shared a complicated relationship. The local community has grown throughout the decades, while the University continues to expand its reach into the neighborhood. While the two attempt to integrate their cultures, students at times misuse the heritage and history of its residential surroundings.
But this wall can’t do much to protest student behavior. He is a wall.
* * *
Penn walls have wildly varying experiences depending on their undergraduate school.
One of the Huntsman walls forming GSR 267, who preferred to remain anonymous, pointed out that on more than one occasion she had overheard plans to commit insider trading.
“It was like Martha Stewart all over again,” she exclaimed. “Maybe no one ever suspects anything because they’re rich. Still, the students I hear these days definitely prove the hardest part of Wharton is getting in.”
“I recognize that I received the legacy of the many foundational, named walls before me. I recognize my wall privilege. ” said the wall. “I know I was donated by a capitalist crook, but I never thought I’d see the cycle of stolen wealth repeat at such an egalitarian institution.”
The Huntsman main hallway wall refused to comment. It would only speak to reporters with Wharton degrees.
A wall in the female-heavy Nursing School has a problem with the number of male College students which populate the area near her, going so far as to lean on her. The female nurses, on the other hand, are constantly trying to “lean in”. She’s up to her ears with this behavior.
And as for the College? One wall outside Fisher Bennet groaned at the horde of cigarette-toting English majors striding past.
“They think they’re so post-post-modern,” the wall intoned. “They say that I’m just post-modern, and that hurts. They’re not as avant-garde as they think they are.”
A wall in Addams said it almost filed a complaint after Fine Arts majors kept smudging it with paint.
Another famous Wharton alumnus has made news recently campaigning for the construction of a new wall, named after him. The Trump Wall should be completed by late 2016, and will completely surround the business school, separating it from the rest of campus.
When we asked the Trump Wall about his vision for protecting Wharton from undocumented College students, he simply said, “I’m gonna be YUGE.”
The Donald himself would not return our calls for comment.
* * *
And even classroom walls aren’t safe.
One wall says he feels incredibly uncomfortable when professors teach HIST 211, Russian-German Politics, in his seminar room.
“Every time the professors explain the fall of the Berlin wall, they act like it’s a victory. And the students all suck up and agree,” he said, cold and unmoving. “It’s like they literally support our downfall. That wall could’ve been my cousin.”
The wall said it’s repeatedly requested trigger warnings from the University History Department. When we contacted the department chair for a statement, she simply said Penn traditionally does not provide warnings regarding a curriculum’s content.
But the wall says that insensitivity even continues after class. “Students really need think about their rhetoric and their language. Phrases like ‘I’m hitting a wall’ and ‘I could punch a wall’ can be really traumatizing.”
“They don’t understand that words hurt, and so do walls.”
* * *
Off-campus walls see different challenges than their University-sponsored peers.
“Everyone thinks I’m from Europe or something, or that I’m gay,” a wall in the Psi Upsilon, commonly referred to as Castle, house said. “Seriously I’m completely straight. You can stick a level on me anytime you want.” Besides, he suggested, shipping walls from Europe would be too expensive.
“Don’t get me wrong,” the wall was quick to add, not as casually as he would have liked. “We could afford it. We just don’t want to. “Hey, what the hell?” the wall shouted as a reporter turned to leave. “Put out that cigarette, man!”
The wall stressed he has taken added precautions in the past few weeks, after “almost losing a brother in a small fire.”
We tried to interview a wall from a Spruce frat, but the wall would only respond, “Who do you know here?”
After our reporters listed a few brothers in the frat, the wall just stared blankly at them. “Take a lap,” he said. “Except for that freshman in the crop top. She can come in.”
“You can even try sitting on me,” the wall said to the freshman in question, without a hint of irony.
We spoke to a third wall about the experience of having a front-row seat for uncomfortable frat basement activities, like grinding and twerking. “It’s horrifying” she said. “I’ve been in more threesomes than I count.”
The wall has repeatedly tried to make an appointment at CAPS, but the University has yet to approve her Penn inTouch account.
We also reached out to a fourth wall at the Platt Student Performing Arts Center, but we couldn’t. (Ed. note: We broke it.)
* * *
The University prides itself on creating a friendly living atmosphere for freshmen on campus, with dorms that supposedly feature state of the art walls.
But actually talk to the walls that literally support these freshmen, and you’ll get a different story.
“I can’t handle all these selfies,” a freshman girl’s Facebook wall groaned. “And they insist on calling me a Timeline, but come on, who’s kidding anyone? They know I’m a wall, and they think they can smother me in NSO photos months later. I just can’t even.”
A wall in the Quad demanded we speak to him, because, in his own words, “Nobody ever fucking talks to me.”
“These freshmen, they think they’re all too cool. Ha. I see these kids still in their date night outfits at noon the next day, they think they can hide that from me? They think I don’t see what’s going on? Pssh. And the whole ‘sign-in-after-2-am-rule’...hell, those kids don’t even know how to hold a pen at that time.”
The wall was particularly indignant about the musical choices of these freshmen.
“To the window...to the wall? What kind of dumb ass song is that? Bitch, please, move to the wall and stay there. And stop telling everyone about your sweat patterns!”
* * *
The wall in the Undergraduate Admissions office, tucked on the southern side of College Hall’s first floor, has also seen a lot in its day.
“Once, admissions Officer Kelly Johns peed on me when Dean Furda wasn’t looking,” said the wall. “I thought this shit only happened in fraternities.”
“Despite the common belief that admissions are meritocratic and holistic, after about half the Class of 2019 was admitted, the officers gave up and accepted people based on random criteria,” she explained. “One student was admitted because his AP score credits added to 69 (Ed. note: nice), while another because his name was Mike Hunt. “
One wall was furious at Penn’s application process.
“An application essay asked if you’re movable, a mover, or immovable,” the wall said. “I’d never get accepted that way. I’m literally immovable!”
Other walls in College Hall also have complaints regarding University administration. “I’ve been a wall for over a century, and I still don’t have tenure.”
One wall in Van Pelt’s Mark’s Cafe is incredibly unhappy with her current arrangement. Though Penn’s library has tons of resources, its aesthetics continue to suffer.
“People say that it’s the inside that counts, but I know first-hand that’s not true.” She sighed, “Besides, I talked to a wall at a Harvard library– they just have it better there. I don’t know, I feel like everyone who sees me wished I reached greater heights.”
“But at least I’m not a wall at Yale,” the wall continued. “Those guys have massive chips in their facades."
And at Brown, there are no walls, thanks to the university’s new “open space” policies. Cornell can’t quite figure out how they work. For future reference, they go on top of the foundation and below the roof.
But the wall doesn’t know how to change this broken system. She says, "It’s hard to move people when you can’t move yourself."