At Penn status is a currency in its own right. Money pumps through the veins of our university—our eyes always green with envy and grasses always seem greener on the other side of recruitment cycles. Penn is the place where golden goose sneakers traipse down locust and Goyard purses are stuffed to the brim with laptops, Essentia water bottles, and platinum cards. In the words of Madonna, we’re material girls living in a material world. 

The gap between the haves and the have–nots at Penn is a cavern. While students jet off to tropical vacations for spring break other students are knee–deep in belabored FAFSA documents. Sure, our clothes, spending habits, and social groups are indicative of wealth and privilege, but these proxies just scratch the surface of class division at our university. 

Last month The Cut published an article by their financial columnist titled “The Day I Put $50,000 in a Shoe Box and Handed It to a Stranger: I never thought I was the kind of person to fall for a scam”. The internet was set ablaze with debate. Sects of the internet quickly formed, some arguing that they could never fall for such a scam while others sympathized with her. 

But let’s be real—we fall for scams every. single. day. While we might not be shit out of $50k, we’ve all been swept up in Penn’s financial schemes. From a heinous two–year living and dining plan that promises dorm power outages and cockroaches a la mode to the rising cost of tuition, we’re being fleeced. Nevertheless, we persist because we’re told that the Penn education will open doors for us, launch our careers, and yes, hopefully, help us “secure the bag.” 

However, the promise of financial security post­–graduation can mean different things for a student population that ranges from first–generation students to your neighborhood nepo baby. We’re told repeatedly that a Penn education is a privilege in and of itself, but to capitalize off the Ivy name brand students succumb to the pre–professional tides. And who can blame the student with four years of debt for pursuing their consulting dreams? 

Our money troubles took on a new meaning this past fall, extending beyond our pre–professional predicaments. Brought to the forefront of a nation–wide debate on academic freedom spearheaded by some of Penn’s wealthiest alumni and donors, Penn underwent a once–in–a–generation identity crisis. In the wake, we’re left to question the role of donors and money in our academic institution. 

This month Street explores the age–old adage: “money talks”. From the streets of Philly to the halls of Goldman we lament the graveyard of our artistic dreams abandoned in pursuit of “realistic” prospects. When that first big–girl investment banking check hits we turn to finance influencers on TikTok to tell us how to reinvest to maximize our gains for the future home that we probably won’t be able to afford anyway. Now, as the spotlight fades from Penn’s campus after a six–month whirlwind, we examined the state of free speech asking academics (in the brave words of Oprah) “Were you silent or were you silenced?”

While Street doesn’t have a 5–point plan to reduce the cost of your Magic Gardens tickets this April or to successfully reinstate your academic freedom, we know better than anyone else that more money means more problems when cash rules everything around us.