New statement underscores University's commitment to diversity

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — With the release of the new Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence, Penn State is bringing diversity planning to the next level.

The new diversity statement encapsulates the University's commitment to continue to foster an environment of inclusion and diversity, and provides individual units, University wide, with a clear goal as they tailor their own, unit-specific diversity plans, said Marcus Whitehurst, Penn State's vice provost for Educational Equity.

"Not only does the new statement spell out our values, but also is a call to action," said Whitehurst. "This is new. We've never had this before."

Penn State is one of the first universities to approach diversity goals using a strategic planning process, and one of the few universities to engage in regular comprehensive progress reviews, as well as being the only university that publishes  findings publicly online. Since 1998, Penn State has had a separate diversity strategic plan, "A Framework to Foster Diversity," the most recent iteration of which concluded in 2015.

An ongoing process over three five-year cycles, the Framework presented seven challenges in which each Penn State college, campus and administrative unit was asked to develop its own diversity plan in response to the University-wide strategic plan and to provide mid-point and final updates, which in turn were evaluated to gauge progress. The seven challenges included improving campus climate, recruiting and retaining a diverse student body and workforce, and developing an international curriculum, among others.

"We want to move away from diversity planning being mostly a process-driven exercise, and make it more a living, functional way of operating as an institution," said Whitehurst. "We want to say: 'These are our values, this is what we’re constantly working toward, and that we all want to be strategic about being successful in these areas.'

The Statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Excellence has its roots in the Framework's challenges, particularly Challenge One, which asked each of 48 unit leaders to "Develop a Shared and Inclusive Understanding of Diversity." In reviewing feedback from the responses, Penn State President Barron felt that one statement on diversity was needed for the entire University, a set of values and actions that would provide guidance for each unit as they tailored their own, more specific, shared and inclusive understanding of diversity.

In addition, Whitehurst said that Penn State Provost Nicholas Jones and President Barron have determined that it's time to advance the work by incorporating it into the larger strategic planning process. The best practices of the Framework are being integrated into the overall University Strategic Plan for 2016-2020, under "Fostering and Embracing a Diverse World," one of the plan's six foundational principles.

"We want to move away from diversity planning being mostly a process-driven exercise, and make it more a living, functional way of operating as an institution," said Whitehurst. "We want to say: 'These are our values, this is what we’re constantly working toward, and that we all want to be strategic about being successful in these areas.'

"The goal is to move our diversity planning to the next level. And we think that if we can condense the successful aspects of the Framework and integrate them into the overall strategic planning process, we're going take it to that level. The diversity statement will help in many ways, because we've eliminated the expectations that each unit will have to create from scratch its own, separate definition of what diversity planning means."

The development of the new statement included feedback from President's Council, Academic Leadership Council, Council of Academic Deans, Commission for Women, Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Equity, Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity, Administrative Council on Multicultural Affairs, Council of College Multicultural Leaders, Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force, and the Senate Committee on Educational Equity and Campus Environment.  

"This is our building of a new infrastructure, this is Penn State's commitment to how we value diversity," said Whitehurst. "When anyone asks, 'Where does Penn State stand when it comes to diversity?', we can point to our diversity statement, and say, 'This is where we stand, these are the actions that we want to take as an institution, as a community, when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusive excellence.'"

Penn State Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence:

The Pennsylvania State University is committed to and accountable for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in all of its forms. We embrace individual uniqueness, foster a culture of inclusive excellence that supports both broad and specific diversity initiatives, leverage the educational and institutional benefits of diversity, and engage all individuals to help them thrive. We value inclusive excellence as a core strength and an essential element of our public service mission.

At Penn State:

  • We will foster and maintain a safe environment of respect and inclusion for faculty, staff, students, and members of the communities we serve.
  • We will educate our faculty, staff, and students to be social justice advocates, creatively providing curricula, programs, and environments that reflect the diversity of our communities, and elevate cultural awareness.
  • We will ensure fair and inclusive access to our facilities, programs, resources, and services, and ensure that all of our policies and practices are inclusive and equitable.
  • We will advance and build our workforce by assessing hiring practices and performance review procedures to attract, retain, and develop talented faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds.
  • We will address intergroup disparities in areas such as representation, retention, learning outcomes, and graduation rates.
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Last Updated March 14, 2016