President's Commissions for Equity to realign as advisory bodies

May 01, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The President’s Commissions for Equity at Penn State will see changes to their activities and memberships to better reflect their charges as advisory bodies to Penn State’s leader. The changes, which will be implemented July 1, are intended to strengthen the individual and collective impact of each of the three commissions, while ensuring that each commission’s goals align with the University’s priorities and strategic vision.

The three groups — the Commission for Women (CFW); Commission for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Equity (CLGBTQE); and Commission for Racial and Ethnic Diversity (CORED) — were appointed in the 1980s and ‘90s to serve as advisory councils to the president and Office of the President by communicating recommendations and observations about equity matters at the University.

In 1981, CFW was established with 18 members to advise on the status of women at Penn State, advocate for women’s concerns and to recommend solutions. Over the years, the scope and size of CFW, and the other two commissions, have expanded beyond their original charges. 

Beginning this summer, the commissions will refocus their work as advisory bodies to the president and President’s Council to address specific equity-related topics that support Penn State’s Strategic Plan. In consultation with various colleagues and offices across the University, each commission will identify recommendations and initiatives to fulfill established goals that align with the University’s vision to “assertively incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into our research, teaching, learning, outreach, assessment, operations, and decision making at both the unit and University levels, and equip Penn State leaders, faculty, and staff with the tools to foster diversity, measure results, be accountable, and further institutionalize a culture of inclusion.”

In addition, changes will include a new nomination process for members and a cap on membership size.

“The equity commissions are integral to our University and historically have provided valuable insight, dedication and service in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion, which are pivotal to our mission,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “By refocusing their goals and structures to better align with their original charges as advisory bodies, I hope this valued work will have an even greater and more positive impact on the lives of students, faculty and staff across Penn State.”

Beginning July 1, each of the three President’s Commissions for Equity will be aligned to:

  • Address a goal or focus identified by the president that aligns with University priorities and strategic plan;
  • Be comprised of up to 15 members appointed by the president; and
  • Offer salient recommendation(s) that respond to the identified goal(s).

Penn State’s Office for Educational Equity will help implement these changes and will provide each commission with guidance on benchmarking, research, relationship development and related activities.  

“I am particularly interested in these commissions helping to identify barriers that inhibit the full inclusion and advancement of people from underrepresented and underserved populations. Considering the vast expanse of our complex University, it is important for us to be inclusive and represent a broad array of interests and needs,” Barron said. “I encourage each commission to think about ways they could use research, benchmarking and other metrics to make data-driven recommendations to fulfill our collective goals.”

New members — who will consist of faculty, staff and students — will be considered based on areas of expertise, experience and potential to contribute to the commissions’ goals. There will be representatives from Penn State’s campuses on each commission, and students from the University Park Undergraduate Association also will be included.

In addition to support for fulfilling new strategic goals, when interest is determined and volunteers identified, the Office for Educational Equity will provide funding for the continuity of signature programs, which have existed over multiple years and have a wide reach.

“We are eager to support the president’s vision and honor the original intent of the commissions for equity,” said Marcus Whitehurst, vice provost for Educational Equity. “These advisory bodies will leverage Penn State’s talent and expertise to further our diversity and inclusion goals, and operationalize our values.”

Nominations for new members will be solicited publicly at a later date, as all current members’ terms expire June 30, 2018. 

While the advisory-focused commissions will have no more than 15 members, program affiliates are encouraged to continue to volunteer to support signature programs.

These changes apply only to the President’s Commissions for Equity at University Park. Employees in equity-focused groups at other Penn State campuses should continue to consult their campus leaders and sponsors for support and direction.

For more information, questions may be addressed to Sonia DeLuca Fernández, assistant vice provost for Educational Equity, at  

Last Updated September 04, 2020