Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias and Community Safety is convened

July 28, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – In support of Penn State President Eric Barron’s commitment to address both the immediate issues and longstanding problems of racism, bias and intolerance, a Select Penn State Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias and Community Safety has been convened. Barron announced the commission in his June 10 message to the Penn State Community.

This commission is tasked to examine the deployment of University resources to address the profound social issues related to racism and bias that are pervasive in our nation, and specifically at Penn State. As well, an important aspect of the commission’s work is to make concrete recommendations that will promote and support the safety of faculty, staff and students who are confronted by racism and bias on Penn State campuses.

The co-chairs for this presidential commission are:

  • Danielle M. Conway, dean and Donald J. Farage Professor of Law, Penn State Dickinson Law
  • Clarence Lang, Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts, professor of African American studies
  • Beth Seymour, chair, University Faculty Senate, associate teaching professor of anthropology, communications, history, and women's, gender and sexuality studies, Penn State Altoona

“I am looking forward to collaborating with this strong group of colleagues and, more importantly, finding ways to engage other faculty, staff, and students in the critical work of making Penn State a more equitable, inclusive and safe environment,” said Lang.

“This is the time to launch anti-racist efforts that will provide vital opportunities for reparative work that will counteract institutional racism,” said Seymour.

The co-chairs and members of the commission will reach out to nominees soon to seek their continued engagement through subcommittee membership. They thank the community for its commitment to dismantling racism, deconstructing bias and promoting community safety at Penn State and beyond.

“The commission gives Penn State a process to make real and lasting change that will transform our educational, research, and public-facing service missions for the next generation of teachers, learners and community members who are able to realize their full potential, free from racism and bias,” said Conway.

This select commission includes a broad representation of leaders and scholars at all levels in the University, including the leadership of the current University Presidential Commissions, as well as members of our alumni whose independent judgement will be of value to this important work.

The members of this Presidential Commission include:

  • Gary Abdullah, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion, Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications
  • Ashley Adams, senior director of Student Affairs, Penn State World Campus
  • Kimberly Blockett, associate professor of English, Penn State Brandywine
  • Emil Cunningham, director, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Finance and Business
  • Sonia DeLuca Fernández, associate vice provost, Office of Educational Equity
  • Justin De Senso, assistant teaching professor, English and African American studies, Penn State Berks
  • Kenya Faulkner, chief ethics and compliance officer
  • Alice Adu Gyamfi, Institute for Arbitration Law and Practice, Penn State Law, alumna
  • Wanda Bryant Hope, chief diversity and inclusion officer, Johnson & Johnson and member of the Smeal Board of Visitors, alumna
  • Roderick Lee, associate professor of information systems, School of Business Administration, Penn State Harrisburg
  • Efraín Marimón, assistant professor of education
  • Elsa Sanchez, professor of horticultural systems management, Department of Plant Science
  • Joaquim Diego Santos, undergraduate student, biochemistry and molecular biology, Eberly College of Science
  • Aneesah Smith, director of diversity, equity and inclusion, Penn State Abington
  • Christopher Tounsel, assistant professor of history and African studies
  • Chris Walters, senior coordinator for student success, Penn State Abington

To continue the opportunity for engagement, the University has established a new website — Action Together: Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Penn State ( The Penn State community can utilize the new website to share ideas and input, and all suggestions will be provided to the co-chairs. The site will also serve as a resource for updates to the community on the progress of these efforts.  

Last Updated July 28, 2020