Trustees receive update from task force on racism, bias, community safety

September 17, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State Board of Trustees Committee on Academic Affairs and Student Life dedicated its Sept. 17 meeting to the topic of advancing greater diversity, equity and inclusion across the University, which included an update from the board’s oversight task force on racism, bias and community safety.

The oversight of diversity, inclusion and equity issues surrounding the strategic direction of academic and student affairs has been a priority of this committeeToday's agenda reflects that,” said committee chairman and Trustee David Han, noting that the committee also engaged in a robust discussion about the ongoing review of the Student Code of Conduct.

“I want to thank the board oversight committee and entire administration for prioritizing the issue of racism and working to make Penn State a more inclusive environment,” said task force chair and fellow Trustee Brandon Short.

First established by the Board of Trustees in June in support of Penn State President Eric Barron’s unequivocal commitment to combatting racism and intolerance, Short said the task force aims to assess the effectiveness of the University’s ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives to help create a safe and welcoming environment for all members of the Penn State community. 

The task force has been working directly to support each of the University’s key initiatives, Short said -- including the Select Penn State Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias and Community Safety; the reconvened Task Force on Policing and Communities of Color; a full review of the Student Code of Conduct; and partnering with the Faculty Senate to incorporate anti-bias coursework into the University’s curriculum.

Since its inception, the task force has been meeting weekly and soliciting input and perspective from leaders and across the University, including Kenya Mann Faulkner, chief ethics and compliance officer; Jennifer Hamer, senior faculty mentor in the Office of Educational Equity; David Callejo Perez, associate vice president and senior associate dean for Academic Affairs; James Franklin, Penn State head football coach; Jackie Edmondson, chancellor of Penn State Greater Allegheny; and Francis Achampong, chancellor of Penn State Mont Alto.

“They provided anecdotes from their experiences at the University, as well as recommendations on areas where we can improve the University,” Short said.

The task force has also been collaborating with Development and Alumni Affairs’ Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Charleon Jeffries to learn more about efforts to recruit, hire, develop and retain a diverse and equitable workforce. Short also noted that Jefferies helped develop the Penn State Equity Action Resources Team anti-bias and structural racism training modules that the Board of Trustees and University senior administrators have recently taken.

Short said the task force was also briefed on the Office of Strategic Communications’ work to keep the Penn State community informed about efforts to combat racism, as well as on the Office of Educational Equity’s new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Resources website. The site includes curated research and other resources to help students, staff and faculty think critically about a range of topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion.  

Another effort of the Office of Educational Equity has been the “Toward Racial Equity at Penn State: Social Difference, Social Equity and Social Change” series of roundtable discussions. The first event featured Black members of University leadership exploring the experiences of people of color and members of underrepresented racial and ethnic communities within predominately white work and learning spaces, while the second conversation focused on faculty members, staff, University leaders and students of color sharing their experiences within a predominately white university setting and their visions for the future of diversity, equity and inclusion at Penn State. The series will conclude on Nov. 4 with a conversation titled “Race in the Community,” which, broadly, will focus on social identities and social differences in the current political climate.

Moving forward, Short said, “our focus will be more toward supporting the president’s leadership groups for each of those initiatives, so we can use at our collective experience in the private sector and at the University to help push these initiatives forward.”

“I want to thank everybody who has participated in this initiative,” Short concluded. “It’s a university-wide effort and we are making good process.”

 

Last Updated September 17, 2020