College of Education launches effort to do away with systemic inequities

Jim Carlson
November 17, 2020

Penn State’s College of Education is affirming its commitment to combat and actively dismantle persistent systemic inequities. 

“As researchers and educators, we have a moral imperative to act against systems that perpetuate bias, discrimination and racism,” said Kimberly A. Lawless, dean of the college. “As a community we recognize that these systems impact, disenfranchise and oppress on the basis of many ‘othernesses.’ 

“While we abhor and seek to combat all forms of discrimination, these turbulent times in society present a call to action to specifically address the centuries of discrimination and racism endured by Black Americans in this country.”

The college is urging people to stand with it in endorsement of its resolution, and Lawless said words will ring hollow if they are not accompanied by action. She and the college’s leadership team have resolved to conduct a critical review of the college curriculum regarding attention to race and issues of equity in undergraduate and graduate courses. 

“We will make revisions to the curriculum as needed, and we will provide support for instructors’ use of, and teaching about, equity-minded and asset-based pedagogies,” Lawless said.

A condensed version of the college’s action plan begins here:

·      Develop an adaptive equity-minded/equity praxis leadership team through engagement in professional development experiences and dialogue.

·      Support the development of a college-wide council, composed of faculty, staff and students of color and equity allies and accomplices, that will serve as an advisory body to college leadership to support justice-oriented impact.

·      Review all policies and standards of the college with the specific goal of identifying processes that impact the success of faculty and students of color.

·      Conduct a critical review of the college curriculum regarding attention to race and issues of equity in undergraduate and graduate courses and make revisions as needed.

·      Establish a required, credit-bearing course for all incoming undergraduate students focused on social justice and equity with an explicit exploration of race.

·      Strengthen existing and developing new and innovative partnerships with diverse schools and districts and communities of color where we enact the professional preparation of educators as well as our research and outreach.

·      Communicate with Commonwealth Campuses and other institutions of higher education across Pennsylvania to learn from their efforts.

“We are beginning to work on revising our processes related to curriculum development and review in the college so that diversity, equity, inclusion and belongingness are explicit components of programs and courses,” Lawless said.

Lawless noted that initial steps outlined in the plan were identified through work with a core group of faculty of color and are informed by the voices of the college’s students and alumni of color.

“This will be a collaborative effort across the departments and college,” Lawless said. “College Curricular Affairs (CCA) and department curriculum committees will partner with the equity team during the fall semester to develop new processes for review and approval of curricula. Based on our experiences this fall, CCA will make recommendations to the college for curriculum proposal requirements with respect to diversity, equity, inclusion and belongingness.”

The College of Education plan mirrors the University’s mission of incorporating inclusion, equity and diversity assertively into teaching, learning, assessment, research, outreach, operations and decision-making at all levels.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2020