Wednesday, February 14, 2007We are writing in response to SpeakOut’s statement that was delivered to the President’s office on Friday, Feb. 9, 2007, and in response to subsequent conversations Friday afternoon with Vice President Triponey and Vice Provost Jones. Let us first assure you that the administration at Penn State is unalterably committed to continuing our longstanding efforts to promote diversity and create a climate of acceptance for all. As we have stated before, we will under no circumstances tolerate acts of hate or discrimination and we will investigate and prosecute the violation of University policy and laws related to all documented violations that are reported through the appropriate channels, which include our Affirmative Action Office, Office of Educational Equity, University Police, and Office of Judicial Affairs. We most certainly will and do hold members of this community accountable when they are found responsible for violations of our policies regarding discrimination. Additionally we are resolved to continue our extensive efforts to promote equity and educate our community about racism, homophobia, intolerance, insensitivity and discrimination.
We share a common commitment to create a community at Penn State that is free of bigotry, hatred and intolerance and we see many signs of progress throughout our community. To cite just a few examples from recent efforts:u Adoption of diversity requirements as part of the University’s general education curriculum;
u Enhancement of staffing and resources in the LGBTA Student Resource Center;
u Collaborative and campus-wide diversity programming between the various University centers and departments;
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u Creation of more purposeful programming that cultivates community through the new Student Programming Association (SPA) and the Fee Allocation Board (FAB);
u Improved recruitment, enrollment and retention of a more diverse student body;
u Ongoing successful efforts to promote affirmative action in all employment searches for faculty and staff;
u Incorporation of the Safe Zone and the Race Relations Project into offerings within Penn State’s fraternities and sororities;
u Enhancement of messages and discussions regarding diversity with new students and faculty;
u Formalization of partner benefits for Penn State employees; and
u Addition of Gender Identity in Penn State’s non-discrimination clause.
Additionally, through the ongoing leadership provided by the Office of Educational Equity, the Division of Student Affairs, and the University’s commissions (including CFW, CLGBTE and CORED), we have enhanced our response to specific incidents of hate and discrimination through the University’s diversity advocate, residence hall staff, University Police, the Campus Environment Team, Judicial Affairs, and individuals who are committed to eliminating hate and trained in confronting specific incidents and violations of antidiscrimination laws and policies.
Furthermore, the University’s Framework to Foster Diversity serves as a valuable tool for us to review on a regular basis the various plans and progress in creating a more caring, cohesive and inclusive community. That mid-term review process is under way and we are encouraged by signs of progress being reported from units throughout the University.
To address some of the specific concerns outlined in the written statement delivered last week, let us offer the following responses:
1. “Develop clear policies regarding the handling of violations to AD-42” -- When the Affirmative Action Office (AAO) determines that policy AD-42 has been violated, a range of appropriate sanctions are available as noted in the policy. These are determined on a case-by-case basis and tailored to fit the particular offense and the facts associated with the complaint.
2. “Mandatory course/training requirements on institutional inequality and discrimination for new and current employees” -- Penn State accomplishes this goal through orientation programs for new students, faculty and staff. In each program the University’s diversity goals and our community expectations for civility and mutual respect are reviewed. Many administrative and academic units provide extensive training to their employees beyond the University’s mandatory orientation sessions. In addition, faculty and staff can choose from a wide variety of educational programs and training sessions offered regularly through the Human Resource Development Center (HRDC). The annual performance evaluation of all staff members includes an assessment of the employee’s involvement in diversity training and contribution to the University’s diversity goals.
3. “Hiring Practices that insure faculty are open and affirmative of all students” -- All search committees are briefed and trained by the Affirmative Action office. Leaders of the various units, departments and colleges are held accountable for their efforts in this arena through the performance appraisal process and ongoing review of the Framework to Foster Diversity.
4. “Educational programs for incoming students” -- Students have numerous opportunities to engage in diversity training and multicultural education through required diversity courses (as part of new General Education requirements), programs offered by the various units and centers in Student Affairs, and programs presented by student organizations. The Divisions of Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs are working collaboratively to enhance the efforts already under way to educate new students about their obligations as members of our community and to help them learn to succeed and contribute in a positive way toward an inclusive and civil learning community. Additionally, the Faculty Senate recently voted to establish a task force to examine how to enhance the First Year Seminar as one of the mechanisms for educating students how to succeed in their college endeavors and we would expect diversity training to be part of those discussions.
5. “Make the non-discrimination policy contractual for those attending and working at Penn State” -- This requirement is already in place and enforced. All students and employees are expected to abide by AD-42 and other related policies and if found responsible for violating those policies, they will be sanctioned appropriately.
Regarding concerns about a minor and the University’s diversity advocate: The Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equity (CLGBTE) has long championed the creation of the minor and their efforts led to the creation of a joint committee of the College of the Liberal Arts and the College of Health and Human Development. Conversations are ongoing between the CLGBTE, the College of the Liberal Arts and Women's Studies, which has expressed an interest in the minor. The approval process for curricular development of courses and minors rests with the college and the Faculty Senate Committee on Curricular Affairs.
The position of student diversity advocate at University Park is filled by a dedicated, full-time staff member in the Multicultural Resource Center. Much of her time is devoted to the role of diversity advocate, but even though this is a very important function, the number of incidents reported each semester on the Report Hate Web site does not yet warrant allocation of full-time responsibility. The diversity advocate is committed to follow-up on all bias reports received from a variety of sources including our Report Hate Web site at http://www.equity.psu.edu/REPORTHATE/index.html online. Incidents of bias can be reported to the student diversity advocate directly or any member of Educational Equity or Office of Student Affairs staff. It is important to note that at University Park, there are many staff members who are diversity advocates and have full-time positions that are devoted to diversity. These include the multicultural coordinators in each college as well as student affairs and educational equity staff. All Penn State campuses have staff members responsible for diversity initiatives and they serve as diversity advocates as part of their professional responsibilities. Also, students at each of our campuses have access to our centralized Report Hate Web site.Penn State has a longstanding commitment to create and maintain an academic and work environment that fosters respect for others and is free of discrimination of any kind. The University is a national leader with respect to its policies in this regard and intends to continue to play a leadership role.--------SpeakOut’s official position on the Harris v. Portland settlement
SpeakOut striving for social justice and equity at Penn State
February 9, 2007
SpeakOut’s official position on the Harris v. Portland settlement:
We are happy that the case is over for former Lady Lion Jennifer Harris, but the representatives of the University would like everyone to believe that this incident of discrimination is an isolated problem. It is not. It is however, further evidence of a systemic problem that has existed at Penn State and will continue to exist as long as students, faculty, staff, and administration alike, remain apathetic or resistant to change. So, while Jennifer Harris has found closure in the settlement, the settlement does not address the existing problems at Penn State. It is not over for the students, staff, faculty, and administrators who are still subjected to widespread discrimination, intolerance, prejudice, and hate. Many at this University want to see the case put behind them, they want to move on. But that is part of the core problem. The Harris v. Portland case has always been viewed as an issue that needs to be “moved on” from. Instead, the people of this University should not treat the case as an isolated incident, but as evidence of a dire campus climate issue, one which allows intolerance and hate to continue. Acts of discrimination have not ceased simply because of the settlement. The representatives of this University need to be more open in their stance against acts of discrimination. They need to develop clear policies that address how violations of AD Policy-42 will be handled. But more importantly, the people of this University need to recognize that prevention is more impacting then treatment. Course requirements emphasizing the critical study of institutional inequality and discrimination in our society should be mandatory for new and current employees, including heterosexism and anti-gay prejudice. Hiring practices that insure faculty are open and affirmative of all students, educational programs for incoming students and making the Non-Discrimination Policy contractual as a concession of attending and working at Penn State. These are ways by which the University can further impact the climate existing at this institution. So we will not put this behind us. We will not remain silent while discrimination, intolerance, prejudice, and hate persist at our university. We will speak out.