Penn State University, like many other similarly situated institutions of post secondary education, has been struggling with the very hard work of moving from the embrace of flowery statements of solidarity respecting diversity to actually making it a lived reality in the environment in which students, staff, faculty and particularly administrators operate. (Statement From the Penn State University Faculty Senate Chair ).
Among the most pro active elements of Penn State's conversations about diversity have been our students. (Student Statement of Solidarity With Duke University Student Body). Current efforts to bring greater focus on diversity started in January 20'13 when the students addressed the Penn State University Faculty Senate about the issue. (Diversity Awareness Task Force: Statement to the University Faculty Senate January 29, 2013).
Following that intervention a Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force was constituted including elements from the major stakeholders of the University. Its charge included:
· Bring a diverse group of administrators, faculty and students together to work collaboratively to engage in dialogue and provide recommendations to the University Faculty Senate and Administration to enhance diversity awareness in the University Community.
· Thoroughly investigate practices that will be most effective to increase diversity understanding among the student body.
· Provide recommendations to the Faculty Senate Committee charged with reforming the general education curriculum as a whole.
The JDATF as now produced an informational Report. It will be delivered to the Senate but in silence. The Penn State University Faculty Senate Council approved the JDATF’s Informational report and it will be included in the March 18th Senate Agenda. But it will not be presented. It will be posted online only and that there will not be any presentation at the Senate meeting. The JDATF will not be able to present the report or stand for questions.
This response provides an excellent illustration of the approach to diversity at many institutions--engagement and oblivion. This is all the more important because of it collateral result--Marginalization. Even as the University devotes a tremendous amount of resources to its reconstruction of General Education, even as it focuses substantial public time to experiential learning and other important elements of a public education--the education and practice of diversity is buried and marginalized. Consider this:
Our guiding principle in revising General Education is to enable students to acquire the skills, knowledge, and experiences for living and working in interconnected and globalized contexts, so they can contribute to making life better for others, themselves, and the larger world. (Penn State Gen Ed Matters, Vision)Diversity plays virtually no role in the construction of either experiential learning or general education reform, unless, perhaps, one does some very deep interpretive reading. The expectations appear simple enough--provide a formally responsive forum for meeting, produce a report well received but avoid robust interconnection to the vital life of the university, and then move on with a sense of satisfaction of having engaged with diversity.
You judge for yourselves. For those interested, it might be possible to raise questions and issues--especiually about the ways in which diversity has been integrated as an important part of the reform of general education and the formation of premises that support experiential learning during the "New Business" segment of the Senate Meeting or elsewhere. It might also be time for another forensic on the state of diversity in the University Faculty Senate.
The Informational report follows:
Appendix X2/10/2014JOINT DIVERSITY AWARENESS TASK FORCEUpdate(Informational)Diversity is a key feature of our modern industrial and labor market culture. Companies like Hewlett-Packard, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare and IBM consider cultural competence an important management requirement (important enough to hold managers accountable with financial incentives). We strive to prepare students who are at the top of their fields of employment. An understanding of diversity and the ability to interact effectively with people from diverse backgrounds is fast becoming a required skill for leadership positions in the workplace, as well as the public sphere. Graduates who leave the University well on their journey toward gaining cultural competence will have a clear competitive advantage as they assume leadership roles in the workplace and as emerging leaders in local, state, national and international government.The charge of our task force given in May of 2013 was to:· Bring a diverse group of administrators, faculty and students together to work collaboratively to engage in dialogue and provide recommendations to the University Faculty Senate and Administration to enhance diversity awareness in the University Community.· Thoroughly investigate practices that will be most effective to increase diversity understanding among the student body.· Provide recommendations to the Faculty Senate Committee charged with reforming the general education curriculum as a whole.To date, our task force has met formally as a group nearly a half-dozen times, including an all-day retreat. Members of our task force have presented twice to the General Education Task Force, once to the Council on Engaged Scholarship, and have met with administrators to discuss the need for diversity and inclusion education at University Park, our Commonwealth Campuses, as well as for the New Student Orientation Program (NSOP). Five members of the Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force (JDATF) sit on subcommittees of the General Education Task Force (GETF). We are also currently in the process of obtaining valuable metrics both through new campus climate studies, as well as mining data from a variety of previous surveys sent to the Penn State community.As a result, the JDATF has developed six recommendations to date, though we have additional ideas we would like to explore further and are open to new suggestions from the Faculty Senate. Our current recommendations are:· Diversity should be a core element of the new general education curriculum.· Diversity should be considered by the GETF as a theme, if a thematic approach is implemented in general education reform.· A “Diversity Passport” program should be implemented. This program would be similar to programs to enhance diversity and inclusion at other CIC institutions, but would be a voluntary mechanism for engaged scholarship. The program would utilize opportunities that already exist at Penn State for students to be involved in lectures, engaged dialogues, guest speakers, and civic engagement. Students that are interested in gaining further experiences would be able to participate in a tiered program. Participation in such a program could be noted on a student’s transcript. It would not be a reference for multicultural expertise, but rather a way for Penn State students to show their employers that they have chosen to use their time at Penn State to learn about other cultures.· The content and material in US and IL designated courses should be enriched. Instead of requiring only 25% of the course material to focus on diversity, we recommend 50% of the material in a course designated as such be spent on diversity and inclusion. For a course to count as both a US and IL course, 100% of the material would need to focus on these concepts. Additionally, a new criterion “to increase understanding of the nature of power, privilege, and discrimination in the United States and abroad at the societal, institutional, and individual levels” should be added to the list of criteria for a US/IL course designation. Furthermore, we recommend that over a period of three years, all courses currently designated as US and IL courses be reviewed to determine if the courses meet the criteria.· The current (and well received) New Student Orientation “We Are Penn State” diversity and inclusion program for incoming students should be enhanced based on assessment of the needs of incoming students and the utility of that program so far.· Professional development activities for faculty and staff to increase cultural competence should be created.Based on the discussions that occurred at the General Education Task Force Retreat on January 24, 2014, the following adjustments to our recommendations will be considered by the JDATF:· If a thematic approach to general education is recommended and adopted, diversity and inclusion should be a core element of every theme. At least one course in the theme should incorporate a significant diversity and inclusion dimension (at least 50%), and at least one course should incorporate a significant international dimension (at least 50%).Penn State takes great pride in helping to prepare the leaders of the future. Our graduates reflect and contribute to the success and reputation of our institution. Our emphasis on student centeredness and the corresponding benefits of diversity to the student body operate within the context of our role as one of the top institutions of higher education in the world.-A Framework to Foster Diversity at Penn State: 2010-15, p. 2By graduating world-class leaders who are aware of the integral role diversity and inclusion assume in any work environment, we are fulfilling Penn State’s Land Grant mission both in Pennsylvania and around the world.MembersBrian Aynardi – Co-chair Krishna JayakarMark Brennan Terrell JonesMelissa Creely Jonna KulikowichBarbara Dewey Karyn McKinney – Co-chairCaleb Fernandez Evelyn MillerJesus Hinojosa Curtis PriceAntwain Hunter Theresa VescioPatreese Ingram – Co-chair Carlos Wiley