Penn has announced its Faculty Diversity Action Plans, through which it will spend $100 million on hiring and retaining more diverse faculty members over the next five years.
Each of the 12 undergraduate and graduate schools worked with the central administration to develop their plans separately during the past academic year.
“The school culture is as important as the specific steps and approaches we take in recruiting new faculty,” Richard Gelles, dean of the School of Social Policy& Practice, wrote in an email.
The June 2011 release of the University’s Diversity Action Plan received a mixed response from student groups at Penn. A list of suggestions for the plan was approved by the Undergraduate Assembly in January, and minority groups — including the United Minorities Council, the Latino Coalition, the Asian Pacific Student Coalition and Penn Consortium of Undergraduate Women — contributed their thoughts to the proposal.
The release of the plans follows a significant push for diversity within Penn’s schools in recent years. For example, the College of Arts and Sciences plan states the number of minority standing faculty members increased from 11 to 17 percent from the 2001-2002 school year to the 2011-2012 school year. Other schools saw increased diversity as well, including the Graduate School of Education, which increased from 18 to 29.4 percent between the years of 2005 and 2012.
Penn President Amy Gutmann said that data is “not available to track our progress for … types of diversity [other than racial and gender diversity], but that in no way diminishes the importance of all types of diversity to Penn’s educational mission and the vitality of its campus.”
Dan Bernick, Undergraduate Assembly president, wrote in an email that the UA “knows diversity is necessary for a thriving campus, and the Diversity Action Plans represent important progress on Penn’s efforts to further diversify its faculty … These plans are the next of many steps Penn will take as we work to remain a leader in higher education.”
Rising College junior Danielle Marryshow, political chair of black student coalition group UMOJA, agreed.
“We are happy that the various schools of the University have made such a concerted effort to increase minority representation in their respective faculties,” Marryshow said.
However, some student groups are not fully satisfied with the action plans.
Rising College senior Jake Tolan, vice chair of political affairs of the LGBT umbrella group Lambda Alliance, believes all of the plans are “underwhelming in general.”
“A lot of schools lack any mention of sexual orientation diversity,” he said. “There’s a really strong implicit ‘We’re just talking about women’ in the plans, and they’re not talking about transgender.”
“When you only give it a momentary acknowledgement, it doesn’t come across as if they’re actually trying to work towards it,” he added.
Gutmann said the University’s Gender Equity Report published in 2001 will be updated this fall, and “all of those who are employed by Penn are asked to self-identify their race and gender after they are hired.”
But Tolan added that the most disappointing part of the plans was that members of Lambda Alliance who offered suggestions for the plans “were told by several high level administrators that it was not our place to try to change or advise the faculty. We were told not to do anything about it,” Tolan said.
“We are an invisible minority, and it’s still a minority that’s discriminated against in many overt ways. Our goal within the next year is to work with them to see if they can modify their plans slightly.”
Marryshow said that “we hope that there is an increase in transparency and an inclusion of student input moving forward, but we are happy that they took the task seriously and came up with a final result that will hopefully effect real change.”
Steven Barnes, associate dean for Communications for the law school, said that while the school has reached milestones such as the Bok Visiting International Professors program — which brings five to seven legal academics from Asia, Africa, South America and Europe to campus each year — “diversity remains an aspiration and a goal that demands continual improvement — we want and hope to do better.”
Gelles added that “given the changing demographics of the United States and the region, I would say we would do well to recruit more Latino/a faculty and staff.” He estimates the SP2 will spend about $550,000 on this initiative during the next school year.
“It is still too soon to know how much in total we will spend,” Gutmann said. “But judging from our progress to date it will be significant.”