For LGBT community, concerns over Faculty Diversity Action Plans remain


The Lambda Alliance and other student groups are displeased that sexual orientation and gender identity are not included explicitly in some schools’ definitions of diversity




While Penn has taken a step forward with its recent release of each school’s Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence, concerns remain among Penn’s LGBT community.

Student leaders from groups like the Lambda Alliance — the umbrella organization for LGBT groups on campus — are displeased that sexual orientation and gender identity are not included explicitly in some schools’ definitions of diversity.

Each of Penn’s 12 schools released their own diversity plans this summer.

College junior and Lambda Alliance Chair Hugh Hamilton said that “none of [the plans] are great, though some are better than others. The issue we’ve had from the beginning is that the plans lacked explicit commitment and specificity. A lot of them assume it doesn’t need to be made explicit.”

In particular, Hamilton said, the Wharton School’s plan has drawn the most concern from those who have been involved in the process.

“Wharton did not mention sexual orientation or gender identity, period,” Hamilton said. “They talk about gender, upping the number of women faculty — basically all of the racial minorities” but not LGBT faculty.

However, Vice Provost for Faculty Lynn Lees believes that the LGBT community is already included in the definitions of diversity in the school-specific plans.

“The definition of diversity that is used in the faculty plan comes from a statement that has been verified by the [University Board of] Trustees,” she said.

This statement, she explained, defines the University as an ever-changing community that draws its strength from a multitude of races, ethnicities, genders and a host of other factors.

Lees did acknowledge, however, that the plans are “works in progress.”

The plans were developed with the input of a variety of different minority groups on campus over the past year, including an LGBT working group on faculty diversity. Associate Director of the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program Shannon Lundeen originally convened the group to give a voice to the LGBT community in the process.

While the group encouraged schools to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their plans, College senior Jake Tolan, Lambda’s political chair, said these requests were not always met.

“We tried to be involved,” he said, explaining that the schools were willing to listen when it came to their areas of strength regarding LGBT issues. “But if we felt there was a problem that we wanted to address, we were turned away.”

“Most of them are very good at addressing people of racial minorities,” he added.

A few schools’ plans did receive a more positive response from the LGBT community. According to Hamilton, these included the Annenberg School for Communication, Perelman School of Medicine and School of Nursing.

“We thought those were good because they explicitly mentioned sexual identity as a part of diversity,” Hamilton said. “Specifically, the Medical School talked about including its LGBT employees in the process going forward.”

In the future, Hamilton, Tolan and other members of the working group will focus on voicing their concerns to the schools they believe did not address sexual orientation and gender identity.

“What we want to do now as a working group is just approach some of the people who helped to create some of these reports and say ‘Hey, you might want to consider x, y and z,’” Lundeen said.

“I’m hopeful that these plans are open to revision,” she added. “They will have to be, because if they truly want to bring the most diverse faculty to each school, then they have to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their plan for increasing faculty diversity.”

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