In the face of the administration’s diversity controversy, the Undergraduate Assembly Steering Committee met Tuesday night to discuss how diversity in the higher levels of the University impacts student groups.
The Steering Committee consists of over 30 student groups from all over campus who meet regularly to discuss campus issues. Most of those groups were in attendance Tuesday, with representatives coming in from groups like Medical Emergency Response Team, UMOJA, the Performing Arts Council and Penn Democrats.
UA Vice President and Wharton and College junior Abe Sutton, who is liaison to the student groups, opened the discussion to any representatives who wanted to voice their opinion. He explained some of the statistics behind the controversy, citing the DP’s analysis that only two out of the top 30 administrators are from underrepresented minority groups.
UA Secretary, Chair of the United Minorities Council and College sophomore Joyce Kim was the first to expand on the topic, discussing her talk with Penn President Amy Gutmann in a meeting just before the Steering meeting.
“I asked her what her thoughts were on this, and she said that her words were misconstrued,” Kim said. “She said that the faculty who wrote that piece and she have the same goals, in that diversity goes with excellence.”
College sophomore Matt Kalmans, president of Penn Dems, had a different view on the diversity issue.
“From what I understand, there were a number of individuals from a diverse background [on the shortlist for the new dean appointment], they just weren’t chosen,” Kalmans said.
Sutton cautioned Kalmans, reminding him that this was a discussion on the trend of a lack of diversity, and not on the specific appointment.
“I think this is a structural problem,” Kalmans responded. “If the Dean was the best qualified for the job … then why aren’t there higher-level, diverse faculty ready to take his place?”
Loren Kole, College junior and co-chair of the Civic House Associates Coalition, then jumped into the discussion and changed the focus from Penn’s campus to the community at large.
“Having people from incredibly diverse backgrounds is a welcome sign to the community,” she said.
Kole added that a lack of diversity gentrifies Penn and its surroundings in West Philadelphia. She described the appointment, although “obviously not wrong,” as a “missed opportunity.”
The discussion closed with questions about how administration was trained.
“One tangible step I’d like to look into is the training of administrators once they are appointed,” Sutton said at the meeting’s end.
“I think it’s important to keep the conversation going as a whole,” Kim said after the meeting. “It’s encouraging to see such vibrant discussion about it.”
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