Your Voice | The Penn Board of Trustees' Response to Guess who's (not) coming to dinner

· February 4, 2013, 12:28 am

Diversity is essential to the quality of the educational experience we provide at Penn, and members of the Board of Trustees are rightfully proud of the major commitment that President Amy Gutmann has made in this critical area and the progress that our University has already demonstrated under her leadership.

President Gutmann is a tireless advocate of diversity and its centrality to our academic community. She has kept the topic front and center in our Board conversations — focusing on diversity of the student body, diversity of the faculty, diversity of the staff, diversity of the vendors with whom the University does business and diversity of our academic leadership. Anyone who knows Amy Gutmann knows that she is deeply and personally committed to creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive campus environment. Her passion, sincerity, and commitment to diversity at Penn are simply unquestionable.

As a result of her leadership and commitment, we’ve seen great success at moving the diversity needle at Penn. Underrepresented minority students now comprise one-quarter of our undergraduate class. Our faculty are increasingly diverse and because of the Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence that President Gutmann championed, we will see continued progress in that area. We have already welcomed eminent faculty as Penn Integrates Knowledge professors and Presidential Term professors, and predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowships are being filled with extraordinary and diverse appointees. More than ever, Penn is attracting diverse and eminent scholars.

One area where progress has been slower than we would all prefer — and where we need to advance further, as pointed out in a column that appeared in The Daily Pennsylvanian last week and in President Gutmann’s response (also in the DP) — is academic administration. President Gutmann is determined to bring the academic leadership of Penn in line with the other areas of great success that we have seen across campus. But make no mistake, achieving our ambitious diversity goals in an academic environment is complex. And our president’s — and the University’s — commitment and successes in the diversity context cannot be viewed in the context of a single search for a single dean.

In her pursuit of her ambitious diversity goals, President Gutmann has the full and unwavering support of the Board of Trustees. The Board is committed to achieving diversity across the breadth of our great University. We have the best university president in the country to help us succeed in that pursuit. The path will not always be smooth, and not all progress will be achieved at exactly the same pace. But our goals are clear, our plan is solid and under the leadership of President Gutmann, the Trustees and I are confident we will succeed.

David L. Cohen is the chair of the Penn Board of Trustees.

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