For Penn’s LGBT community, the Undergraduate Assembly’s recent resolution on improving the Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence marked a step in the right direction for Penn.
While the University released its campus-wide Diversity Action Plan last June, some believed that the initial draft lacked an emphasis on LGBT faculty representation.
College junior Jake Tolan, vice chair of political affairs for the Lambda Alliance — the umbrella organization for LGBT-student groups — said last June’s document seemed to provide only a cursory mention of LGBT diversity.
“Generally, Lambda had one major complaint about this in that sexual orientation is mentioned only once and somewhat in passing,” he said. “[The plan] is primarily geared to racial and ethnic diversity as well as gender diversity.”
In response to what they perceived as a lack of focus on sexual orientation and gender identity, Lambda, the UA and other minority coalitions across campus put together a list of suggested improvements to the Diversity Action Plan.
The resolution was presented and approved at the UA’s Jan. 29 general body meeting.
Among other things, the resolution calls for the University to implement procedures — such as “anti-unconscious bias training” — to ensure that no minorities are disadvantaged during the faculty recruitment process.
“We know, and the University has made it clear to us, that sexual orientation and a lot of the other issues that fall under the queer umbrella are part of their Diversity Action Plan,” Tolan said. “It’s just not in writing.”
Vice Provost for Faculty Lynn Lees, who has met with Lambda representatives to discuss these concerns, wrote in an email that “Penn’s Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence aims to be broad and inclusive. The plan itself, subsequent conversations and the brochure that was recently published make that clear.”
College junior and UA Representative Chris Cruz, former chair of the United Minorities Council, believes that “the lack of emphasis on the LGBT community was a strong motivating factor for why the resolution has come about.”
Despite some of the changes that the UA and its partners have requested, Cruz credited Penn’s administration for adopting a proactive stance toward increasing diversity.
“The Diversity Action Plan was a huge step for Penn,” he said. “It’s a step forward, but it’s important to realize that it’s not finalized — we have to continue pushing forward.”
John Jackson, the new senior advisor to the Provost for diversity, agreed.
“We have to keep being diligent about making sure that the rhetoric that we use actually meshes with the specifics of the practices that we try to employ,” he said.
For Tolan, Lambda’s efforts to lobby for changes to Penn’s ongoing faculty diversity plans have been well justified.
“We generally feel that it is the responsibility of any organization which claims to be on the cutting edge to push further and further,” he said.
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