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A council with university officials on diversity Credit: Julie Xie

Despite reminders of Penn’s diversity outreach efforts at Wednesday’s University Council meeting, community members were left wanting more.

Penn President Amy Gutmann and other administrators invited students, faculty and staff to voice their opinions on current policies and advise the administration on future initiatives.

Though undergraduate diversity has improved in recent years, faculty diversity has “not been optimal,” she said.

Gutmann announced that she and Provost Vincent Price will release an action plan to increase diversity by the end of this academic year.

Although the University has initiatives to promote diversity in both undergraduate and graduate admissions, students at the meeting were disappointed by administrators’ responses and lack of concrete goals.

While students came prepared with questions, the administrator’s answers were not adequate, College senior and Asian Pacific Student Coalition chairman Nicky Singh said.

“There was very little concrete data. It seemed like they were just agreeing with us to please us,” he added.

Wharton senior and former Latino Coalition chairwoman Wendy de la Rosa said Penn needs to increase active and visible recruitment for undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff.

“[The meeting] had too many speakers all talking about their programs and how great they are, but our numbers have stayed the same,” de la Rosa said.

“Our conversation should focus on the next step. The university should be saying, ‘Here is where we are, and here is where we want to be,’” she said.

About 100 people attended Wednesday’s UC meeting — more than three times the usual number — making it the most well-attended meeting in the past four years, College senior and UA Vice President Mark Pan said.

During the open forum portion of the meeting — where community members had the opportunity to propose policies and express opinions — students and staff lobbied the University to pass transgender health insurance for faculty.

This spring, the University denied requests to cover gender reassignment as part of faculty’s health insurance.

College junior and Lambda Alliance’s Vice Chairperson of Political Affairs Victor Galli was glad the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community had a chance to discuss it with officials, although it was not the answer they were looking for.

“We were hoping to see more flexibility on the policy. It’s disappointing we have to wait another year … in the meantime, we don’t want this topic to lose momentum,” he said.

The UA and the five minority coalitions met prior to the meeting to “be on the same page, strategize and discuss what we really wanted to get out of this meeting,” Pan said.

De La Rosa said while she did not expect concrete plans to emerge from the meeting, she is pleased Gutmann will release a plan of action.

She suggested setting goals such as, “in five years, our [diversity] percentage should go up by X percent, or we will have a minority open house for Ph.D. students across the country.”

Current initiatives and programs to promote minority outreach include the Posse program and QuestBridge, which recruit underrepresented high school students to Penn.

The University also mentors first-generation, underrepresented and low-income students who wish to attend graduate school through the McNair Scholars program.

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