Student leaders, faculty, staff and administrators gathered in Houston Hall on Wednesday afternoon for the third University Council meeting of the year, which was the first open forum.
The open forum, which happens annually, invites members of the community to raise concerns about Penn policies and initiative in three-minute speeches.
Penn President Amy Gutmann addressed the topic of racial discrimination on college campuses, which has been brought into a national spotlight by protests at the University of Missouri and Yale. Gutmann said that any discrimination runs counter to Penn’s values, and that the Campaign for Community is working to alleviate racial tensions.
The open forum conversation was dominated by the issue of divestment rather than racism. Three individuals urged Penn to reinvest in clean energy companies in order to protect the environment, while a fourth argued that divesting was a poor solution to the issue.
Retirement benefits were another issue addressed in the forum. An Information and Computing Services worker, who has worked for Penn since 1986, argued that Penn’s retirement benefit policies did not properly support employees who work part-time for a number of years, especially female employees.
Sexual assault, a constant topic of conversation since the release of the American Association of Universities Campus Climate survey in September, was brought up once again as a student, who was assaulted while abroad, criticized Penn Abroad’s handling of sexual violence.
Finally, a student representative of PRISM took the floor to argue that Penn’s commitment to religion as an aspect of diversity falls short, citing conflicts between course examinations and religious holidays that many students experience.
Administrators responded to each of the issues raised, saying primarily that the issues are currently being addressed through various initiatives and projects.
The meeting also included a presentation by Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli about PennConnects 2.0, Penn’s campus development plan. Carnaroli said that a total of $3.8 billion has been invested in various development projects, including the construction of 34 new buildings and the renovation of 16 buildings.
Among the projects included in PennConnects 2.0 are the Radian, Domus, Shoemaker Green, the Singh Center for Nanotechnology and Penn Park.
Vice President for Facilities and Real Estate Anne Papageorge followed up on Carnaroli’s presentation by confirming Penn’s commitment to sustainability through the Climate Action Plan. Papageorge cited several statistics illustrating Penn’s progress, including an 8 percent total reduction in carbon emissions between 2007 and 2014.
In response to a question about Penn’s expansion, Gutmann explained Penn’s commitment against expanding west in order to avoid encroaching on local communities.Comments powered by Disqus
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