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The campaign for community event aims to combat race micro-agressions in the classroom. | DP File Photo

The Faculty Senate and the Campaign for Community are co-sponsoring a forum to discuss race and microaggressions in the classroom.

Five students and three faculty members will engage in the discussion, titled “Race, Respect, and Classroom Culture” and moderated by law and education professor Wendell Pritchett. The event will take place on Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Michael A. Fitts Auditorium of Penn Law School.

“The faculty understood that there is a growing concern in the student body about microaggressions in the classroom — insensitive interactions about race, gender, religion, religious observance and sexual orientation,” law professor and Faculty Senate Past Chair Claire Finkelstein said.

The discussion will be a way for “the faculty [to] have an opportunity to learn from students,” Finkelstein said.

Finkelstein co-chairs the Campaign for Community, Penn’s initiative to discuss “key issues that may appear to be difficult or intractable,” according to its website.

The Campaign for Community’s push to discuss race follows a series of student protests against structural racism on college campuses across the country, including at Penn.

College sophomore Ramon Garcia Gomez and College senior Kwadwo Agyapong, two of the students who will participate in the panel, are both eager to hear from the faculty members.

Garcia Gomez — chair of Penn’s Latino Coalition — said he plans to ask the faculty members how they handle situations in which students make offensive or controversial comments in class.

Agyapong said he is more interested in how minority faculty members navigate within their own identities.

He said he wants to ask “how [faculty] can balance being a minority staff member and creating a space in which they’re comfortable, but also pushing the pressing questions toward their white counterparts.”

Agyapong said Associate Vice Provost for Equity and Access William Gibson reached out to him asking him to be a panelist. The two met when Agyapong was living in Du Bois College House last year, where Gibson is the faculty director.

Agyapong said the event’s impact will ultimately depend on student and faculty turnout.

“I hope that the audience is going to be one that is very diverse,” he said. “I’m sure that there’s going to be a strong minority presence but I hope here are also a lot of caucasian students and faculty present.”

Garcia Gomez said he looks forward to what he sees as a unique experience.

“I think oftentimes we don’t ... sit down with faculty to have this type of conversation,” he said.

Correction: this article has been updated to reflect that Wendell Pritchett is a professor of law and education, not a professor of law and economics. The DP regrets the error. 

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