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The Faculty Senate is a group that governs Penn's 2,600 faculty and hopes to accomplish much this year. | DP File Photo

The Faculty Senate’s priorities for the coming year include examining diversity among faculty and increasing mental health services for students.

The Faculty Senate is a group that governs Penn’s 2,600 faculty, mostly through the 58 members of the Senate Executive Committee. On Aug. 23, Faculty Senate Chair Laura Perna wrote a letter explaining what the group is looking to accomplish this year.

The Senate hopes to release the results of the 2015 Faculty Climate Survey, which examines whether faculty who are women, part of the LGBTQ community or members of varied racial and ethnic groups are being treated fairly. The committee also wants to publish a five-year Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence, to be released in early 2017.

Penn has already come a long way in diversifying its faculty. When Penn elected interim president Claire Muriel Mintzer Fagin in 1993, she was the Ivy League’s first female president. At the time, only 21 percent of standing faculty were women and just 8.4 percent of faculty were minorities

Today, 32.5 percent of the standing faculty are women and 23.4 percent of faculty are minorities.

But the Senate committee is not the only group tackling the issue of diversity. Soon after his appointment as Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences in 2013, Steven Fluharty created the diversity council, and has been meeting with the council monthly ever since.

“[The council] will be working to develop a new diversity action plan around faculty,” Fluharty said.

The Senate will also work to increase the availability of mental health services for students and to implement the Faculty Wellness Ambassador program.

The program, based on the recommendation from the 2014 Task Force on Student Psychological Health and Welfare, will train faculty to respond to student mental health issues. Faculty who are part of the program will watch for signs of mental illness among students and recommend help when necessary.

Perna said the program, which is supposed to be implemented this year, is part of the “ongoing attention to mental health.”

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