The LGBTQ Faculty Diversity Working Group, which works to recruit and unite LGBTQ faculty at Penn, is working to bring more queer studies to Penn and expand the diversity of the University’s faculty.
The LGBTQ Faculty Diversity Working Group was created in 2011 by the LGBT Center in response to a perceived lack of inclusivity for LGBTQ faculty in the University's diversity initiatives. The group aims to create a welcoming campus for LGBTQ individuals and pushes for a stronger queer curriculum.
André Dombrowski, chair of the LGBTQ Faculty Diversity Group and Art History professor, said that although the group is working on initiatives to hire more LGBTQ faculty, there were not many concrete plans already in place.
Dombrowski added that the group has had conversations with various administrators about the underrepresentation of LGBTQ faculty and options for queer studies at Penn.
The Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies program offers an LGBTQ Studies concentration within the GSWS major.
Kathleen Brown, the director of the GSWS program, said members of her department are working to expand core course offerings within LGBTQ Studies and to hire an additional professor for the program, who would likely be employed by spring 2019.
“Our larger plan is to be able to provide LGBT Studies with an academic home on campus,” Brown said.
Director of the LGBT Center Erin Cross said she hoped to engage more with the group when she took over the position last year.
The diversity of Penn’s faculty has increased in recent years following the five-year Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence that Penn President Amy Gutmann announced in 2011. The $100 million plan was created to recruit and to mentor a diverse faculty.
The “majority of initiatives” under the plan will be strengthened and renewed over the next five years, according to a report published in March 2017.
Vice Provost for Faculty Anita Allen, also a Penn Law professor, said Penn is only required by the federal government to collect data on gender, race, ethnicity, and disability status, but there is no similar federal mandate for sexuality or other types of diversity.
“Some of us would like to see better ways for the University to assess the size and scope of the community,” Allen said. “There are ongoing discussions about that possibility.”
Allen said there were no concrete plans in place to address this issue.
“Anytime I see an LGBTQ professor, it means a lot,” Julia Pan, College junior and chair of the Lambda Alliance, said. “People look up to their professors and when they represent them in some way, it can help validate students.”