The newly elected 6B — Penn’s six main minority coalition groups — held its first town hall Thursday night to discuss issues surrounding student wellness, faculty diversity, and marginalization on campus.
Approximately 50 students attended the event in Houston Hall, which was an open forum where students could voice their concerns to the University administrators in attendance. The 6B student leaders represented the United Minorities Council, Asian Pacific Student Coalition, Latinx Coalition, Lambda Alliance, UMOJA, and Penn Association for Gender Equity.
“We wanted our first event of the year to be with the administration,” PAGE Chair and College junior Tanya Jain said. “Just so we can really know what Penn students want and how to work for them this year."
The 6B leaders discussed finding an accessible and prominent space on campus that would be large enough to accommodate meetings for cultural clubs, which are currently hosted in the basement of the ARCH building, where the cultural houses are located.
A student attending the forum said “being shoved into a basement” made the student feel more marginalized at Penn and affected their mental wellness.
Students also raised concerns about faculty diversity on campus. Attendees said they wanted to see more Penn faculty members who have also experienced marginalization and could better relate to their experiences.
Lambda Alliance Chair and College junior Wesley Neal also expressed concern about LGBTQ+ students’ access to campus facilities.
“Pottruck [Gym] as a facility is not gender neutral at all,” Neal said. “That is prohibitive for many students who want to access these resources.”
Many students expressed concerns over Student Registration and Financial Services and how they were treated by financial aid officers while discussing their financial options.
SRFS has taken steps throughout the past year to address student concerns, such as streamlining the work-study job application process and restructuring staff to provide specialized training to financial aid counselors.
Representatives from the Office of the Vice Provost for University Life — including Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum, Associate Vice Provost for University Life Sharon Smith, Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs Tamara King, Associate Vice Provost for Equity and Access Rev. William Gipson, and Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé — were in attendance.
At the end of the event, Dubé emphasized the administration’s support, and VPUL representatives at the town hall said they will relay the information to Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett.
“Some of the stories I heard just broke my heart and made me wonder why did this happen on our campus,” Dubé said. “Now we're charged with preventing these aberrations from happening again."
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