The Student Committee on Undergraduate Education will recommend a revamp of the College sector requirements and increased academic support for first-generation, low-income students to the University in its White Paper on Monday.
SCUE releases a White Paper every five years recommending long-term changes to Penn's academic policies. This year, SCUE is releasing the White Paper that was originally scheduled to come out in early 2020, College senior and former SCUE Chair External Carson Eckhard said. The 2020 White Paper was pushed back when classes were moved online in March 2020, and SCUE focused on lobbying for academic policies such as pass/fail to ease the transition to online learning.
This year’s paper makes recommendations in four categories: access and equity, one University, wellness, and shared academic experiences, Engineering junior and SCUE Chair External Aidan Young said.
Young said that the recommendations in the paper are based on the concerns of SCUE members, as well as focus groups and surveys of Penn students. He added that over the next five years or more, SCUE will work with administrators to implement the recommended policies.
SCUE's five-year White Paper tradition dates back to its 1965 founding. Previous White Papers have led to the creation of fall break, pass/fail grading, and coeducation in the College.
Young said that SCUE will recommend that Penn restructure its sector requirements to create broad clusters of subjects that will allow students to have more flexibility in how they fulfill requirements. For example, he said, a STEM cluster might require students to take any three courses in that cluster to allow for more choices.
Under the current system, students must take one class each in the Physical World, Living World, and Natural Sciences and Mathematics sectors.
In the cluster system SCUE proposed, a student would be able to take four humanities courses of their choice and three STEM courses of their choice, with a final capstone project to integrate what they've learned in the classes.
“Right now, the sector requirement focuses on a lot of breadth — and not a ton on depth — just because there's so many different kinds of disparate sections that people have to fulfill,” Young said.
Eckhard said to promote wellness, SCUE recommends that Penn implement online scheduling for Counseling and Psychological Services. Currently, students have to call CAPS to schedule an appointment, which Eckhard said can create an unnecessary barrier for students receiving support. The White Paper also calls on Penn to hire more CAPS clinicians and increase CAPS' ability to provide long-term care for students who cannot afford treatment outside Penn.
College and Wharton senior and former SCUE Chair Internal Karen Herrera said that the access and equity section will make recommendations for how the University can help FGLI students transition to Penn. She said that FGLI students may find STEM courses at Penn particularly difficult because they may not have had access to the Advanced Placement or college-level STEM classes that some of their peers did in high school.
Herrera added that the White Paper will recommend the implementation of subject-specific summer preparation programs to provide students with proper background knowledge for college-level STEM courses, which Herrera said may be especially helpful for FGLI students.
“We really think that this can even up the playing field and prepare students when they come into Penn,” Herrera said.
The access and equity section also focuses on improving the reliability of Penn Accessible Transit, a resource that provides rides to students with disabilities, which SCUE learned through focus groups is often unreliable or late, causing students to miss class.
College senior and co-executive editor of the White Paper Alice Goulding said that in the "one University" section of the White Paper, SCUE will recommend more all-gender bathrooms on campus. Penn had 89 all-gender restrooms as of January 2020.
The White Paper also recommends that Penn create a centralized resource of internship funding opportunities across all four schools and offer about 20 additional grants to fund public service internships.
SCUE is also urging the University to provide spaces on Locust Walk for each of the cultural centers, a move that the 6B minority coalition groups have long pushed for. Three cultural centers — The Center for Hispanic Excellence: La Casa Latina, Makuu: The Black Cultural Center, and the Pan-Asian American Community House — currently occupy the basement of the ARCH building, which 6B leaders have said diminishes visibility.
Goulding, a former copy editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian, said that despite the impact of COVID-19 on administrative policies such as pass/fail grading, SCUE chose not to focus on policy changes the University should make in light of the pandemic because it did not want to scrap the work done for this paper over the past several years.
Young added that the goal of the White Paper is to influence University policy in the long term, so SCUE wanted to address more than just immediate issues related to COVID-19.
“[The White Paper] is kind of an exploratory, visionary type of document that we will 100% work on to make a lot of the recommendations [come] to fruition, but a lot of this stuff takes time, and money, and a lot of work to accomplish,” Young said.