Penn Student Government leaders are calling on the University to include more students in the search committee for Penn's next president, which they hope will prioritize student feedback on issues affecting marginalized communities on campus.
In July, Penn President Amy Gutmann was nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as the next United States ambassador to Germany. She confirmed that she will continue to serve as Penn’s president until June 30, 2022, or until the U.S. Senate confirms her as ambassador, which could accelerate her departure.
Only one undergraduate student will serve on the search committee, University spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian sent on Aug. 31. The committee, formed at the end of July, includes trustees, faculty, deans, staff, one undergraduate, and one graduate/professional student, MacCarthy wrote.
Ahead of Gutmann's departure, some student leaders are advocating for the next president to support building more cultural houses on campus and provide further resources for first-generation, low-income students.
College senior and Undergraduate Assembly President Tori Borlase will serve on the committee to search for a new president, which Borlase said has not met yet. Borlase hopes the University will find a successor who makes student voices a priority.
“At the end of the day, Penn is a school — not a business,” Borlase said. "So it's really important to make sure that student voices are prioritized in decision-making processes.”
College and Wharton senior and UA Vice President Janice Owusu said she hopes that more members of the UA will eventually have a role in selecting the new president as the committee narrows down candidates.
Owusu said that she hopes the next president will also prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion within the University, particularly by giving space on Locust Walk to the cultural houses and supporting FGLI students. The 6B, a coalition of groups representing marginalized communities on Penn's campus, has long called for houses on Locust Walk, rather than their current rooms in the basement of the ARCH building.
“Because of [Gutmann], we have this term '[FGLI],' and the FGLI program, the highly aided program,” Owusu said. “I couldn’t go to Penn if it wasn’t for [Gutmann’s] role in fundraising for them.”
In 2008, Gutmann instituted the University's no-loan financial aid policy, making Penn's financial aid policies grant based and without loans. In 2016, Penn became the second Ivy League university to open a center dedicated to the needs of FGLI students. The percentage of FGLI students at Penn has tripled since the beginning of Gutmann's tenure in 2004.
Owusu added that she hopes the next president will continue to emphasize expanding financial aid, as Gutmann did, by meeting full need for international students.
Similar to other student group leaders, Engineering senior and Student Committee on Undergraduate Education Chair External Aidan Young said that while he thinks PSG should have some role in the selection process, he hopes to see other student groups consulted as well.
Young said his biggest hope is that the new president would be someone who “is willing to take risks” over the next two to three years to implement the policies SCUE outlined in their most recent White Paper. These changes include revamping sector requirements to add more flexibility and increased support for FGLI students.
“I think what we're setting our sights on the next couple of years is going for some of those bigger projects and ideas that we set out in the White Paper,” Young said. “So we would love to have a president that is willing to take risks and work with us and the rest of the student body.”
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