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The Presidential Commission on Countering Hate and Building Community announced its recommendations for combatting hate on campus. Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

Penn's Presidential Commission on Countering Hate and Building Community released its preliminary recommendations and a plan to gather input from the Penn community. 

The commission, which reports directly to Interim President Larry Jameson, is charged with addressing the “interconnectedness” of hate, discrimination, and bias on Penn’s campus. In a progress update released on March 13, the group outlined its early findings and announced a series of listening sessions open to Penn community members.

The commission’s recommendations for combating hate on campus are broken into five focus areas. The areas include developing new educational programming, increasing cross-school coordination, and launching an information campaign about Penn’s resources. 

The group proposed expanding orientation programs — which would be offered as early as fall 2024 — for students and faculty to cover topics such as open expression and Penn’s values. Recommendations for building community involve developing a set of “Penn Core Values,” collecting data on campus culture, and creating University-wide awards. The commission also suggested implementing a centralized structure to support the success of students with “diverse lived experiences."

These initiatives will be part of a longer-term, multi-year plan combining education and community-building activities, according to the report. The commission said that building a broader set of initiatives will take significant time and planning. 

The group also announced that it will begin holding in-person and virtual listening sessions for small groups of Penn community members. In addition to the sessions, which will occur throughout March and April, the commission will release a survey for students, faculty, staff, and postdoctoral students. 

Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science Vijay Kumar and Dean of the Graduate School of Education Katharine Strunk, who co-chair the group, told Penn Today that the listening sessions and survey are intended to provide a “more intimate opportunity” to hear from the Penn community. They said that the input received from these two channels will inform the commission’s final report. 

The group will release a report with final recommendations to Interim President Jameson at the end of the spring semester. 

Jameson first convened the commission on December 20, 2023, with an initial interim report due by Feb. 15. In preparing the report, the commission said that members held six meetings totaling seventeen hours, attended learning sessions with experts, and engaged in trainings on civil dialogue. 

The presidential commission is one of two University groups formed last semester amid campus tensions over the Israel-Hamas war. In November, former Penn President Liz Magill announced a task force on antisemitism, which now reports to Interim President Jameson. 

In January, the task force’s chair and Morton Amsterdam Dean of the School of Dental Medicine Mark Wolff spoke with The Daily Pennsylvanian about its plans for the spring semester, which include holding listening sessions, revamping Penn’s bias reporting system, and developing programming on the history of antisemitism. As commission chairs, Kumar and Strunk both serve as ex-oficio members on the antisemitism task force.