Pullout: Report of the Provost's Committee on Distributed Learning


COUNCIL Year End Reports, 1997-98

The three reports (Pluralism, Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics, and Safety and Security) are on the University Council's April 22 agenda for discussion. The meeting begins at 4 p.m. in McClelland Lounge, The Quad, and is open to observers who register in advance their interest in attending, by calling the Office of the Secretary at 898-7005.


The charge to the Committee on Pluralism for 1998 was to "Work with the Student Affairs Committee to develop concrete ways to broaden the understanding of the experience of Asian American students, faculty, and staff at the University; use the Committee's final report of 1996-97 as the basis for direction, discussion, and recommendations."

The Student Affairs Committee was pursuing a separate and unrelated agenda, and so the Pluralism Committee worked on its own. It held three meetings: January 30, March 18, and April 1 (the last to discuss this report).

At the first meeting, responding to the report of 1996-97 (particularly to Asian American student requests contained in that report), the Committee agreed that developing a strong Asian American Studies Program was at the center of effectively addressing Asian American issues on campus. And at the center of developing such a Program was the need to hire more standing faculty across the University in Asian American studies. At present there are only three standing faculty members in the Asian American Studies Program: Professors Rosane Rocher (South Asian studies), Mark Chiang (English), and Grace Kao (Sociology). Professors Rocher and Kao must split their teaching time between their departmental disciplines and Asian American Studies, so that Professor Chiang is the only standing faculty member who is devoting full-time to teaching in the Program, which, with the help of adjunct faculty, will offer eight courses in the fall of 1998.

Recognizing that this situation needs to be strengthened, if Penn is to take the leadership role it could and should take in Asian American Studies on the East Coast, the Committee authorized the Chair to draft a letter to the Provost urging him in cooperation with the deans of the schools to continue the hiring initiative in Asian American studies with the goal of increasing the standing faculty by five in the next five years. After consulting through its Chair with the standing faculty in Asian American Studies, the Committee recommended in the letter that three of these appointments be made in SAS, with one specifically designated in History; and that the remaining two appointments be made in the schools of Social Work and Education because these schools work in the community-at-large, where there is an urgent need to provide services to immigrant Asian communities. But the Committee also noted that expanding Asian American studies to Wharton and Annenberg is an important part of the agenda.

The Chair of the Committee drafted the letter, which was approved by the Committee and sent to the Provost on March 31 (see attachment). As directed by the Committee, the Chair also sent copies of the letter to the dean of SAS and to Vice Provost Janice Madden, who is currently the chair of the President's task force on Asian American issues on campus, a task force that was instituted in response to the 1996-97 report of the Committee on Pluralism.

The Committee invited Dr. Madden to its second meeting, where she presented a summary of the work of the Task Force. Of particular concern to the Committee is the fact, presented by Dr. Madden, that while 25% of Penn students are Asian American, there are only 15 Asian Americans in administrative areas that deal with students; and it is unclear to the Committee at this point how many of these people work directly in counseling and advising Asian American students.

In addition, Dr. Alvin Alvarez and Belinda Huang, both of whom were crucial in the counseling of Asian American students, have left the University. While Ms. Huang has been replaced, it does not appear that she has been replaced by someone with expertise in dealing specifically with Asian American issues; and at this point to our knowledge, Dr. Alvarez's position has not been filled. In respect to this situation and the figures cited above in Dr. Madden's report, the Committee wants to emphasize that there is a need for the University to hire people in counseling and advising with expertise in Asian American issues. Currently, the Committee understands that there is a decided lack of such expertise in Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS); and this lack, clearly, can only have a negative impact on the development and sustaining of outreach programs for Asian American students.

As regards the provision of essential services to the Asian American community within and immediately beyond Penn, the Committee notes that there is no Asian American Resource Center on campus. While the Greenfield Intercultural Center in collaboration with Student Activities offers support for a number of Asian American student groups, the GIC's mission is a broad one so that all the minority groups served by the GIC share limited resources. There is currently one twenty-hours-a-week graduate assistantship designed to support Asian American groups, which is not adequate given the needs of the student groups.

An Asian American Resource Center, situated in a visible location, would be able to coordinate and centralize resources for the campus (including counseling and advising services) and the surrounding community. What kinds of activities such a center should house in addition to counseling and advising needs to be defined by Asian American faculty, students, and staff.

Finally, the Committee wants to note two further concerns: the need for full-time support staff in the Asian American Studies Program, which currently has no such staff; was brought to our attention by Andrea Cherng, representing the Asian American Studies Undergraduate Advisory Board; and the issue of the possible underrepresentation of certain segments of the Asian American student population at Penn, both in terms of enrollment and of voice on campus, was brought to our attention by Seung Lee on behalf of the Asian Pacific Student Coalition. In regard to the issue of underrepresentation, Mr. Lee mentioned the situation of South East Asian American students as one of particular concern.

In sum, then, the Committee recommends the following actions:

  • The hiring over the next five years of five standing-faculty members in Asian American studies (three in SAS, one specifically in History; 1 in the School of Social Work, and one in the School of Education) in order to strengthen and expand the current program across the University.
  • The hiring of personnel with expertise in Asian American issues in the area of counseling and advising, so that coherent outreach programs for Asian American students can be developed and sustained in this area.
  • The planning and development by the Asian American community at Penn of an Asian American Resource Center.
  • The hiring of full-time support staff for the Asian American Studies program.
  • The exploration of the issue of under representation in segments of the Asian American student community at Penn.

The Committee feels that an ongoing part of its charge should be the continued monitoring, through discussions with concerned faculty, students, and staff, of the University's commitment to developing the crucial Asian American positions and programs on campus noted in this report. The Committee looks forward to the report of Dr. Madden's committee on Asian American issues and plans to comment on it.

In addition to these Asian American issues, the Committee touched on the following items as issues that might become part of its agenda in succeeding years: the strengthening of gay/lesbian institutions on campus; the exploration of issues concerning the Latino community at Penn; and the articulation of issues that concern the African American community at Penn.

-- Eric Cheyfitz, Chair

March 27, 1998

1997-98 Pluralism Committee

Chair: Eric Cheyfitz (English); Faculty: Jorge Santiago-Aviles (elec engr), Mary Berry (history), Jill E. Jacobs (radiology/med), Stephen N. Dunning (religious studies), Alan Heston (economics), Stephen Gale (political science); Graduate/professional students: John P. Williams (Medicine), Isabel Molina Guzman (Annenberg); Undergraduate students: Snigdha Bollempally, two to be named; PPSA: Christopher Cataldo (mgr, admin & fin GSFA), Lynn Seng (dir. special projects, Medical School); A-3: Stephanie Knox (Dental Restoration), John Hogan (Biddle Law Library), Loretta Miller (Student Info & Systems); Ex offico: Elena DiLapi (director, Penn Women's Center), Tope Koledoye (chair, United Minorities Council), Scott Reikofski (director, fraternity/sorority affairs), Joyce Randolph (director, international programs), Jeanne Arnold (director, African American Resource Center), Valerie deCruz (director, VPUL Greenfield Intercultural Center), Donna M. Arthur (chair, A-3 Assembly), Terri White (director, academic support programs), James Bean (chair, PPSA)

Addendum- Final Report of the Pluralism Committee, 1997-98

[Letter addressed to Dr. Michael Wachter, Office of the Provost]

Dear Dr. Wachter:

I am writing you in my capacity as chair of the Pluralism Committee of the University Council as directed by the Committee.

The Committee's charge for the last year has been to look into the situation of Asian Americans--students, faculty, and staff--at Penn. In the Almanac Supplement for September 23, 1997, the Committee, then under its Acting Chair, Professor Herman Beavers, published a report on this situation. The report summarizes the understanding of student leaders from the Asian Pacific Student Coalition (APSC) of this situation, which is clearly one that requires a great deal of strengthening in a range of areas from curriculum to counseling.

In particular, the students felt that there was a critical lack of faculty engaged in Asian American research and teaching to adequately represent their intellectual, career, and cultural interests. While noting that the "arrival of Mark Chiang, in English, and Grace Kao in Sociology represents a beginning [in building an Asian American Studies Program]," the students also noted that "there is still only a minor" in this area. The Program is currently being directed by Professor Rosane Rocher, who has worked extraordinarily hard over the last few years to generate an Asian American Studies Program at Penn. Professor Rocher, who is internationally known in the field of South Asian Regional Studies, is currently devoting half of her teaching time to Asian American Studies. Professor Kao, as well, must split her teaching time between Asian American courses and other interests. Professor Chiang, then, is the only one of Penn's three Asian Americanists whose primary area of research and teaching is Asian American Studies.

For the fall of 1998, there are only eight course offerings in Asian American Studies of which four will be taught by Professors Rocher, Chiang, and Kao. Two of the remaining four courses are being offered in CGS, and taught by lecturers. Both of the remaining two courses are in SAS, but only one of these is being taught by a standing faculty member, Julia Paley from Anthropology, whose primary field is not Asian American studies. There are no course offerings in Asian American Studies in any of the other schools of the University.

While acknowledging the essential contributions of professors Rocher and Kao, the Committee wishes to emphasize, in regard to the current curriculum in Asian American Studies, that there is only one member of the standing faculty at Penn whose primary area of research and teaching is Asian American Studies. Without an expanded core of such standing faculty, not only in SAS but across the schools of the University, it is clearly impossible to build an Asian American Studies Program that can present a major in the field. It is the understanding of the Committee that such a program is required to adequately represent the interests of Asian American students on campus, not only in the area of curriculum but in other social and cultural areas as well. For a strong Asian American Studies Program, which supposes a community of senior and junior scholars actively engaged across the University in Asian American issues, is the necessary foundation for building other institutional structures both within Penn and between Penn and the community that can extend agency to the Asian American community of faculty, students, and staff at the University.

The Committee also feels that such an Asian American Studies Program is crucial to the intellectual life of the University in general, with its commitment to a diverse, multicultural, interdisciplinary curriculum for all its students and faculty.

The Committee on Pluralism urges you, then, in conjunction with the deans of the schools to begin a vigorous recruitment initiative aimed at bringing to Penn as members of the standing faculty scholars committed to building an Asian American Studies Program. The Committee recommends that the University try to hire five such scholars within the next five years: three in SAS, with one of those having an appointment in History, and the other two in disciplines that would expand the current offerings in order to build a major. The remaining two appointments should be made in other schools of the University in order to begin to build an Asian American Studies Program on a university-wide basis. We would urge in the first instance that you consider making these appointments in the schools of Social Work and Education because these schools work in the community-at-large, where there is an urgent need to provide services to immigrant Asian communities. But it is also clear to the Committee that expanding Asian American studies to Wharton and Annenberg is an important agenda. One of the three scholars hired for SAS would also assume the directorship of the Program, if such an appointment could be made at the senior level.

The Committee on Pluralism understands that such a strong faculty base is the necessary link with students and staff to build the kind of structures that the 1997 report of the Committee recommends. The Committee appreciates your attention to this matter and urges action on it.


      Eric Cheyfitz
      Professor of English and Comparative Literature
      and Chair of the Committee on Pluralism


cc: Dr. Samuel Preston
Dr. Janice Madden

Almanac, Vol. 44, No. 30, April 21, 1998