SPECIAL REPORT President's Response to Asian/Pacific American Student Affairs
The following was sent by President Rodin to Dr. Janice Madden as Chair of the Asian/Pacific American Student Affairs Committee, and to Almanac for publication.
My warm thanks to you and the members of the Asian/Pacific American Student Affairs Committee for your important work in the spring. I know that you and the members of the committee are extremely active and busy people, so the thoroughness and quality of APASAC's work in such a condensed time frame is especially impressive and, again, greatly appreciated.
Based on the data and qualitative information you share, I fully support the conclusions drawn by your committee. They are important and should be implemented. Let me share with you how I intend to do so by re-sponding to each recommendation individually.
I am delighted to report that the Vice Provost for University Life has hired Meeta Kumar, a psychologist who is very sensitive to issues faced by APA students, in Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). Currently working on her doctorate at Penn, Ms. Kumar is a former psychology practicum and predoctoral psychology intern at CAPS. She has worked at three other college counseling centers and has an excellent understanding of the needs and concerns of students, particularly APA students. Ms. Kumar also has expertise in eating concerns and international students' issues. As part of her doctoral dissertation, she is working with Dr. Howard C. Stevenson, Jr., associate professor of education, on exploring Asian and Asian American women's identity formation and life stressors. It is wonderful to have her with us full-time in CAPS.
As this appointment indicates, the VPUL is working to build a team that is sensitive to the diversity and the broad interests and needs of the Penn student body. In addition to the CAPS position just mentioned, a new full-time position for an APA program coordinator at the Greenfield Intercultural Center has been filled by Sara S. Cho, a Penn alumna and, as it happens, a member of your committee.
As I know you recognize, the issue of school recruitment is a more complex matter. Although the University has uniform procedures and standards that guide the hiring of staff, each school makes its own recruitment and hiring decisions. More aggressive recruitment of APA staff or those skilled in dealing with issues of concern to APA students must rely on the strong leadership of the deans. During the year ahead, I expect to discuss with them their success in recruiting APA and other minority faculty and staff.
CAPS intends to maintain its outreach activities. The appointment of Ms. Kumar should go far in meeting this need and in replacing the contributions of Dr. Alvin Alvarez to the APA community and to the VPUL. We all felt a sense of loss when Dr. Alvarez, to meet his family's needs, left Penn for a position at another institution, but we are delighted by the arrival of Ms. Kumar.
Further, VPUL will be actively considering the recommendations drawn from the focus group sessions it conducted last year, as well as discussions that VPUL Dr. Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum has had with APA students. I know that Val and all of her VPUL directors look forward to their continued work with APA students.
VPUL provides all of its student services staff with diversity training, including training on issues that APA students have identified as important to their quality of life at Penn. This training is offered on an ongoing basis by a number of VPUL departments, including Counseling and Psychological Services, the Penn Women's Center, the Greenfield Intercultural Center, the Office of the Vice Provost for University Life, the Department of Academic Support programs, and other VPUL units.
The professional student advisors in the School of Arts and Sciences have regularly scheduled in-service training regarding the special concerns of APA students and those from other ethnic groups, and the advisors in the Wharton School have ongoing consultations in this area. The School of Nursing and the School of Engineering and Applied Science have faculty advisors.
The new College Houses offer in-service workshops to all Graduate Associates and undergraduate Resident Advisors that address issues affecting minority students. Staff members are required to attend a designated number of these workshops and their attendance is monitored by their House Deans, who also are present.
The University continues to stress the aggressive recruiting of minority faculty. Minority faculty recruitment is a topic of discussion at the Council of Deans meetings and is addressed in the Schools' strategic plans. The Office of Affirmative Action endeavors to help schools and departments in the recruitment of minority faculty. Each school is required to name an affirmative action officer specifically charged with ensuring that a faculty search is conducted appropriately and that a real effort was made to seek out women and minority candidates. These officers work closely with the Office of the Provost and with Valerie Hayes in the Office of Affirmative Action.
Each year we ask the deans to establish their goals for the coming year and mark their accomplishments from the previous year in different areas; among these areas are Excellence of Students, Excellence of Faculty, and Diversity of Faculty and Students. In this way we and they are able to track success in recruiting and retaining a diverse group of faculty and students. These goals and accomplishments are part of a continuing dialogue between the deans and Provost.
Rosane Rocher has done a superb job of getting the Asian American Studies minor off the ground. I join SAS Dean Sam Preston and College Dean Rick Beeman in supporting the growth of the program and will continue to count on Rosane's leadership for the near term. At this time of budget constraints in SAS, faculty and staff needs throughout the School must continue to be carefully weighed. Dean Preston has authorized the History Department to conduct a search during academic year 1999-2000, for a junior-level, tenure-track historian in this field.
SAS is formalizing arrangements for the Department of South Asia Regional Studies to provide regular academic and general administrative support to Asian American Studies beginning this fall. In addition, the program has equal access (similar to all SAS programs housed in Williams Hall) to business administration support through Williams Hall Business Administration Services. Administrative support for the program will be proportionately enhanced as it grows over the next few years.
Thank you for expressing your concerns about the percentage of qualified Asian American applicants admitted by the University. Certainly nothing in our admissions policies or practices is intended to result in the admission of a low proportion of Asian American applicants. Our Office of Admissions will carefully monitor the rate at which Asian American students are admitted this year.
Admissions will continue to evaluate Minority Weekend, which is also known as the Minority Scholars Program. Data from our 1998 Minority Scholars Program, held February 26 to March 1, suggest it has a positive effect on APA and other minority students who participate. Admissions believes the program is a strong recruitment tool, and looks forward to inviting the participation of the Asian American Studies Program to further strengthen future Minority Scholars Weekends.
Socioeconomically disadvantaged APA students from the Philadelphia area are included in the Minority Scholars Program. Each year, Admissions re-visits the idea of expanding it, and that may happen in the future. It is worth noting, however, that surveys of APA and other students who have participated make clear that they believe the program is already as large as it can effectively be.
Admissions is eager to increase the number of APA alumni on our Secondary School Committees (SSCs), which are important to recruitment. Recent initiatives have focused on underrepresented minorities and have been fruitful in realizing an increase of 375 minority alumni on our SSC. Although there has not been a formal study, Admissions believes that the number of APA volunteers is not reflective of the number of APA students currently at Penn. We know there is solid representation in New York City and in California, particularly among recent graduates, but more must be done to recruit APA volunteers. Admissions is currently planning a recruitment effort of APA alumni to increase volunteer representation on the SSC.
--Judith Rodin, President
Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 10, November 3, 1998