COUNCIL 1999-2000 Year-End Committee Reports
September 7, 2000
Discussed at Council April 26, 2000 and is scheduled for further discussion at Council on October 4, 2000
Committee Charges, 1999-2000
During the academic year, the Committee met eight times and divided into three subcommittees in order to address each of the charges. During academic year 1999-2000, the Committee on Pluralism focused on three specific charges:
Comment on Last Year's Pluralism Committee Report
In October, the Chair of the Pluralism Committee met with University Council to discuss the Pluralism Committee's report from the 1998-1999 academic year. As Council was aware, that report focused largely on Asian American issues on campus. This year's Committee on Pluralism commends the University for recognizing the needs of the Asian American student population and supporting the creation of the Pan Asian American Community House (PAACH). PAACH will be located on the first floor of the former Christian Association building and will join La Casa Latina, UMOJA, and a satellite office for the Greenfield Intercultural Center.
Many student cultural groups now will be housed together in the former Christian Association building. The Pluralism Committee supports this effort to create a hub of diversity at the center of campus and looks forward to helping to assess its success in supporting an environment that embraces pluralism.
Diversity in the University Community and the Division of Public Safety
A subcommittee, chaired by Professor Regina Austin, has examined issues raised both here in Council and in the broader community regarding the roles played by the composition and conduct of the Division of Public Safety in ensuring respect for diversity within the community.
The subcommittee narrowed in on the concerns of racial/ethnic minorities and women. Members of the subcommittee interviewed faculty and administrators who deal with the individuals from the targeted constituencies to gain some idea as to the level of disappointment and distress that might exist with regard to Public Safety. This collection of anecdotal information will continue.
The subcommittee reviewed the history of committee reports dealing with interactions between Public Safety and the University community. The subcommittee also had a meeting with Vice President of Public Safety Thomas Seamon and Chief of Police Maureen Rush in which we began a dialogue that will continue into the next academic year. The discussion produced several issues as to which particular attention will be given and as to which recommendations are likely to be made. Among the topics that will continue to be followed and monitored are:
While the Pluralism Committee continues to be interested in these issues, University Council's Safety and Security Committee, under the leadership of Professor Austin, will continue to pursue this overall charge and the specific issues highlighted by the subcommittee's work.
Recruitment and Retention of Minority Students
Tariff Remtulla chaired this subcommittee and the subcommittee met with the Admissions and Financial Aid Committee to consider the issues in the charge. The Committee would like the University Council and broader University community to recognize that these are ongoing issues and the Pluralism Committee will continue its focus on these challenges in the coming academic year.
In March, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Lee Stetson reported to Council on the University's minority recruitment initiatives, Penn's strengths and weaknesses in attracting minority students, and applications and admit rates for Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American students. In his report, Dean Stetson noted that Penn has to compete aggressively with its peer institutions for minority students. Financial aid is part of this equation, and he stated that Penn actively recruits with its financial aid packages, and does so very aggressively. When a student has a concern that the amount of financial aid does not meet their requirements, the Office of Student Financial Services is inclined to come into line with other Ivy League institutions, and help try to make it a better offer.
Penn faces considerable challenges here. As President Rodin reported to Council in October, the University spends tens of millions of dollars a year on financial aid, $55 million last year alone. The lion's share of that money, however, is taken from the operating budget, as Penn's endowment is very small compared with its counterparts. Penn's financial aid is comprised of six percent from endowments and ninety-four percent from the operating budget. The Undergraduate Financial Aid Endowment is at $123 million--representing a doubling of the number of endowment funds between FY'97-99--but there clearly is more to be done. The Committee is pleased that President Rodin indicated at the April Council meeting that both undergraduate and graduate financial aid increases and funding for minority recruitment and retention projects are part of the strategic initiatives in the FY 2001 budget.
We appreciate the attention Council devoted to the issues of minority student recruitment and financial aid this year and would recommend that Bill Schilling of Student Financial Services and Dean Stetson be called upon to brief Council on an annual basis regarding progress in these areas. We also would like to commend the United Minorities Council and its collaboration with the Office of Admissions to tailor the Office's communications to the language needs of the families of students as well as to increase the involvement of minority students and alumni in the recruitment process.
With regard to minority retention, both Pluralism and the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid met with Dr. Barney Lentz to get a better understanding of the initiatives currently in place and their impact. Graduation rates for African-American and Latino students are lower than for other students. African-American and Latino students are frequently burdened with financial difficulties, which can severely and understandably affect academic performance or prevent students from graduating. Since 1997, Penn has through increased use of available financial aid, delivered diplomas to a higher percentage of African-American and Latino students from recent graduating classes; helped these students by extending new, more flexible loan arrangements; and provided integrated academic and financial advice to avoid potential barriers to graduation. The results are promising. From 1996 to 1998, the four-year graduation rate increased for all undergraduates from 79.6% to 81.8%; for African-American undergraduates from 55.5% to 69.5%; and for Latino undergraduates from 62.6% to 78.1%. These improvements come from a combination of improved advising for students and improved tracking of aided students.
These are ongoing issues for the University and while we are encouraged by these improvements, the Committee will focus additional attention on these issues next year. In addition to understanding the impact of Penn's initiative on a year-to-year basis, the Pluralism Committee hopes to establish Penn's efforts and achievements in the context of its peer institutions.
Environment Embracing Pluralism
The Pluralism Committee did not have the opportunity to complete its recommendations on how to maintain an environment that embraces pluralism within the student body with regard to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and religion. As mentioned above, the Committee is interested in assessing the impact of creating a hub of diversity at the center of campus as envisioned on Locust Walk. The Committee also takes note of the increased collaboration between the Undergraduate Assembly and the United Minorities Council and the efforts by both groups to facilitate dialogues on race relations, diversity, and minority student retention. The increased diversity of the representatives of the Undergraduate Assembly
also creates opportunities for additional conversations about the cultural environment at Penn.
The Committee intends to begin to examine religious pluralism at the University next year by gathering information about the presence and acceptance of different religious traditions at the University. This will be the Committee's primary focus for the 2000-2001 academic year.
--Stephen N. Dunning,Chair
Chair: Stephen N. Dunning, religious st; Faculty: G. Anandalingham, syst engr; Regina Austin, law; Julie Fairman, nursing; Farah Griffin, English; William Labov, linguistics; Vivianne Nachmias, cell & dev biol/med; Antonia Villarruel, nursing; Graduate/professional Students: Barbara Hall, GAS; Undergraduate: Ari Alexander, COL; Tariq Remtulla, COL; one to be named; PPSA: Florence Halloran, acad support prog; Chad Leonard, benefits; A-3: John Hogan, Biddle Law Library; Lia LaVassaur, Ctr Profl Dev; Keith Martin, CGS; Ex officio: Jeanne Arnold, dir, African Amer Resource Ctr; Doug Berger, dir, residential living; Elena DiLapi, dir, Penn Women's Ctr; Joyce Randolph, dir, intl prog; Scott Reikofski, dir, fraternity/sorority affrs; Debra Smiley Koita, chair, A-3 Assembly;Terri White, chair, PPSA.
Almanac, Vol. 47, No. 5, September 26, 2000