Speaking Out

The following letter was sent on April 27, to President Judith Rodin and to Almanac for publication.

Campus Copy Center Concerns

We are writing to express our concerns regarding the Campus Copy Incident. It has brought to the forefront a myriad of race related issues impacting our entire Penn community. Those persistent student advocates who have kept our minds on these issues since April 9, 2001, are to be applauded. While AARC and others consistently focus their energies on improving the quality of life for communities of color at Penn, we are reminded by this incident that there is still much critical work to be done. Of primary importance is the appropriate redress of Mr. Seaton's trauma. His sense of safety and ability to return to his doctoral work must be restored.

Simultaneously, we must begin to construct a comprehensive institutional response designed to proactively address issues of race and racism on this campus and in the surrounding community. Trustees, faculty, administrators, staff and students will need to commit to a strategic/multi-year course of action if we are to be successful. Some of the key components for such a plan already exist but must be brought together by a mechanism with the authority for implementation and oversight. Training for all segments of the University community, a difficult concept for some to accept, will be essential.

The AARC and Penn Women's Center Advisory Boards urge you to use this unfortunate incident as an opportunity to effect real and lasting change here at the University of Pennsylvania. Working together, we can achieve an environment that is welcoming for all people.

--Larry Gladney, Chair, AARC Advisory Board

--Helen Davies, Co-Chair, Penn Women's Center Advisory Board

--Orneice Dorsey Leslie, Co-Chair, Penn Women's Center Advisory Board

Response from President Rodin

Thank you for your letter. I agree with your praise of the student leaders who worked so hard and responsibly to voice their concerns and with your suggestion that we must now use this unfortunate incident to move ahead to address and improve matters of race and violence at Penn and the surrounding community.

We are committed to ensuring that the Penn community is safe and welcoming to everyone. We have taken steps that will move us forward. I trust that I can count on your support and leadership to ensure that we do the best, most effective, job we can do.

Please feel free to share your ideas with Provost Barchi and me. In particular, what kind of comprehensive institutional response do you have in mind? What is the "mechanism" you envision for implementation and oversight? Much is being done, I believe, and we need specific suggestions of what is still missing.

Thanks again for writing. I look forward to hearing from you.

--Judith Rodin, President

Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions. Short, timely letters on University issues can be accepted by Thursday at noon for the following Tuesday's issue, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated. --Eds.

Almanac, Vol. 47, No. 33, May 8, 2001