2000-2001 Year-end Committee Reports
reports were presented at Council last spring.
Final reports for Community Relations,
Benefits, Pluralism, Quality
of Student Life, and Safety and Security,
were given to Almanac recently for publication.
at Council, April 25, 2001
the academic year, the Committee met six times and divided into
three subcommittees, which met independently throughout the year.
The Pluralism Committee was asked to focus on three specific charges
an investigation of religious pluralism at the University by gathering
information about the presence and acceptance of different religious
traditions at the University.
the impact of the new resource centers and religious space.
with the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid (CAFA) regarding
minority admission and retention.
Pluralism Committee members amended the charges as follows:
religious pluralism charge remained unchanged.
Committee determined that it was premature to assess the impact
of the resource centers on campus, since they have either: a)
been operating for too short a time (PAASCH), b) been operating
without a fulltime director (Casa Latina), or c) have not been
created yet (the religious groups hub in the Veranda).
consultation with the Chairman of the CAFA, it was decided that
CAFA would focus on Minority Recruitment, and one subcommittee
of the Pluralism Committee would focus on Minority Retention.
group of committee members decided to create a separate subcommittee
focused on the interaction of diverse student groups.
the three subcommittees of the Pluralism Committee for 2000-2001
were as follows: Religious Pluralism, Minority Retention, and Social
Interaction. The individual reports of each subcommittee follow.
Religious Pluralism Subcommittee met six times during the academic
year, and also held a special meeting with the campus chaplains.
The subcommittee was also asked to address an issue outside of its
meetings, namely, the distress South Asian American students felt
at the way South Asians were portrayed in an issue of Punch Bowl.
University Chaplain Gipson arranged for a meeting between students
and the Punch Bowl editors, during which the editors apologized.
(They also sent a note after the meeting, thanking the students
for meeting with them.) From all reports, the meeting was successful.
Subcommittee also addressed the issue of religious holidays. After
a review of the existing policy, the subcommittee and Committee
found that the policy is satisfactory and requires no changes. There
is a need, however, for greater education of faculty and students
alike about their responsibilities. Students need to be more effectively
informed that the onus is on them to notify professors of any conflicts
during the first two weeks of a semester. Faculty members also need
more information about religious holidays. A start would be to distribute
Jewish Holy Days: 1998-2008, a pamphlet published by the
Jewish Community Relations Council, to all faculty and lecturers.
It would also be advisable to call attention to the University Chaplain's
website, which includes a comprehensive list of holidays as well.
far the major question for the Religious Pluralism Subcommittee
was religious discrimination on campus. During the Fall, members
of this Subcommittee informally surveyed many departments and centers,
and the general finding was that positive experiences at Penn vastly
outnumber negative experiences where religious questions are concerned.
Some students express reluctance to state their religious beliefs
in class, due to fear of being ridiculed; others believe that Jewish
students are favored over other groups. On the faculty level, one
reported witnessing discrimination against a (Jesuit) Ph.D. applicant,
and another said he had just received a death threat with the subject
line "for israel." He reported it to the campus police
and has not, to our knowledge, received any more communications
of this sort.
February, Chaplain Gipson hosted a meeting for the Subcommittee
with a large number of the campus chaplains. They, too, reported
little in the way of individual discrimination due to religious
affiliation. An area of greater concern was the Student Activities
Council (SAC) funding policy, which embraces freedom of speech while
denying funding to religious groups. This is clearly an important
issue, and has resulted in a recommendation by the Pluralism Committee
that an ad hoc committee on SAC funding be formed in Fall 2001,
with the charge of examining the SAC policy on funding and making
recommendations for possible revision. (See the Committee's
recommendations at the end of this report for additional details.)
Minority Retention Subcommittee initially needed to determine what
efforts were underway on campus regarding retention of minority
students. They had planned to gather relevant data from campus sources
and organizations (i.e., Affirmative Action focus groups, the admissions
office, and CAFA). They then intended to supplement the findings
with both quantitative and qualitative data, culled from an online
survey and possibly a town meeting and/or focus groups. Data were
to be compiled by the end of March.
members were in communication with the major umbrella organizations
for students of color, and reported that they were eager to work
with the Subcommittee in their endeavor. Groups contacted include:
United Minorities Council, Umoja, Latino Coalition, and Asian Pacific
date, part of the survey creation was completed, but the data has
not been compiled, and the efforts will need to be carried out by
next year's Pluralism Committee.
Social Interaction Subcommittee's charge was to examine social interaction
among students across various aspects of diversity, including racial/cultural/ethnic
backgrounds, religion, and sexual orientation. The specific objectives
set by the Subcommittee were:
and describe student experiences regarding social interaction;
in this regard with other institutions, if time permits; and
changes students suggest and discuss what might be done institutionally
to accomplish these changes.
achieve these objectives, the Subcommittee collaborated with several
groups who had already explored or were exploring social interaction
on campus, who generously agreed to share their findings with the
subcommittee, and who allowed the subcommittee to develop recommendations
based on their findings.
seminar on the improvement of undergraduate education offered
by Drs. Ira Harkavy and Lee Benson; one of the projects in the
class involved students developing a survey that would ask Penn
students to evaluate their interactions across groups;
research and a set of on-campus focus groups conducted through
the "Seeking Common Ground Project" (co-sponsored by
the Greenfield Intercultural Center and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual
Transgender Center [LGBT]), that looked at the way that student
organizations at Penn address diversity; and explored how to use
these data to create opportunities to bring the communities on
pilot study done by Drs. Douglas Massey and Camille Charles (Sociology)
that explored college experiences among first-year undergraduate
students at Penn in 1998;
survey of international students by the Office of International
Programs (OIP) regarding the quality of services and programs
delivered by OIP that offered some tangential information on students'
experiences with interaction on campus.
key findings from these groups:
Survey on Social Interaction
perceptions/opinions regarding diverse interaction on campus change
from their time as freshmen to their senior year. Students had
stronger opinions the more time they spent on campus. They offered
more specific examples of tensions on campus, held stronger views
about how administration responds to students, and identified
more opportunities to interact but less realization of those opportunities,
as they moved through their four years.
is a divide between Jewish and non-Jewish students. Many non-Jewish
Whites, Blacks, Asians, and Latinos perceived Jewish students
to be more favored by Penn's administration. Many for example,
believe that Jewish students receive preferential treatment for
holidays, speakers, events, and funding.
is also a perceived divide between South Asian and Eastern Asian
students. When asked to check racial identity, a fair number of
South Asian students refused to check the racial category as Asian
for themselves, and checked "other" and wrote in South
Asian as their race. This also speaks to an interesting dynamic
on Penn's campus, which should be explored more extensively.
Common Ground Project
colleges and universities researched had some form of resource
for LGBT students and/or students of color and/or multicultural/diversity
affairs; however, very few offered programs that were designed
to unite the communities and to discuss overlapping issues of
such a program did exist on other campuses, lack of institutional
support made it difficult to sustain the program, and there was
little continuity in programs designed to unite communities.
it was recognized by Penn students of color organizations that
there are LGBT students of color on campus, the issues of LGBT
students were seen as totally separate from their own.
student of color organizations function through a "safe space"
framework. Therefore, while they welcomed the support of members
from outside their own community and interaction at public events,
they felt that to include in their organizations any student interested
in joining might be detrimental to their goals and undermine the
"safe space" framework that helped them build community
and find support on a predominantly white campus.
organizations participating in focus groups expressed the importance
of alliances among minorities on campus, but they were unable
to articulate how those alliances should be built. Many
groups expressed desire for more mechanisms to be in place to
foster cross-cultural social interaction. Examples of existing
mechanisms mentioned were the Office of Student Life Leadership
Training retreats offered twice a year, the PACE class, the Seeking
Common Ground program, the United Minorities Council, The Alliance
and Understanding program, and the Interfaith Council. However,
students felt that such programs currently reach only a small
number of students.
Study of First-Year Undergraduate Students
the pilot, a total of 336 students were interviewed. A wide variety
of questions were asked related to both their lives leading up to
college, and about their experiences during the first year of college.
Questions about cross-race friendships, interracial dating habits,
and the number of professors of different racial groups that students
had during their first year yielded some interesting insights regarding
cross-race social interaction.
are most likely to report that all of their closest friends are
of the same race (22.2%), followed by blacks (17% have all same-race
friends). Fewer than 10% of both Hispanics and Asians say that
all of their friends are same-race.
average, non-whites have between 2 and 5 white friends, non-blacks
have fewer than one black friend, non-Hispanics have fewer than
one Hispanic friend, and non-Asians have between 0.6 and 1.5 Asian
only group that is not racially distinct--are the only group for
which more than half report ever dating across racial lines. Whites,
blacks, and Asians are least likely to date interracially, in
that order. Overall, these students appear open to the idea of
interracial dating; however, they may be selective regarding who
an appropriate non-same-race date is.
expected, white professors are the norm. Overall, it is clear
that the average Penn freshman is not being taught by non-white
faculty, since the mean for non-white professors were always below
black and white students seem to view Penn as a segregated place,
and think that the source of the segregation is institutional,
not the result of personal preference. Moreover, many of these
students believe that the way that they select housing is a major
source of the problem. In the end, while this is seen as hindering
interaction, neither whites nor blacks think that the housing
process should be changed to random assignment in the freshman
of International Students
Fall 2000, approximately 4700 questionnaires were distributed to
all international students and scholars at Penn. Given the specific
purpose of the survey (it was part of OIP's self-study, in preparation
for an external review in Fall 2002), it is not surprising that
the open-ended comments in the responses include virtually nothing
about social interaction with American students or professors.
students found helpful programs such as the campus hosting and
mentoring program (CHAMP) that fostered interaction with American
students and asked for more such activities and programs.
graduate students found graduate housing, i.e. Sansom Place, to
be very unsociable.
Conclusions and Recommendations:
explorations of the Subcommittee document perceptions as well
as actual experiences that social interaction among diverse groups
at Penn is limited.
needs to be institutional discussion and agreement that social
interaction among diverse groups is a worthy goal at Penn.
in progress should continue, and additional research could be
undertaken to understand the issues involved in social interaction
among diverse groups, and to formulate specific programmatic steps
to increase social interaction.
University should increase financial resources to support further
research and recommended programs to increase social interaction
among diverse groups on campus.
of possible programmatic efforts:
mechanism and related resources could be created to encourage
and support student leaders in cosponsoring events (social and
educational) that foster interaction across groups.
programs and opportunities could be created for students interested
in cross-cultural collaborations.
a New Student Orientation (NSO) brochure that focuses on how students
can maximize their experiences of diversity at Penn. The brochure
would outline different venues and give suggestions on how to
explore beyond one's comfort zone.
a research-oriented course on multiculturalism. The course could
teach students how to create a strong bibliography, conduct a
survey, and explore ethnographic information related to diversity
additional opportunities to foster interaction between international
students and their American peers.
for Council and the University Community
Committee recommends that the Director of Affirmative Action and
the Director of the Greenfield Intercultural Center be reinstated
as ex officio members. Their participation as "invited guests"
this year was critical to the Committee's work.
Committee recommends that both students and faculty be better
informed of the obligations of the religious holidays policy.
Committee recommends that an ad hoc committee be formed in Fall
2001 to examine SAC funding policies, and make recommendations
for possible revisions. This ad hoc committee should have representatives
from a variety of student religious and political groups, as well
as at least two representatives from the executive committees
of both SAC and GSAC. It should also be advised to seek help from
the campus chaplains, especially Newman Center, on benchmarking
funding policy statements at other universities.
Committee recommends that the recommendations provided by the
Social Interaction Subcommittee be pursued aggressively, including
the encouragement and financial support of all programs which
encourage interaction across student groups.
of Charges for 2001-2002 Committee
Retention: complete the work begun by this year's Minority Retention
Subcommittee: gather relevant data, hold focus groups, etc., and
determine what is being (or should be) done to strengthen minority
Interaction: encourage and monitor follow-up on the 2000-2001
Social Interaction Subcommittee's recommendations regarding interaction
across student groups.
Stephen N. Dunning, Chair
Council Committee on Pluralism
(Religious Studies). Faculty: Camille Charles (Sociology),
Julie Fairman (Nursing), Nabil Farhat (Electrical Engineering),
Howard Goldfine (Microbiology/Medicine), Mitchell Marcus (CIS),
Thomas Ricketts (Philsophy), Louis Thomas (Management). Graduate
Students: Kimberly Harrington. Undergraduate Students:
Eric Chen, Sarah Feuer, Raymond Valerio. PPSA: Erin
Cross (LGBT center), Rhonda Minyard (Center for Clinical Epidemiology
& Biostatistics). A-3: Loretta Hauber (Health Education),
John Hogan (Biddle Law Library), Audrey Smith-Bey (African American
Studies). Ex officio: Jeanne Arnold-Mann (African American
Resource center), Elena DiLapi (Penn Women's Center), William
Gipson (Chaplain), Joyce Randolph (International Programs), Scott
Reikofski (Fraternity/Sorrority Affairs), Robert Schoenberg (LGBT
center), Terri White (Academic Support Programs). Invited Guests:
Valerie DeCruz, Valerie Hayes. Staff: Judi Rogers
Almanac, Vol. 48, No. 6, October 2, 2001
October 2, 2001
Volume 48 Number 6