Click for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Forecast


Print This Issue
Front Page
All About Teaching
Subscribe to E-Alamanc!



Pluralism Committee

Scheduled for Discussion at Council on September 24, 2003

The Standing Charge from the Council Bylaws for the Pluralism Committee states: The Committee on Pluralism shall advise the offices of the president, provost, the executive vice president, and the vice provost for university life on ways to develop and maintain a supportive atmosphere on campus for the inclusion and appreciation of pluralism among all members of the University community. The Committee will also address specific diversity issues that may arise on campus.

The Specific Charges for 2002-2003 

1. Complete the work begun by the Minority Retention Subcommittee of 2000-2001: gather relevant data, including relevant data that may be available from the joint faculty/administration Committee on Minority Faculty Equity, hold focus groups, etc., and determine what is being done and what should be done to strengthen minority retention.

2. Encourage and monitor follow-up on the 2000-2001 Social Interaction Subcommittee's recommendations regarding interaction across student groups.

Actions in 2002-2003

The Committee has met four times this year, in addition to the meetings of relevant subcommittees. With respect to our overall charge, the Committee has discussed a broad range of issues related to diversity and social inclusion, and has attempted to provide input where relevant on a variety of campus matters. 

The Committee reviewed a request made to University Council last year that the University's nondiscrimination policies include nondiscrimination on the basis of gender identity. In part based on a City ordinance passed last fall, the Committee recommended to University Council that the University adopt an explicit statement regarding nondiscrimination on the basis of gender identity in its nondiscrimination language. University Council approved this recommendation at its February meeting.

The Committee also met with representatives of the Resource Centers on campus to become more familiar with their activities, and to assess how the committee could support the work of the Resource Centers. The Committee's assessment was that the Resource Centers play a vital role on campus in promoting the interests of diverse student groups.  However, all of the resource centers raised concerns about the limited funding they received to meet their objectives, and about the need for stronger academic linkages between their programs and academic programs related to the study of cultural diversity. As a result of this discussion, the Committee noted in particular that a report in 1997 about faculty diversity lamented the shortage of faculty of Asian background on campus, and that little appeared to have changed since the issuance of that report. A letter was sent by the Chair of Pluralism to the Chair of the Minority Faculty Equity committee, John Jemmott, calling his attention to this report and the concerns of the committee regarding the need for progress in this area. 

With respect to our specific charges for the current AY, the committee did not complete the work of the Minority Retention Subcommittee, as charged. The committee was made aware of an effort being led by the Provost's office to investigate issues of minority retention, and the committee has deferred any further work of its own in this area until the work of the Provost's committee is completed. The Committee looks forward to reviewing the final report of that committee (if one is to be issued), and possibly monitoring the implementation of any recommendations. Similarly, the Committee decided that it would be premature to review further faculty retention and diversity issues until the report of the Minority Faculty Equity Committee is completed.

With respect to our charge to monitor implementation of the Social Interaction Subcommittee Report, the Committee wrote a letter to Dr. Swain-Cade McCoullum, Vice Provost for University Life, requesting information regarding VPUL progress in meeting the recommendations of the Social Interaction Subcommittee report in AY 00-01. The committee received a report from the VPUL outlining the missions and activities of many of the student organizations on campus. The Chair has agreed to meet with the VPUL to discuss how the promotion of social interaction can be measured such that progress, or the lack thereof, in this area can be assessed on a consistent and periodic basis. These discussions will likely continue into the next AY. 

With respect to our charges for next year, the Committee recommends inclusion of the following:

1)  Continue monitoring and dialogue with various campus entities regarding implementation of the recommendations of the Social Interaction subcommittee report. (The committee members wanted to emphasize that this is potentially a major activity and could consume a significant portion of the committee's efforts.)

2)  Monitoring implementation of the recommendation approved by University Council of the inclusion of a statement of nondiscrimination on the basis of gender identity in the official nondiscrimination policy of the University.

3)  Review whether the University's nondiscrimination policy should or should not more explicitly acknowledge the inconsistency between the University's policies, and those of the US Department of Defense's, which continues to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Other universities and some schools at Penn have had some recent experiences and debates on this matter that may inform a university-wide position.

4)  Catalog the committees and investigations on matters related to pluralism and diversity on campus to assure that there is appropriate coordination and consultation among the various entities involved. 

2002-2003 Committee Members
Chair: Dennis Culhane (social work); Faculty: Portonovo Ayyaswamy (mechanical engineering), Camille Charles (sociology), Julie Fairman (nursing), Oscar Gandy (communications), Howard Goldfine (microbiology/medicine), Gino Segre (physics & astronomy); Graduate students: Louise Chen, Christina Fradelos; Undergraduate students: Rebecca Kaplan (WH'05), Eugena Oh (COL'03), Cassi Pittman (COL'05); PPSA: Pamela Robinson (College Houses & Acadamic Services); WPSA: Linda Satchell (OAA); Ex officio: Jeanne Arnold (director, African American Resource Center), Elena DiLapi (director, Penn Women's Center), Scott Reikofski (director, fraternity/sorority affairs), Bob Schoenberg (director, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center), Terri White (director, academic support programs); Invited guest: William Gipson (Chaplain).


  Almanac, Vol. 50, No. 4, September 16, 2003