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Year-end Committee Report on the April 28 Agenda


Committee on Pluralism

General Charge

The Committee on Pluralism shall advise the offices of the president, the 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 Committee shall consist of eight faculty members, two representatives of the Penn Professional Staff Assembly, three representatives of the Weekly-Paid Professional Staff Assembly, three graduate/professional students, and three undergraduate students, with due regard for appropriate diversity. The chaplain, directors of the Penn Women's Center, the African-American Resource Center, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center, the Office of Affirmative Action, and the Greenfield Intercultural Center shall be non-voting ex officio members of the Committee.

2003-2004 Specific Charges

1.  Monitor implementation of the 2000-2001 Social Interaction Subcommittee's recommendations regarding the promotion of interaction among diverse student groups.

2.  Continue to monitor minority retention.

Actions in 2003-2004

The Committee met four times this year. 

The Subcommittee on Social Interaction met twice with regard to the Committee's first charge. The Subcommittee invited representatives from VPUL, Athletics Department, and the Office of the Chaplain/Religious Activities Center, to attend meetings to discuss how to measure the degree of social interaction among diverse student groups and how to assess such data on a consistent and periodic basis. Based on data provided by the VPUL, the Subcommittee concluded that it was feasible for this and probably many other units on campus to generate data regarding (1) the number of programs/events where the promotion of social interaction is a priority; (2) the amount of funding committed to such programs/events; and (3) the success of the program (e.g., by number of participants). 

In response to both the first and second charge, the Committee met with Dr. Bernard Lentz of Institutional Research to discuss the availability of data on minority application, admission and retention statistics.  We also discussed the feasibility of an annual survey (possibly an "exit survey") that would assess, among other institutional information needs, "campus climate" with respect to diversity and pluralism. Dr. Lentz said it was feasible to conduct such a survey, and that a number of methods were available, but that it would need to be funded. Professor Camille Charles noted that it was possible that pilot work in this area could be conducted as part of an undergraduate course. 

The Committee thus recommends:

(1) An annual survey of students or exiting students should be conducted to assess a variety of issues including student experiences with social interaction among student groups and "campus climate."

(2) An annual report should be published by the Office of Institutional Research, that would benchmark and track trends in pluralism-related issues on campus, including data on social interaction from various units on campus (as was demonstrated by VPUL this year), admissions/retention data, affirmative action statistics regarding faculty and staff, and "campus climate" data from a newly commissioned annual survey. This report would serve as a basis for priority-setting and the measurement of progress for the University's strategic planning purposes. It would also put in a single place the data needed by a variety of committees who are otherwise making numerous and possibly duplicative requests for data from various units on campus. The Office of Institutional Research is the logical entity for pulling these data into a single, annual report.

New Business

The Committee took up two issues that were brought to the Committee's attention during the fall 2003 semester.

1.  Gender-Nonexclusive Housing Opportunities: A complaint was made to the Committee regarding the current policy of the Office of College Houses and Academic Services that does not permit persons of different genders to share a room. The Committee invited representatives from College Houses, the UA and GAPSA, together with the two complainants, to speak to the Committee about the issue. After much discussion, it was agreed that a recommendation from the Committee would be presented to the University Council Steering Committee by the Chair. 

The Committee thus recommends: 

Having heard the perspectives of several University constituencies, and having taken into account the practices of selected other institutions of higher education, the Pluralism Committee considers the current University policy of prohibiting undergraduates of different genders from living together in University housing to be inconsistent with the University's policy of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Therefore, the Committee recommends that the housing policy be amended to comply with University's non-discrimination policy.

The Committee considers it an administrative matter to decide what the appropriate change in policy will be, and does not recommend a specific course of action.

2. Military Recruitment on Campus: The Committee invited representatives from the Law School faculty and from the Lambda Law Group to talk about the situation on campus involving military recruitment. It is felt that the military recruitment presence on campus is not in accord with the University's non-discrimination policy as a result in of the Department of Defense's discriminatory policy regarding sexual orientation in the military.

The Committee recommends:

The University should take a public stand opposing the Solomon Amendment, and that the University should support the Law School faculty and students who are advocating for a change in the federal policy.  The Committee further recommends that the University's Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action statement be modified by a footnote indicating that the University understands that the accommodation of military recruiters and ROTC on campus is not consistent with the University's non-discrimination policy and that the University supports changing Department of Defense policy that will end discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in the military.  (The Committee suggests that qualifying language similar to that of the Johns Hopkins University non-discrimination policy could be adopted.)

Suggested Charges for next year:

1.  Follow up on the recommendation for an annual "pluralism report" by Institutional Research with statistics on student admissions, retention and graduation rates, faculty and staff hiring, campus climate, and the promotion of social interaction by various units on campus engaged in student activities.  Such a document would serve to set performance benchmarks and to institutionalize goal-setting in this area.

2.  Monitor the efforts made to improve the campus climate relating to pluralism, diversity, or multiculturalism.

3.  Continue to respond to issues as they arrive.


2003-2004 Committee Members

Chair: Dennis Culhane (Social Work); Faculty: Portonovo Ayyaswamy (Engineering), Camille Charles (Sociology), Julie Fairman (Nursing), Oscar Gandy (Annenberg), Sampath Kannan (CIS), Gino Segre (Physics & Astronomy); Graduate students: Karan Girotra (Wharton), Lee Humphreys (Annenberg), Kendra Wright (Design); Undergraduate students: Julia Lee, EAS '03, Zaid Mohiuddin EAS '04, Dana Nakano EAS '04, Rohini Khanna Col '05; PPSA: Tammy Stanley (School of Medicine), Sean Vereen (Greenfield Intercultural Center); WPSA: Nathaniel Anderson (Cancer/Biology); Ex officio: Valerie Allen (Director, African American Resource Center), Jeanne Arnold (Executive Director, Office of Affirmative Action), Valerie De Cruz (Director, Greenfield Intercultural Center), Elena DiLapi (Director, Penn Women's Center), William Gipson (Chaplain), Scott Reikofski (Director, Fraternity/Sorority Affairs), Bob Schoenberg (Director, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center).



  Almanac, Vol. 50, No. 31, April 27, 2004