Office fights discrimination and aids disabled

Penn will be hosting a workshop on affirmative action Oct. 21 - the first Ivy to do so. The workshop, in collaboration with the American Council on Education (ACE), is a technical assistance workshop on college admissions and affirmative action that will train representatives from a host of mid-Atlantic colleges and universities to learn about current law, institutional practices and possible changes in the future. Hosting this ACE conference reflects some changes in the operation of the affirmative action office on campus this year.

Our office has expanded its name and changed its address. We are the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs in Nichols House (Grad Tower A).

Our primary focus is implementing the University's legal responsibilities in affirmative action, equal opportunity and nondiscrimination. A major part of our job is to educate members of the University community about these responsibilities.

Our office hopes to do more over the course of this academic year to educate members of the Penn community about ways to prevent unlawful discrimination. We are pleased to have several Penn partners in this effort, including the Office of the General Counsel, the Division of Human Resources and the several resource centers on campus.

Our goal is to ensure consistently positive, respectful, and non-discriminatory work and learning environments at the University of Pennsylvania.

Our office has investigatory duties, as well. If we receive a complaint alleging unlawful discrimination - discrimination based on race, sex, sexual orientation, disability or age, for example - then we must investigate it thoroughly.

One of the areas of work that has grown most dramatically for the office in the past several years involves individuals who identify themselves as having disabilities. The number of students registered with our Program for People with Disabilities has increased from 232 in 1993-94 to 323 in 1997-98. Beginning this fall, the LD/ADD student population will be served by a new Learning Disability Specialist in Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

The program will continue not only to coordinate academic support services - readers, notetakers, library research assistants, and tutors - for students with disabilities; it will also provide consultation and information on reasonable accommodations; and help resolve campus building and program accessibility issues.

We are pleased that hundreds of individuals contact the our office each year for information about affirmative action and equal opportunity and for assistance with securing reasonable accommodation for a disability. Any member of the Penn community may contact us at 898-6993 (voice), 898-7803 (TDD) or at our Web site. Valerie O. Hayes is the executive director of the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs.

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Originally published on October 15, 1998