November 30, 2020
Awareness of the horrors of systemic racism has intensified across our nation and the world. In the past year alone we have witnessed killings of Black Americans by police, the scandalous treatment of Latin American immigrants, and the harassment of Asians and Asian-Americans in the wake of the current pandemic. In addition, we can all too easily enumerate many other kinds of ongoing discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, disability, and religion. The faculty, students, and staff of the School of Arts and Sciences have a solemn obligation to examine our own community and make changes that will advance diversity in its many forms; that will make all of its faculty, students, and staff feel welcome and respected; and that will ensure the fullest possible engagement of our scholarship and teaching with the pursuit of social justice.
As a Penn community, we must take responsibility for creating curricula and building social climates and learning environments that are affirming and inclusive for all faculty, students, and staff. We are profoundly aware that we cannot ask those facing discrimination to carry the burden of transforming our campus culture. We want and indeed urgently need the voices of these individuals to be part of the conversation, but the problems of structural racism and barriers to inclusivity are not theirs to rectify. This difficult work requires intention, leadership, and accountability from the SAS deans, in addition to all faculty, students, and staff.
To accomplish this goal, the School is announcing a series of inclusion and anti-racism initiatives. These efforts aim to address structural issues in SAS and to put in place frameworks that will foster ongoing engagement, as opposed to one-time activities. Wherever possible, the School wants to promote opportunities for individual programs to assess their own needs and strategies, rather than having a centrally-determined, one-size-fits-all approach. Accountability will be an essential component of these activities, with regular reporting required by programs and an annual School-wide progress report issued to the SAS community.
SAS has long promoted inclusion and anti-racism (see most recently its 2019 Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence). Some of the efforts detailed below continue and amplify these important existing efforts. But the current moment demands that the School also initiates new activities, programs, and administrative structures, supported with new investments of resources, to ensure that inclusion and anti-racism are fundamental to our pursuit of academic excellence. Highlights of the new efforts include but are not limited to the School’s commitment to:
- develop new protocols for departments, programs, offices, and graduate groups to assess and address climate issues on a regular basis and to develop and implement more inclusive practices.
- establish a School-level position of Associate Dean dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion in SAS.
- prioritize target of opportunity faculty hiring that increases diversity at all ranks, including this year even as other hiring is limited.
- devote new funding to graduate groups to support the recruitment of underrepresented minorities.
- establish an administrative hub to support the development of inclusive teaching practices.
- create mechanisms for promoting diversity among the SAS staff.
- launch a new program of SAS Social Justice Grants to further stimulate research and teaching on topics of anti-racism, inclusion, diversity, and social justice.
- sponsor year-long School-wide collaborative programming to promote SAS community dialogue.
- expand the School’s collective suite of programs devoted to the study of race and inclusion.