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.
     

Initiatives
 

A.  Anti-racism and anti-discrimination: promoting an inclusive climate in SAS
 

  1. Climate: The School will engage faculty, students, and staff in developing frameworks for promoting a culture of inclusion in SAS, including strategies for group discussion, information on best practices, templates for anonymous surveys, and resources for the resolution of challenging situations around race and other areas such as gender, sexuality, and disability; these resources could include, for example, trained moderators and guidance on restorative practices. Ongoing education for faculty and staff is central to this effort. The School will develop curricula on these issues to raise awareness, facilitate discussion, and empower faculty and staff to promote anti-racism, equity, and inclusion. We will appoint a special working group to explore how these curricula can be shaped to best serve our unique community, informed by the relevant research, best practices, and faculty, staff, and student input.
     
    1. For departments, programs, offices: Using the tools described above, each SAS department, program, or office will be asked formally to assess their overall climate, identify challenges and opportunities, and develop a plan with ongoing strategies to improve inclusive practices in areas such as faculty, student, and staff governance, curricular development, and mentoring. Departments and programs will be asked to detail these activities in their annual reports.
       
    2. For graduate groups: Graduate group chairs and faculty will be asked to partner with graduate students in conversations within their programs that lead to tangible actions to create a more inclusive graduate community. Funding will be available to support promising initiatives developed within graduate groups.
     
  2. Leadership and governance:
     
    1. Establish a position of Associate Dean dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion throughout SAS. This individual will be a member of the standing faculty and an integral part of the School’s leadership team, and will have the financial and staff resources to support their mission.
       
    2. Develop a pipeline to promote diverse leadership (faculty and staff) at the School and department/program levels.
       
    3. Offer professional development for leaders and managers (faculty and staff) on anti-racism, promoting inclusion in daily activities such as group meetings, and holding difficult conversations about race.
       
    4. The SAS Dean’s Council on Diversity will continue to advise on faculty inclusion matters. A similar council will be established to ensure ongoing attention to staff diversity
     
  3. Inclusive teaching on an inclusive campus:  There is an acute need for improvements in social and academic climate that enable students of diverse backgrounds to succeed academically in ways that fully reflect the promise they bring to Penn. SAS will actively pursue further enhancements of student support and teaching designed to better the social and academic climate.
     
    1. At the undergraduate level, maintain and strengthen the College’s relationships with the campus cultural centers, the Penn First Plus office, and the College’s student First-Generation, Low-Income Dean’s Advisory Board (FGLI DAB) and Dean’s Advisory Board (DAB) to enable responses to student concerns and to promote a welcoming social and academic environment for all underrepresented minority students.
       
    2. SAS will establish an administrative hub for faculty and graduate students to support the development of inclusive teaching practices. Proposals are already being made regarding gateway courses in the natural sciences and mathematics, and discussions will begin around approaches in the humanities and social sciences. The School will allocate dedicated resources to help instructors and departments pilot courses and build social climates and learning environments that are affirming for all students. SAS will also work with the Center for Teaching and Learning to establish graduate fellowships to support inclusive teaching initiatives.

B.  Build a diverse and inclusive SAS community: Maximize recruitment opportunities and ensure that recruitment practices across SAS are structured to promote diverse hiring and admissions for faculty, students, and staff.
 

  1. Intensify our efforts to recruit and retain a diverse faculty, at all ranks, that continues our efforts to promote excellence. The School has a strong commitment to target of opportunity hiring that increases diversity, including this year even as other faculty hiring is limited.
     
    1. Authorized searches: Continue the work of Diversity Search Advisors to prepare members of search committees to address implicit bias and promote best practices in faculty recruitment, review of applicants, and interview processes. Extend this education to all faculty in departments undertaking a search.
       
    2. Pursue diversity through junior and senior targets of opportunity, including PIKs and Presidential Professorships.
       
    3. Ensure proper junior mentoring and implementation of the above-described climate initiatives to promote an environment in which all faculty thrive and want to build their long-term careers at Penn.
       
    4. Encourage departments to play an active role in diversifying their disciplines.
       
    5. Invite cross-departmental collaboration in the above efforts. Examples include thematic cluster hires that span several departments and mentoring activities that take place across a division (e.g., for women in the natural sciences).
     
  2. Undergraduate students: Continue to work with Undergraduate Admissions in support of fully representative inclusion of URM/FGLI students in the College’s incoming classes. In LPS, the recently-launched Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences program, which was designed to be more affordable and accessible to non-traditional students, will work to build on its early success in recruiting a highly diverse student body.
     
  3. Graduate students: The Graduate Division will make available new funding to support the recruitment of underrepresented minorities by individual graduate groups, including travel by faculty to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), and tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) and by prospective students to Penn. We will heighten our engagement with pipeline programs such as the Leadership Alliance and McNair Scholars. Expanding on the successful model in Mathematics, SAS will identify additional graduate groups to establish bridge-to-Ph.D. programs. We will also expand efforts to enhance the diversity of applicant pools for SAS professional master’s degrees.
     
  4. Staff: In an effort to ensure diverse candidate pools for senior staff searches, SAS will create a diversity search advisor role (in the same spirit as the ones for faculty searches) who can provide guidance on best practices in partnership with the School’s staff Affirmative Action officers. To help develop a diverse pipeline for future staff leadership, the School will establish a post-graduation fellowship experience for those considering careers in higher education administration.

C.  Contribute to the achievement of social justice through research and teaching on race, diversity, and inequality, and through community engagement rooted in the arts and sciences
 

  1. Continue targeted faculty recruitment to build the School’s expertise in thematic areas around these topics. Examples include the School’s strategic plan initiative around Diversity, Inequality and Human Well-Being and the faculty hiring cluster in Sexuality.
     
  2. Launch SAS Social Justice Grants: To further stimulate research and teaching on topics of anti-racism, inclusion, diversity, and social justice, and to promote additional opportunities for community engagement, the School will inaugurate an annual grant program offering awards for scholarship or curricular activities that use the arts and sciences to contribute to positive social change. Emphasis will be placed on large-impact efforts, especially those involving interdisciplinary teams and/or collaborations among departments, centers, and programs.
     
  3. Sponsor year-long School-wide collaborative programming (inter-department/program/center) to share knowledge with faculty, students, and staff across SAS and promote community dialogue on topics of inclusion and anti-racism locally, nationally, and globally.
     
  4. Build programmatic strength on race, diversity, and inequality: Faculty expertise on the study of race, diversity, and inequality contributes to the scholarly and educational excellence of our departments, programs, and centers in many fields. In recent years the School has further enriched its collective suite of distinguished programs devoted more exclusively to the study of race and inclusion. SAS will continue to develop such initiatives through targeted faculty hiring, by expanding existing programs, and by creating a select number of new centers in which academic collaboration around these topics can flourish.
     
  5. Community engagement: The School takes great pride in the many ways that its faculty, students, and programs engage with and learn from our communities beyond Penn. Some of these efforts contribute directly to the study of race, diversity, and inequality, while others play an important role in disseminating knowledge across the arts and sciences to our neighbors in Philadelphia and elsewhere. SAS redoubles its commitment to supporting and expanding these programs.

The implementation of these initiatives will begin immediately and take place over many months. Together these individual activities represent a new phase in an ongoing School-wide inclusion effort. Our progress in promoting inclusion and anti-racism must be annually assessed, measured, and reported on to the SAS community. We must also ask ourselves regularly what additional steps are needed to ensure our success. The School invites your ideas and comments at sasdean@sas.upenn.edu, both now and moving forward.