During his discussion on diversity, Penn State President Rodney Erickson was asked by a student in the audience on what can be done to make the university more diverse.
“I think we’ve made a lot of progress, but there’s a lot more to go,” Erickson responded.
The discussion, hosted by the Omicron Alpha Chapter of Sigma Lambda Beta at Penn State, was aimed toward the Latino community on campus. Members of the fraternity, Latino Caucus, the Penn State NAACP, as well as graduate students and staff members attended the discussion held in Wartik building Thursday night.
Erickson said that the university currently has 17 percent minority students and that for the first time Penn State had more undergraduate international students than graduate international students.
“There’s more of a road to travel with faculty and staff,” he said. Erickson explained that there is a combination of issues within this area, and that progress has not been as fast as he would like to see, and said that being located in central Pennsylvania where less diversity is present is not an excuse.
An issue brought up during the question and answer portion of the discussion was about the lack of Latino studies classes presented in the curriculum, and that these studies could help spark more of a connection between the minority populations to the greater majority on campus. Erickson noted the importance to continue lobbying for these changes to the appropriate Deans and Vice President and Provost.
Ramon Barunda, program coordinator at the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, explained that many students of color don’t feel a support from the university.
Erickson responded that there has been a lot of focus on other issues, such as he put it, “the difficult days of the past year,” and that he personally has spoken to Academic Leadership Forum about these issues. He also added that on the University Park campus it is more of a challenge to make a place of 45,000 students to find a place of belonging. Erickson said that the work the PRCC does is of extreme importance.
President of Latino Caucus Ariel Coronel brought up the idea that the different cultures present at the university should teach the importance of diversity, but it is difficult to do with out funds to support these dialogues.
“The majority don’t have an holistic experience,” Borunda said, saying that its possible for those of Caucasian descent to feel culture shock once they go into a work force where there is higher diversity.
Erickson showed the audience he understood the importance of diversity by revealing that he was spent time in 40 different countries through work.
“It’s a whole different perspective,” he said, explaining that in other countries things are done other ways and that “it’s not better, just different”
Erickson concluded saying that in the next couple of months a task force will be created to work on the general education credits students must have as part of their degree, and that this would be the time to communicate for changes in the classes dedicated to United States cultures and International culture credits.