In an effort to become “one university,” three caucuses on campus decided to organize an open diversity forum with President Rodney Erickson, Ryan Brown, Penn State Student Black Caucus president, said.
The open forum, which will focus on diversity issues on campus, will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday in 112 Chambers Building.
The Black Caucus, Latino Caucus and Asian Pacific American Caucus will host the event, but all university students are welcome to attend.
“This forum came out of the many discussions President Erickson, a couple peers and I have had over the last few months about the state of the university in regards to its focus on diversity,” Brown wrote in an email.
Black Caucus Vice President Radesha Piles said via email that there is still work to be done related to diversity issues, and leaders need to be held accountable.
“The Penn State Student Black Caucus expects direct action to be taken — we’ve spoken about these issues for more than enough time. We hope that President Erickson answers questions frankly and will include students in his administrative work,” Piles (senior-English) said.
Asian Pacific American Caucus President Ai-Mei Zhu wrote in an email that she feels Erickson agreed to attend the forum because of the national attention the university received regarding a controversial photo that surfaced of the Chi Omega sorority.
The photo depicted members dressed in ponchos and sombreros and holding signs that read, “I don’t cut grass I smoke it” and “Will mow lawn for weed + beer,” and sparked much discussion on campus, but Zhu said that change needs to be made and not just talked about.
“I would like to know what programs [Erickson has] in mind to help educate incoming freshmen and current students about other races and their cultures,” Zhu (senior-marketing) said. “I want him to take action and start making a change on this campus. Many minorities coming onto… campus feel out of place and uninvited.”
Erickson could not be reached for comment by press time Sunday.
All students who are passionate about promoting diversity and acceptance at Penn State are encouraged to attend the forum, Piles said, as the event will include discussion of more than just racial discrimination issues.
The forum is expected to focus also on encouraging the administration to make cultural education a requirement for students, finding solutions to combat sexual assault, and the problem of leaders ignoring discriminatory comments based on “freedom of speech,” Piles said.
“Penn State is a world-class institution, and that needs to be reflected in our ways of thinking. Students should step foot on this campus and understand that Penn State as a whole represents all classes, races, religions, sexual orientations and ability statuses. Not because we have to, but because that’s ‘success with honor,’ ” Piles said.
Brown (senior-integrative arts) said that while direct action has already been taken with regard to specific diversity issues on campus, he expects the forum to help encourage the administration to continue to make changes that foster acceptance at Penn State.
“We are one community; we are one university. We are Penn State, and we need to remember the history behind the chant we all hold so near and dear to our hearts,” Brown said.
A representative from the Latino Caucus couldn’t be reached for comment by press time Sunday.