Campus News

Penn State President Eric Barron held a virtual town hall at 3 p.m. on Monday to discuss racism and bias at the university and to address the future actions detailed in an email he sent on June 10.

Accompanying Barron for the town hall were three members of the Select Penn State Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias and Community Safety — Dean in the Dickinson College of Law Danielle Conway, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Clarence Lang and chair of the University Faculty Senate Elizabeth Seymour.

Vice provost for educational equity Marcus Whitehurst and Penn State Board of Trustees member Brandon Short also joined the meeting to discuss student inequalities and the steps that should be taken to eliminate systemic racism at the university.

Barron began the town hall by announcing a $50,000 endowment to the George Floyd Memorial Scholarship in Educational Equity and an additional $50,000 to the Osaze Osagie Memorial Scholarship for Educational Equity.

The university will also match funds for diversity and equity scholarships, promising $10 million as an incentive to donors.

After each individual on the call discussed their involvement in Penn State's pursuit of racial equity, Barron asked them to describe what needs to be done in order to reach university goals.

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Lang said he believes disrupting the idea of tradition and thinking creatively are important to discovering how Penn State can be made a more equal, inclusive and diverse institution. Conway said the university needs to invest in systemic anti-racism to reverse racial inequality.

Seymour highlighted actions she and the University Faculty Senate have been working on in recent weeks, including rethinking the way teaching is assessed at Penn State, considering diversity training for faculty, reviewing policies regarding social and racial justice, redefining current curricular requirements for racial justice and supporting the student code of conduct task force.

Seymour added that the senate will look into each of the issues students, faculty and staff have faced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Short said the Board of Trustees is working to restructure its organization and its bylaws to create a committee that will address issues of diversity and inclusion on a long-term basis at the university level.

Another goal of the board is to diversify both its membership and the Penn State student population. Short said the board has debated setting a quota of diverse staff for itself, as well as a date by which the percentage would be achieved.

Whitehurst said that he, in collaboration with the Penn State Alumni Association, will be hosting a three-part virtual roundtable entitled “Toward Racial Equity at Penn State: Social Difference, Social Equity and Social Change.”

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The first roundtable will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday at https://www.watch.psu.edu/toward-racial-equity/. The other two installments will take place at 6 p.m. on September 8 and November 5 of this year.

Barron ended the town hall by encouraging all members of the Penn State community to speak out about racial equity and share any suggestions for future action with the Select Commission.

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Quincey Reese is a news features and investigations reporter for The Daily Collegian. She is a sophomore majoring in digital and print journalism with a minor in psychology.