Penn State University, like many other similarly situated institutions of post secondary education, has been struggling with the very hard work of moving from the embrace of flowery statements of solidarity respecting diversity to actually making it a lived reality in the environment in which students, staff, faculty and particularly administrators operate. (Statement From the Penn State University Faculty Senate Chair ).
Among the most pro active elements of Penn State's conversations about diversity have been our students. (Student Statement of Solidarity With Duke University Student Body). Current efforts to bring greater focus on diversity started in January 20'13 when the students addressed the Penn State University Faculty Senate about the issue. (Diversity Awareness Task Force: Statement to the University Faculty Senate January 29, 2013).
Following that intervention a Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force was constituted including elements from the major stakeholders of the University. Its charge included:
· Bring a diverse group of administrators, faculty and students together to work collaboratively to engage in dialogue and provide recommendations to the University Faculty Senate and Administration to enhance diversity awareness in the University Community.
· Thoroughly investigate practices that will be most effective to increase diversity understanding among the student body.
· Provide recommendations to the Faculty Senate Committee charged with reforming the general education curriculum as a whole.
The JDATF as now produced an informational Report. It will be delivered to the Senate but in silence. The Penn State University Faculty Senate Council approved the JDATF’s Informational report and it will be included in the March 18th Senate Agenda. But it will not be presented. It will be posted online only and that there will not be any presentation at the Senate meeting. The JDATF will not be able to present the report or stand for questions.
This response provides an excellent illustration of the approach to diversity at many institutions--engagement and oblivion. This is all the more important because of it collateral result--Marginalization. Even as the University devotes a tremendous amount of resources to its reconstruction of General Education, even as it focuses substantial public time to experiential learning and other important elements of a public education--the education and practice of diversity is buried and marginalized. Consider this:
Our guiding principle in revising General Education is to enable students to acquire the skills, knowledge, and experiences for living and working in interconnected and globalized contexts, so they can contribute to making life better for others, themselves, and the larger world. (Penn State Gen Ed Matters, Vision)Diversity plays virtually no role in the construction of either experiential learning or general education reform, unless, perhaps, one does some very deep interpretive reading. The expectations appear simple enough--provide a formally responsive forum for meeting, produce a report well received but avoid robust interconnection to the vital life of the university, and then move on with a sense of satisfaction of having engaged with diversity.
You judge for yourselves. For those interested, it might be possible to raise questions and issues--especiually about the ways in which diversity has been integrated as an important part of the reform of general education and the formation of premises that support experiential learning during the "New Business" segment of the Senate Meeting or elsewhere. It might also be time for another forensic on the state of diversity in the University Faculty Senate.
The Informational report follows: