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Penn State hesitates to fund Center for Racial Justice, key post-2020 protest effort Spotlight PA

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Pennsylvania State University — Pennsylvania State faculty and staff learned the university did not allocate funding to an initiative marketed as a major university commitment following protests to increase racial equity in 2020 He has since pressed President Neeli Vendapdi to clarify the future of the Center for Racial Justice.

According to an internal letter obtained by the Spotlight PA and three university officials who attended the meeting, Vendapdi said last month at a meeting with the center’s director and a panel of inquiry for other university leaders that Penn State University I questioned whether I would support this effort financially. .

In a letter dated Oct. 6, nearly a dozen faculty members on the Commission of Inquiry told the president they were “extremely disappointed” by the news. The center was intended to illustrate Penn State University’s commitment to racial justice, the group wrote.

“Thus, juxtaposing the inability to fund research centers with assurances that recovery and racial justice are core concerns of the university as a major first step to addressing critical issues is not an option.” , all the more alarming and tragic,” the group wrote.

Without funding, the committee’s efforts to establish the center and find its director, which began in March, were effectively halted.

Penn State University, which operated at a $127 million deficit last fiscal year, implemented measures such as a “strategic hiring freeze.” Broad 3% budget cutWhen Increase tuition fee by 5%-6% — To balance the budget by 2025.

Wyatt DuBois, assistant director of university public relations, wrote in an email to Spotlight PA that the decision is still being evaluated.

“President Vendapdi just received this letter late last week and will be in touch with the Commission,” Dubois wrote.

The university will provide an estimate of the center’s operating costs, Penn State’s current position on the creation of the center, and a message from Spotlight PA to faculty members who may be disappointed by Penn State’s indecision on this issue. did not answer specific questions about .

In June 2020, then-President Eric Barron created several task forces on the topic of racial justice and racial justice. convened Select Pennsylvania Presidential Commission on Racism, Prejudice, and Community Safety. The creation of a Center for Racial Justice was one of the commission’s recommendations to the university.

In a news release at the time, Barron Described the center as “just the beginning” of university initiatives on the topic. This project will provide resources for new faculty, fund research on topics related to racism and racial prejudice, and create outreach opportunities. March 2022, Pennsylvania started a national search as the first Director of the Center.

Beyond expressing disappointment, the faculty asked Vendapdi to publicly address the center’s future or alternative plans to combat racial injustice, including financial support.

“Penn State University does not have a strong reputation for adequately addressing social injustice, inclusion, and racism,” the group wrote. It can affect our ability to recruit and retain top faculty, who can enhance existing revenue streams, generate new revenue streams, lead by example in the field, or It has the potential to create new academic and public activities: lace and its research.”

Pennsylvania leaders has been criticized for decades Because of its perceived failure to recruit and retain Black faculty and staff and to increase student diversity. In early 2020, months before the murder of George Floyd, Two-part report “Crossing more rivers” from faculty group national attention to the systemic challenges faced by black faculty at Penn State University.

The number of black faculty members at Penn State University Park Campus has remained relatively flat over the past 15 years, but the number of non-black faculty members has increased, according to the report. During the same period on campus, the number of black faculty members in tenure or tenure track decreased.of second half of the report It detailed a faculty member’s experience with racism and urged Penn State leaders to take concrete action rather than make supportive statements.

In a letter to Vendapdi, the commission of inquiry wrote that it was “mission critical” for Penn State to address the concern of “crossing more rivers.” The report states that Penn State University will increase the number of black faculty members, authorize external investigations into faculty pay disparities, and reorganize the university’s affirmative action office to better investigate allegations of racism. , recommends funding 50 tenure-track positions to establish and fund research centers. about anti-racism.

Gary King, professor of biobehavioral health at Pennsylvania State University and co-author of “More Rivers to Cross,” told Spotlight PA that the lack of university funding for the Center for Racial Justice is embarrassing. , said it raised serious questions about Penn State’s efforts. meaningful change.

Rather than being a member of a university-sanctioned committee, King focused on implementing the recommendations from his report, which he characterized as more ambitious than those of university committees.

“If [the university] Not accepting and even withdrawing what their own committee proposed or even tried to do there means that the situation is really bleak for the university as a whole when it comes to dealing with the problem of systemic racism. he said. He said. “It’s more flare than substance.”

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https://www.spotlightpa.org/statecollege/2022/10/penn-state-bendapudi-center-for-racial-justice-funding/ Penn State hesitates to fund Center for Racial Justice, key post-2020 protest effort Spotlight PA

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