In November, Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi laid out four goals focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives that she said will focus resources on measurable outcomes related to students, faculty, staff, and the overall “sense of belonging” at the university.
The goals, introduced in a video statement and elaborated on during a town hall with members of the University Faculty Senate, followed backlash the president faced last fall due to the decision to not provide funding for the fledgling Center for Racial Justice, which had been announced as a new research-based initiative by former President Eric Barron in 2021. The search for a center director was halted in October due to a lack of allocated funding, which Bendapudi later explained would be diverted instead to existing DEIB efforts. "Most universities usually focus on inputs, or the activities that they undertake,” she said. “These are important, but candidly, the more difficult standard, and the more impactful standard, is to hold ourselves accountable. Did we do what we said we would do?”
Bendapudi named Jennifer Hamer, interim associate vice provost for educational equity, as special adviser for institutional equity at the university. Hamer, also a professor of African American studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, was tasked with leading the university-wide evaluation of current DEIB recommendations, initiatives, programs, and scholarly research in order to channel energy and resources into more focused efforts. Bendapudi said at the town hall that there will be “accountability and metrics” to assess Penn State’s progress on these issues.
Close the gaps in four- and six-year graduation rates for students across identity groups.
Recruit, retain, and aid the progression of underrepresented faculty members across ranks, tracks, and disciplines.
Diversify staff, and provide equitable, high-quality professional development to build talent and promote from within.
Create a sense of belonging for all, and close any gaps across identity groups.