April 12, 2018

Committee for Race, Equity, and Inclusion holds Open Forum for students, faculty, and staff

The Standing Committee on Race, Equity, and Inclusion has focused this year on addressing school climate, re-imagining the Center for Race and Equity, and on strengthening policies and procedures for dealing with sexual harassment.  Two sub-committees have been charged with making recommendations to the broader committee and dean. On March 29, Penn GSE held an Open Forum for students, faculty, and staff to learn about the committee’s work and to respond to their recommendations and suggestions in both areas.   

Climate survey

To better understand how members of the Penn GSE community feel about a range of important issues, a climate survey will be sent to all students, faculty, and staff in April. The survey, designed at the University of Chicago, is the first part of an intensive effort to study and improve Penn GSE’s climate.

A third-party facilitator will administer the survey and insure that all data collected will remain anonymous, but results will be reported back to the Penn GSE community. In the fall of 2018, the facilitators will return to Penn GSE for targeted follow up interviews with groups and individuals. 

Addressing Sexual Harassment

The Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment, comprised of Ann Tiao, Matt Hartley, Annie McKee, and Jennifer Phuong, explained how training for all students, faculty, and staff at Penn GSE is in the process of being overhauled, and detailed new efforts that have taken place during the school year, including trainings provided by Penn Violence Prevention and the Provost’s Office, unconscious bias training, and anti-violence advocate training.

The subcommittee is also developing new ways to make members of the Penn GSE community more aware of the resources that are available for responding to sexual harassment, including the creation of a flow-chart that clarifies reporting procedures.

Relaunching a Center

Another subcommittee – comprised of Howard Stevenson, Krystal Strong, Jessie Harper, Manuel Gonzalez Canché, Rich Liuzzi, and Serrano LeGrand – discussed proposals for re-imagining the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education, which has been dormant since its founder Shaun Harper left Penn GSE in 2017.

While some details still need to be finalized, the subcommittee plans to broaden the definition of the center’s work to examine structures of power built around race, gender, class, sexuality, legal status, and citizenship. This center would aim “to serve as a hub wherein participants can work together toward developing or reinforcing to be better prepared to face societal oppression,” according to the subcommittee.

The goal is to begin to build this new school-wide center in the 2018-2019 academic year and to provide resources for a small group to continue developing a strategic plan for its future. 

Gathering Feedback

Following the presentations of each sub-committee, committee members facilitated small group conversations about the proposals. In reporting out, community members raised questions for ongoing discussion, including:

On sexual harassment:

  • What policies and procedures for combatting sexual harassment can Penn GSE establish that reflect not just the legal standard but also the school’s culture and values?
  • How can we collect feedback from individuals who have had a negative experience in reporting or attempting to report sexual harassment at Penn GSE?
  • Will Penn GSE commit to ensuring that administration, faculty, and staff receive trauma-informed, anti-racist, anti-oppressive training that does not blame victims? 

On the center:

  • How could the center aid in recruiting students, faculty, and staff of color?
  • How can the center be a space that goes beyond theory to address practice, especially by building connections with the broader Philadelphia community?
  • How can staff and students play a meaningful role in leading the center? 

Share your ideas

The committee is eager to hear from those who were unable to attend the Open Forum. The co-chairs will soon send an email to everyone in the Penn GSE community that will include a link to a form where people can provide anonymous feedback.