UPenn diversity initiative is 'straightforward neo-segregation,' critic says

The University of Pennsylvania commissioned a “Racial Justice Task Force” for its athletics department.

The committee requested a “permanent shared space for black student-athletes,” which will also be open to “allies and non-athletes.”

The committee also recommended hiring an ‘Athletic Diversity & Inclusion’ czar, which will mark the third high-profile diversity official at the university.

The University of Pennsylvania’s athletics department approved a series of diversity-related recommendations from its “Racial Justice Task Force,” including a “permanent shared space for Black student-athletes” which is also open to “allies and non-athletes.”

Director of Penn Athletics and Recreation M. Grace Calhoun and the Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics unanimously affirmed the task force’s recommendations.

Penn Athletics states that “these recommendations have been created as a beginning, not a conclusion” in the process of making the athletics department into a “more diverse, inclusive, anti-racist organization.”

The athletics department will create a “permanent shared space for Black student-athletes,” which will also be open to “allies and non-athletes.” This center will also be “open late night and early morning with swipe access,” and include work-study opportunities “funded by the Black Student-Athlete Fund.”

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Among the task force’s short-term goals is the hiring of an “Athletic Diversity & Inclusion” designee, who will be “solely dedicated to job responsibilities focusing on diversity and inclusion.” In the long-term, the university is recommended to “secure funding for and hire a Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer.”

The task force notes that financial restrictions may apply in the short-term and therefore recommended that an existing staff member serve alongside a “group of diverse staff,” which will assist with implementing the task force’s other recommendations.

Campus Reform repoed in July that the University of Pennsylvania hired a “Vice President for Social Equity and Community” — a position that serves alongside the school’s “Chief Diversity Officer.” The hiring of another diversity czar for Penn Athletics marks the third high-profile diversity position at the university.

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The task force also recommended a series of actions related to diversity training.

According to the recommendation, student-athletes will view a one-hour video entitled “Broadening Your Perspectives.” Then, students will be divided into 30-person groups to discuss the video and view additional content.

In the long-term, staff members will undergo training during in-services, as well as implicit bias training for hiring managers “on an ongoing basis.” 

Chance Layton, Communications and Membership Coordinator for the National Association of Scholars, told Campus Reform that “the intention of creating a space marketed for ‘Black student-athletes and club sport athletes’ is straightforward neo-segregation. Racially segregated spaces are not ‘separate but equal,’ and they shouldn’t be — they shouldn’t exist, period.”

“Had this draft plan stuck with community engagement and enrichment, especially for the community around Penn, it might have served its purpose,” he added. “Instead, the drafters have opted to worsen race relations on campus.”

Campus Reform reached out to the University of Pennsylvania for comment and will update this article accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft