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PA state senator: Solutions to racism, inequity should be focus of college restructuring

A Pennsylvania state senator believes any restructuring of the state college system should prioritize solutions to “racism and inequity experienced by students of color.”

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Art Haywood cited an August report which documented the “mental and academic impact” of racism experienced by minorities at Pennsylvania public universities.

That report, by Spotlight PA, noted that while state institutions have “made strides” in attracting minorities, many students said they “were not supported once on campus […] felt unwelcome and ill-supported [and] at worst, unsafe and targeted.”

Haywood said at a Senate Appropriations and Education hearing that “any redesign [should] be done in a way that African American students can feel comfortable attending these institutions.”

The senator also relayed stories from minority students who experienced racism from their peers at Bloomsburg University, East Stroudsburg University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Shippensburg University. These peers allegedly faced no repercussions for their actions.

From the story:

[R]epresentatives who were at the meeting, including Chancellor Daniel Greenstein, did not respond to Haywood’s remarks. Contacted after the hearing, Greenstein said through a spokesperson that officials, faculty, and staff “do not and will not accept this status quo.”

“Do we have to work to do? Yes we do. And we are on it,” he said. “I am proud of the accomplishments that we have made and of the commitment that we collectively bring to addressing egregious injustices, which have persisted too long in our country. On this issue we shall not rest. …

The state system in August hired Dr. Denise Pearson to serve as vice-chancellor and chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer to oversee faculty and employee recruitment and to implement policies related to diversity and equity.

While he is pleased that Pearson was hired, Haywood said simply hiring someone isn’t enough.

“I received it as what I’ve seen as a typical play, where there’s a diversity problem and an African American is put at the head of dealing with what is essentially a white, race discrimination problem,” Haywood said.

The aforementioned Shippensburg University recently announced plans to open a new “Anti-Racism Institute”; however, the school refused to disclose how much it will cost.

“The work is just beginning on developing the institute,” a Shippensburg spokesperson told The Fix. The spox added she would “reach back out” when the center’s “forecasting and other planning is complete.”

Read the article.

MORE: Philadelphia schools launch ‘comprehensive initiative’ to end racism

MORE: Penn State can’t say what ‘equity promotion’ means in school’s budget

IMAGE: Andrew Gwozdziewycz / Flickr.com

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