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Penn faculty upset about ‘viewpoint diversity’ proposal, say could mean more GOP hires

One plans to retire early; another says idea may ‘undermine’ education mission

A University of Pennsylvania advisor’s question about “viewpoint diversity” has some faculty upset, with one deeming it “a code word for Republican hires” and another planning to retire early.

Speaking with The Daily Pennsylvanian student newspaper this week, history and sociology Professor Harun Küçük said he is concerned that political conservatives will take advantage of the university at a vulnerable time, especially after the recent resignations of President Liz Magill and Board of Trustees Chair Scott Bok.

“You can call it a hostile Republican takeover of a distressed institution,” Küçük said.

His and other faculty members’ concerns primarily relate to a Dec. 12 email to the Board of Trustees from Marc Rowan, chair of the university’s Wharton business school Board of Advisors and a major donor. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Rowan posed a number of questions about the university’s actions and mission amid criticism about its responses to antisemitism, free speech, and academic freedom.

Rowan asked the trustees to consider ways to create a “community that engenders respect, even in times of disagreement” and re-examine policies on free speech and civil discourse.

He also asked how important “viewpoint diversity” is in university hiring practices and if it is “compatible” with the university’s “current DEI framework.”

Küçük said Rowan’s letter is a sign that conservatives want to “re-engineer the University,” and the “viewpoint diversity” question is “a code word for Republican hires,” according to the student newspaper.

“The kinds of things that he suggests will turn this place into a vocational school. It will turn into something like the University of Phoenix,” Küçük said. “So I hope there are enough people out there with decision-making power who would see that.”

Another faculty member upset by the letter, political science Professor Robert Vitalis said he plans to retire early, according to the report.

“I don’t want to teach on a campus that has accepted these premises of outsiders being able to say what slogans mean, what can be taught, or who can be teaching things,” Vitalis told the student newspaper.

Meanwhile, cinema and media studies Professor Karen Redrobe suggested Rowan’s letter potentially was unethical.

She told the student newspaper: “I think that any advisory board member or trustee who has participated in that kind of use of duress needs to be held accountable for behavior that undermines the educational mission of the University.”

However, the University of Pennsylvania has faced ongoing criticism in recent years for its actions toward faculty members whose views do not fully align with progressive ideology.

Last year, anthropology Professor Theodore Schurr was the target of complaints because he encouraged students to discuss a variety of views about transgenderism in his classes, The College Fix reported.

Additionally, the university’s law school opened an investigation into Professor Amy Wax after she was accused of making “incessant racist, sexist, xenophobic and homophobic actions and statements,” The Fix reported last year.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression previously criticized the proceedings, saying the university “provided no evidence that Wax engaged in actionable misconduct.”

MORE: Penn law students reiterate demand to fire Prof. Amy Wax

IMAGE: University of Pennsylvania/Instagram

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About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.