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Penn State ‘wavers’ on building racial justice center in wake of budget deficit

Penn State University looks like it’s “wavering” on its promise to fund a new Center for Racial Justice, a commitment made in 2020 after protests “for greater racial equity.”

According to WPSU, Penn State had a $127 million budget deficit last year, and to balance the books by 2025 it’s implemented a “widespread” three percent budget and plans tuition hikes between five and six percent.

Former PSU President Eric Barron had said the center was “just the beginning” of the school’s work to address matters of race. The student paper dubbed the center the “first major action” in PSU’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiative and noted it will “promote and shepherd vital research around racial justice.”

The State College regional bureau of Spotlight PA got a hold of a letter to current PSU President Neeli Bendapudi from faculty on the center’s director search committee regarding the bad financial news. They said they were “extremely disappointed” as the center “was intended to illustrate Penn State’s commitment to racial justice.”

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“Juxtaposing the assurance that restorative and racial justice are a core concern for the University with the inability to fund a research center as the major first step in addressing important issues is therefore all the more surprising and distressing,” the faculty added.

From the story:

“Penn State does not have a solid reputation for adequately addressing social injustices, inclusion, and racism,” the group wrote. “Without such a reputation, this cancellation is likely to affect the ability of the university to recruit and retain top faculty, who may strengthen existing or create new revenue streams, lead by example in this space, and produce critical new scholarship and public activity around race and the study of it.” …

In its letter to Bendapudi, the search committee wrote that addressing the concerns of [the] “More Rivers to Cross” [status of black professors report] is “mission critical” for Penn State. The report recommended that Penn State fund 50 tenure-track positions to boost the number of Black faculty, authorize an external study of pay disparities among faculty, restructure the university’s Affirmative Action Office to better investigate allegations of racism, and create and fund a research center on anti-racism.

Penn State Assistant Director of University Public Relations Wyatt DuBois said President Bendapudi received the faculty’s letter and that a decision on the center was “still under evaluation.”

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IMAGE: David Carillet / Shutterstock.com

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