Penn State University has scrapped plans for a proposed Center for Racial Justice, electing to go another route, according to the Washington Post. The school first announced plans after the George Floyd protests of 2020. Two Black professors had also released a report chronicling the slowness of Black hiring, and existing staff experiencing racism on campus. The University originally touted the center as “just the beginning” of its anti-racism efforts.
Spotlight PA had reported some budget concerns, despite the school kicking off a search for a founding director of the center in March. The anticipated investment was about $3.5 million, noted by senior director of university public relations Lisa Powers. Instead, President Neeli Bendapudi has stated that the university would use the center’s investments in existing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives over the next five years. Bendapudi is also looking to appoint a current faculty member to create an equity plan.
“I have determined that enhancing support for current efforts by people who know Penn State best will be more impactful than investing in a new venture, and so we will not pursue efforts to launch a Center for Racial Justice,” Bendapudi said.
If this were completed, the proposed Center for Racial Justice would have provided resources to new faculty and funded research on racism and racial bias topics. There would have also been an emphasis on creating scholarship opportunities for students and otherwise supporting the university in advancing diversity.
Not everybody is happy that these plans were discarded. There have been calls from Black faculty members for Penn State to do more for diversity in hiring. The 2020 report notes the number of Black professors who were tenured or on a tenure track fell by about 20 percent. Chief executive of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Bernice King, pointed out in a tweet that getting rid of racism and fighting for diversity and inclusion are separate issues.
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“We can have diversity, inclusion, and a semblance of equity and still not have justice,” she said. “The Center could have helped get there at this institution and beyond.”