Just over three percent of faculty members here at the University Park Campus identify as black, and the school’s Vice Provost for educational equity acknowledges they need to do better
in that department.
“I still think there’s a lot of work for us to do to improve the numbers of African American faculty.”
Marcus Whitehurst says the diversity issue is more evident here in a more rural area of Pennsylvania as opposed to larger cities.
“Certainly, I think it’s amplified larger than a more diverse city would have it. So if you think about, if you just look at the state, certainly Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, there’s a
broader, more diverse mosaic of diversity within those cities whereas in State College, we don’t have the…luxury of having a diverse community within Central Pennsylvania.”
An issue Doctor Gary King, a Penn State professor and co-author of the More Rivers to Cross report that ignited this discussion, says the University needs to rectify.
“Penn State has a lot of challenges with regards to hiring black and other minority faculty. This has been a major problem, historic problem, going all the way back to the 80’s,
certainly in the 90’s. We see the lack of progress in the last two decades. This is clearly incumbent upon this university to make the kind of changes that are absolutely necessary.”
And though he recognizes the issue isn’t limited to this area, action is still required here.
“It is a national issue in scope. We however here, work at Penn State. So, we cannot certainly solve the national problem without solving the local problem.”
An ultimatum Whitehurst agrees with.
“The reality is that we want to eliminate all excuses and we want to work to try to make a difference and to put the university in the best place where we can have the most diversity
come to our university, feel comfortable, feel like they belong, feel like they’re included, feel like they’re a part of the community.”
And he says the University is receptive to such dialogue.
“Anytime there is a truth and reality that is being discussed, the university welcomes that.”
Which Doctor King says will help the school combat this issue, as it has other large issues.
“This University has shown that it has risen, and it can rise from…any particular major challenge, as it has in the past. This one, this is a major challenge and we’re here to make sure
that that happens.”
Both men agreed that today was a big step in the right direction.