In 2020, CJU was founded as a vehicle to express our shared commitment to making Penn State a more just university. In the past two years, we have aimed to do just that. Today, we can imagine no issue more critical to fostering a just university than the ongoing struggle for racial justice. And so, we state unequivocally:
CJU stands in solidarity with the Concerned Faculty at Penn State in the fight for racial justice.
In September 2021, then-President Barron announced the formation of a Center for Racial Justice, “dedicated to research and scholarship around racism and racial bias.” The Center was to be the first concrete step toward fulfilling the University’s commitment “to fight ignorance and intolerance” following George Floyd’s murder; and in March 2022, Penn State initiated a national search for a director of the center. This progress screeched to a halt on October 26, when President Bendapudi announced—with little, if any, input from faculty—that Penn State “will not pursue efforts to launch a Center for Racial Justice.”
More than two years have passed since the More Rivers to Cross (Part 1) report was published. Not only were the authors called pessimists by University officials after publishing More Rivers to Cross (Part 2), but none of the report’s recommendations have been implemented. The abandonment of the Center for Racial Justice is one more sign of the University’s lack of commitment to equity, its indifference to racial justice, and its misconception of systemic racism.
This is unacceptable. President Bendapudi has a responsibility to fulfill the commitments made by her predecessor and an obligation to uphold all the Penn State Values, beginning with integrity.
In her statement, President Bendapudi declared that the University intended to begin evaluating existing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives. What can this latest enterprise accomplish that myriad earlier task forces and commissions could not—other than further delaying fulfillment of an overdue commitment? Moreover, as Bernice A. King recently tweeted, “We can have diversity, inclusion, and a semblance of equity, and still not have justice.”
We call on the leaders of our University to make a tangible commitment to antiracism and appreciable progress toward achieving racial justice.
November 15, 2022