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CJU Statement on More Rivers to Cross

Published: at 12:00 PM

Dear Colleagues,

Some of you may recall that, last year, a group led by Prof. Gary King (Biobehavioral Health, UP) compiled a report called More Rivers to Cross on the situation of Black faculty at Penn State and this group recently released a follow-up study. The Coalition for a Just University recognizes the significant amount of time and labor (emotional and otherwise) that went into gathering such extensive data and producing this detailed report, and we stand in solidarity with the authors in denouncing systemic racism at Penn State and telling the administration—loudly and clearly—that the time for action is now.

This report—which includes quantitative and qualitative data from UP and the Commonwealth campuses—shows that the number of Black faculty at the university actually decreased from 2004 to 2018 and currently stands at only 3%. It provides evidence of the distressing experiences of Black faculty, including the fact that 8 out of 10 have experienced racism at the university, and more than 50% have experienced racism from administrators and/or supervisors. It offers a critical appraisal of the administration’s recent “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” measures, highlighting the lack of any concrete action or change. And finally, it lays out specific benchmarks for improvement and offers clear suggestions for how the administration can and should increase the number of Black faculty at the university. The authors sent the report to administrators, and while they have received expressions of support from some individuals, the university’s official response was yet another defense of its past and current measures that insultingly criticized the More Rivers to Cross (part 2) report for its ostensible “pessimism.”

In the spirit of the “Penn State Values” of responsibility, integrity, and respect, we, the Coalition for a Just University, demand that the administration issue a public apology to the reports’ authors and other members of the Black community for the administration’s ungracious response, which only exemplifies the institutional racism diagnosed in the report. We further demand that the administration take immediate action on the recommendations made in the report, and we also call on all faculty throughout the Penn State system to join us in supporting Black faculty and the quest to make Penn State a more just university.

In solidarity,
The CJU/PSU Coordinating Committee