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Schreyer Student Leaders Call For Anti-Racism, Anti-Sexism Reform

A group of Schreyer Honors College students is calling on the institution to rework its policies and create new initiatives to combat racism and sexism.

Student leaders serving on Schreyer task forces overseeing diversity, gender equity, and minorities within the college published a letter on Instagram Saturday urging the honors college to practice and promote anti-racism and anti-sexism.

The letter, addressed to Schreyer Dean Peggy Johnson, asserted Penn State is “complicit in its role against dismantling White supremacy” and doesn’t meet the needs of marginalized students. Its writers condemned Schreyer for “its lack of representation and need for equity” and argued it has the power to set an example for the community as a “privileged institution” at Penn State.

“The Schreyer Honors College has a responsibility to actively meet the University-wide commitment to ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion,'” the letter’s writers wrote. “But as members of this community, we are tired of Band-Aid solutions to systemic issues.”

The letter included a number of requests Schreyer should implement to address the issues.

First, the letter’s writers called on the honors college to establish task forces for diversity, gender equity, and minorities as legitimate committees within the college, each with a presence on the college’s web page and social media platforms. Additionally, they suggested each create leadership chairs tasked with developing programming to combat racism, sexual violence, and other issues.

Furthermore, the organization suggested Schreyer create a lecture series that “specifically addresses racism, sexual violence, and inequities in higher education” to educate its students about social justice issues.

Second, the letter requested the honors college implement anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion programming into its orientation agenda. The writers suggested this training be mandatory for both new students and orientation leaders. Additionally, they said honors college student leaders should complete annual “cultural competency” training.

Two of the letter’s big-picture goals surrounded diversity and inclusion. The writers implored the honors college to begin working to create a list of “diverse scholars” and provide support for them through programming run by students from “diverse backgrounds and allies.” They also suggested Schreyer introduce visible resources in the college’s housing to connect students with external resources, such as the Paul Robeson Cultural Center.

The letter specifically called on the honors college to improve the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students. It encouraged Schreyer to train its staff in “cultural competency” and provide funding to diversify and improve recruitment efforts.

The writers also asserted the honors college hadn’t met its goal of increasing underrepresented student population to 10% by 2020, a goal the college set back in 2015.

The letter also suggested Schreyer increase admissions to “underserved communities/schools” and improve funding for minority students.

Finally, the letter demanded the college dismantle the “white savior complex” exemplified by its travel programs and clubs. The letter specifically cited Schreyer’s Maymester Africa trips as a problematic example.

“The assumption that girls in Africa are ‘vulnerable’ and that our role is to ‘educate’ them is rooted in colonialism and Eurocentric perceptions of the Africa continent,” the letter reads.

Additionally, the letter’s writers implored the college to stop “the tokenizing of Black students in marketing and fundraising material” and create a board of minority professors and alumni to oversee published descriptions of the college’s programming.

“We also ask that the Honors College Administration share the responsibility of addressing the points highlighted above,” the letter concludes. “We eagerly await your response.”

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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