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Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi makes apologies and new goals about diversity

Neeli Bendapudi speaks on the day of her announcement as Penn State president.
Emily Reddy
FILE - Neeli Bendapudi speaks on the day of her announcement as Penn State president.

At Friday’s Penn State board of trustees meeting, president Neeli Bendapudi said she apologized if the university’s recent decisions made it appear to be uncommitted to racial justice, before announcing new diversity goals.

The announcement comes after public outcry over the university allowing far-right speakers – who were then canceled last-minute due to concerns over “escalating violence” – and aborted plans for a Center for Racial Justice.  

Bendapudi said she’d recently had to make difficult decisions, but ones she thought were the right ones for Penn State.

“So, I do not apologize for that,” Bendapudi said. “But I do sincerely apologize – I really do, from my heart – because the decisions that were made, if in some way to anybody they do appear…And I know they have. I’m not saying, ‘If you were offended’… I do know that for many, many parts of our community, the decisions came across as a lack of commitment to racial justice and equity work writ large across all different components. That hurts me because I know that is not true.”

Bendapudi said she wanted to build trust through concrete actions. She announced four goals related to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging that Penn State will track on a dashboard and work to improve.

She said the first was: “What are we doing to close the 4- and 6-year graduation rates for students across different identity groups.”

She also said the university would work to increase the diversity of faculty at all ranks, tracks and disciplines; expand staff professional development opportunities to help minorities and others move up within the university; and improve employee engagement.

Emily Reddy is the news director at WPSU-FM, the NPR-affiliate public radio station for central and northern Pennsylvania.