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Two competing virtual conversations discussed Penn State's DEIB progress

 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.

On Thursday, Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi hosted a virtual update on the status of the university's diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) goals. Simultaneously, the Coalition for a Just University held a counter-event — protesting the lack of a way to ask questions or participate in the president's event.

In the president's virtual conversation, she spoke with Jennifer Hamer, the university's special advisor for institutional equity, about Bendapudi's diversity goals and the feedback they'd received from faculty and staff.

Hamer said there need to be more improvements, but the initiatives are still important to university leadership.

"There's an assumption that Penn State doesn't really do much in terms of diversity, equity, inclusion or belonging, or that Penn State is not interested in diversity, equity inclusion, and I think that's so far from the truth," Hamer said.

The organizers of the counter-event, a teach-in, disagreed. They said there's a lack of communication between Penn State administration and faculty trying to raise concerns.

Gary King, a professor of Biobehavioral Health and African American Studies, was the main speaker for the teach-in.

He said he found worrying trends when he conducted a study of Black Penn State professors for his "More Rivers to Cross" reports.

"What we found was some very startling bits of information regarding the experiences here at Penn State with respect to racism," King said. "We presented both of these reports to the university. We have not heard anything back from the university in over a two-year period.

King said DEIB work is an uphill battle. Teach-in participants said going forward with the Center for Racial Justice that the university scrapped would be a good start.

Katie Knol is a WPSU radio news intern for fall 2022.