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Penn State President Barron Hosts Town Hall About Racism, Bias On Campus

Penn State president Eric Barron speaks during Wednesday's town hall.
Andrew Destin
Penn State president Eric Barron speaks during Wednesday's town hall.

Penn State president Eric Barron hosted a virtual town hall Wednesday to discuss racism, bias and community safety within the university. Two groups tasked with addressing these issues presented their recommendations about how Penn State should move forward.

The Select Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias and Community Safety and the Student Code of Conduct Task Force have drafted reports about changes they want to see at Penn State. The commission would like Penn State to make broad changes, such as promoting an inclusive and antiracist campus culture.

Clarence Lang, co-chair of the commission, said Penn State should lead change instead of suppress it.

“Higher education has to be involved in assessing the role it’s going to play as either a vector of progressive change moving forward, or an obstacle," Lang said.

Shoba Wadhia, co-chair of the task force, said the student code of conduct has “fallen short” in keeping marginalized students safe. Among other changes, the task force has proposed adding a separate section to the code of conduct for discriminatory harassment, which previously fell under the general harassment section.

Wadhia hopes such changes would hold Penn State and the Office of Student Conduct accountable.

“Overall, our goal was to align the code with Penn State’s mission and values of equity and inclusion," Wadhia said.

Barron said the next step for these recommendations is for university leaders to examine them with the Board of Trustees.

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