In a message to the University community in early June, Penn President Amy Gutmann called the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others that shocked the nation “grim manifestations of ongoing racism, repression, and inflammation of hatred in our society.”
“Yet out of our despair, we can also perceive hope,” she added, pointing to the nationwide peaceful protests they spawned as a “long overdue” opportunity to create meaningful change.
“We must, as a country and community, resolve to find better ways forward to understand and address systemic racism and closely related economic, educational, political and social inequities,” Gutmann said. “We must work together to build more hope for the future.”
For Penn to do its part, Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett Gr’97 announced a set of new projects that “will propel progress in our University, city, and society” toward more inclusivity and “help heal wounds, strengthen community, and create hope in our world.” The projects include:
• Penn Projects for Progress: A $2 million fund to seed projects, grounded in Penn research, that offer new ideas on ways to eradicate systemic racism; achieve educational equity; and reduce health disparities based on race, gender, or sexual orientation.
• A Year of Civic Engagement: A mission to create programs, workshops, student-led dialogues, and more opportunities to engage with communities outside campus throughout the 2020–21 academic year.
• The Campaign for Community: Launched in 2015, this campaign seeks to find ways to discuss and understand social issues that appear difficult or intractable. Moving forward, members of the Penn community are encouraged to use Campaign funding and sponsorship for more small-group events (with consideration for physical distancing due to the pandemic).
Further details will be announced for these and other projects as the fall semester approaches. In the meantime, Gutmann tried to convey a feeling of optimism.
“We thrive when we join together, when we care for one another, when we speak and act with empathy for and in solidarity with one another,” she said. “Today is not the first time—and it will not be the last time—that we speak up and stand up with our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and entire community of caring, loving, hurting human beings.”