Tags: Penn | State | Caves | Activists

Penn State Caves to Activists

Thursday, 03 May 2001 12:00 AM

"We want to make sure they will do everything they can to make graduation safe," Black Caucus member Lurie Daniel said.

Students have requested metal detectors be used during commencement ceremonies the weekend of May 12, when 6,248 students will graduate.

A letter threatening a student that was received last week said "Grad Day = Bomb-PSU."

"There will be heightened security and a bomb sweep before each graduation ceremony in the 6,000-seat Eisenhower Auditorium and the 16,000-seat Bryce Jordan Center," Penn State spokeswoman Amy Neil told United Press International. "We are still waiting to see if using metal detecters will be feasible because of the thousands of people attending the ceremonies."

Since last year there have been reports of threatening e-mails to some of the 1,500 black students at Penn State, which has a student population of 40,000. Several weeks ago threatening letters supposedly began to appear, and two mentioned dead bodies being found in the woods nearby. Last week two bodies of black males were found in the woods in central Pennsylvania.

"The Pennsylvania State Police reported that foul play was involved in each case and used criminal records to identify the victims as New York residents; however, these deaths have not been linked to the threats at Penn State," a university spokesman said. "Although the discovery of these African-American victims has heightened the fear of students at many of our campuses, the Pennsylvania State Police have found no connection between the victims and any Penn State location.

"While discovery of the bodies was a shock to many on campus, now that they have been identified as being from New York and having no connection to Penn State, I think people have begun to calm down," Neil said. "The threatening e-mails were traced to a public computer at Temple University in Philadelphia."

Meanwhile, the revised Plan to Enhance Diversity at Penn State is pleasing activists and administrators. While most of the plan had been agreed to last week, modifications made late Wednesday night satisfied both sides.

At issue had been a Black Caucus demand that the vice provost for educational equity be allowed to hold 2 percent of each college's budget in escrow until the "diversity" guidelines set in the Framework to Foster Diversity at Penn State had been met.

"Two percent at Penn State amounted to $45 million, and it wasn't possible," Neil said. "The revised plan gives the vice provost for educational equity the power to hold the colleges accountable if they don't make improvements and creates a diversity council that will monitor the vice provost's findings. This was not in the plan last week."

Each college will have to submit a report detailing its fulfillment of the requirements of the diversity plan by December 15, 2001, and the vice provost for educational equity will be responsible for assessing the reports.

The revised diversity plan also establishes an Africana Studies Research Center in the 2001-2002 school year and commits $900,000 in funding for the center during the next five years as well as 10 full-time faculty members in the African and African-American Studies Department by fall 2003. The office of undergraduate education will assume responsibility for the implementation of a pre-freshman seminar experience designed to acquaint incoming students with issues related to racism and diversity that will be implemented in summer and fall 2001.

"Students are currently required to take a diversity course, but right now they have a wide variety of choices," journalism student Matt Hymowitz told United Press International. "The plan says the university is going to discuss possibly limiting this choice - I think ancient Chinese art is one such course students can take right now - to courses that are more relevant to current diversity issues."

Many on campus told UPI that the university had changed in the last two weeks of threats, dead bodies, sit-ins, protests and meetings.

"This was big, it affected the whole campus, and no one could escape what was happening," Neil said. "It was so spiritual, and such an awakening to have all the minority groups hold together."

"I'm not really sure if everyone is more sensitive," Hymowitz said. "We are nearing the end of finals week and many students have been paying more attention to exams than the sit-in."

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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We want to make sure they will do everything they can to make graduation safe, Black Caucus member Lurie Daniel said. Students have requested metal detectors be used during commencement ceremonies the weekend of May 12, when 6,248 students will graduate. A letter...
Thursday, 03 May 2001 12:00 AM
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