A message to the Penn community

At the beginning of this semester, we convened a Muslim, Arab, Palestinian (MAP) student advisory group to seek input on ways Penn can foster a more inclusive and supportive campus environment. I know I speak for the leaders engaged with the MAP student advisory group—John Jackson, our Provost, Karu Kozuma, Vice Provost for University Life, and Chaz Howard, University Chaplain and Vice President for Social Equity and Community—in commending these students for their open and thoughtful engagement as members of this group.

This advisory group is part of Penn’s ongoing work to build a more inclusive community, including the Presidential Commission on Countering Hate and Building Community, which will soon share its final report with recommendations for addressing hate, including Islamophobia, on our campus.

A message we heard loud and clear from students on the MAP advisory group is how they often feel unacknowledged in Penn’s campus safety and anti-hate statements. Many have experienced Islamophobic slurs, witnessed trucks near campus with anti-Islamic imagery, and held back their views for fear of doxing or because they have indeed been already doxed. Stories in the media of Islamophobic violence, including right here in West Philadelphia during an Eid al-Fitr celebration earlier this month, have fueled fear and stress. The students also described how they are productively engaging across ideological differences with their fellow Penn students in ways not reflected in news and social media.

I want to make clear that all Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian members of our community are welcome and belong at Penn. It has been a painful and difficult time for many students, faculty, and staff. For some, the tragic loss of life in the Middle East has included family and friends. And the growing unrest in cities and on other college and university campuses across the country is deeply unsettling. Please know that Penn is here to support you. Information on safety and wellness resources can be found on the Public Safety website.

We are a community of scholars, selected for our academic excellence, and dedicated to serving the world through knowledge. We are stronger and more impactful because of our commitment to welcoming different points of view, developed in part through a host of unique lived experiences that coexist together at Penn. Learning from one another is a cherished feature of the Penn experience.

There is much to celebrate at Penn in the coming weeks—the Penn Relays, our nation’s oldest and largest track and field competition, kicks off tomorrow. Our juniors will make their way down Locust Walk for Hey Day as they embark on their final year at Penn. And our seniors and graduate and professional students will complete their Penn journey and participate in Commencement exercises—an extra special moment for those who missed out on their high school graduations and spent part of their time at Penn in a virtual environment. Let’s end this year strong and together as a community.

Larry Jameson

J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD
Interim President
University of Pennsylvania