Presidential Commission provides progress update, to launch listening sessions

The group presented early findings and preliminary recommendations to Interim President J. Larry Jameson and is providing a new way for the Penn community to get involved.

Penn Commons in spring

The 19-person Presidential Commission on Countering Hate and Building Community gathered as a group with Interim President J. Larry Jameson last month to share progress since being convened and charged this winter. The Commission has met frequently, hearing from campus experts on Penn’s policies and services, having robust discussions, and undertaking subcommittee work, all of which has informed a report of early learnings and preliminary recommendations. An executive summary of the report can be found on the Presidential Commission webpage.

The Commission has encouraged community input via a dedicated email address since January, and this week, it will unveil a series of in-person and virtual small group listening sessions and a new survey for students, faculty, staff, and postdocs. These listening sessions and survey are distinct from those offered by the University Task Force on Antisemitism.

“We have received such thoughtful ideas, experiences, and perspectives from the Penn community already, and we are grateful for so many people’s commitment to guiding the Commission in the right direction,” said Deans Vijay Kumar and Katharine Strunk, who co-chair the Commission. “We hope that the listening sessions and survey provide a more intimate opportunity for discussion and understanding, which is imperative to inform our final report and recommendations for the president.”

Though still in the works, the Commission has so far been focused on four critical themes, including Education; Research; Open Expression and Free Speech; and Values and Building Community. Some focus areas include exploring revamped orientation programs, offering additional learning opportunities, establishing new and unique campus-wide activities, undergoing University-wide assessments, and rolling out a communication campaign that better showcases Penn’s available resources and services. The Commission will provide a report with final recommendations at the end of the academic year, which will incorporate learning and suggestions gleaned from the Penn community during the upcoming listening sessions and survey.

The Commission, which consists of faculty, staff, students, alumni, trustees, and two ex-officio members, share a goal to address bias, discrimination, and hate on campus, while strengthening a community that leads with care and compassion. The Commission encourages members of the Penn community to continue emailing with their insights and ideas.