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Challenge Seven

Organizational Change

A Framework to Foster Diversity at Penn State: 1998–2003


Goal: Institute the necessary organizational realignments, systems of accountability, resource mobilization and allocation strategies, and long-term planning strategies necessary to ensure realization of the University’s diversity goals

Successful implementation of the action plans in the preceding sections requires a solid fiscal resource base and an effective institutional infrastructure. Making funds available to support diversity initiatives is an especially difficult challenge in an environment in which inadequate levels of public support have become the norm. Nevertheless, creative strategies must be developed to ensure that critical needs do not go unmet due to resource limitations. Significant additional expenditures will be legally mandated in some areas, such as compliance with ADA regulations. In addition, the current assessment of desegregation outcomes is likely to result in additional mandated programs.

At present, many units rely excessively on grants from the Equal Opportunity Planning Committee (EOPC) to fund diversity initiatives. Originally, EOPC funds were meant to serve as "start-up" funds or "seed money," with units taking over full fiscal responsibility for programs after a reasonable period of time. However, this type of transfer of fiscal responsibility has rarely occurred, with the result that funding of new programs has been increasingly stifled. In response to this problem, increasingly stringent criteria have been applied to renewal requests, including detailed assessments of program outcomes. Further, units have been encouraged to collaborate where possible to implement the most effective designs for specific types of programs.

In addition to these incremental process improvements, the members of the EOPC recently re-examined the mission and efficacy of the existing strategy of awarding EOPC funds to determine if a more effective approach can be designed. These deliberations resulted in the decision to reorient EOPC funding so as to address the ongoing desegregation mandate from the U.S. Department of Education. The bulk of funding will be directed toward innovative programs to enhance recruitment and retention of undergraduate students, as well as those designed to increase the likelihood of college attendance on the part of current elementary and secondary students. This latter category will be designated "Community Development." Funds will still be available to assist in the implementation of programs aimed at multicultural education, faculty development, and establishing equity for women, persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons, and adult learners.

Refinement of the EOPC award process alone will be insufficient to meet the fiscal requirements to transform Penn State into a multicultural institution. Since large sums of new monies are unlikely to become available through internal sources, it is imperative that strategies be developed to ensure that all existing resources contribute to the realization of the University’s diversity objectives. The upcoming capital campaign provides an excellent long-term opportunity to expand the resources available to support diversity initiatives. There are various projects that would be attractive to potential donors including scholarships and fellowships, endowed chairs, and endowed lectureships. The various alumni interest groups constitute a natural base for initiating solicitations to support diversity projects.

Resources alone cannot guarantee optimal outcomes. There is also a need to ensure that the infrastructure supporting diversity initiatives is organized appropriately and is functioning in an efficient manner. Since the early 1990s, coordination of diversity efforts has been centered around the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity. At the same time a number of critical units are housed in other administrative areas including Academic Assistance Programs; Affirmative Action and Diversity Education; the Center for Minority Graduate Opportunities and Faculty Development; Minority Admissions and Community Affairs; the College Directors of Minority Programs; and several offices located in Student Affairs. This organizational pattern reflects an effort to strike a balance between centralized activities where collaboration and efficiency is maximized, and decentralized activities that require critical functional areas to assume direct responsibility for ensuring equitable delivery of services to all constituents.

There is a need to assess the efficacy of the existing configuration of offices and current reporting relationships. While benchmarking with peer institutions can provide some insights, one of the principal problems we face is that units serving underrepresented groups within larger organizational structures often have few resources at their disposal. In such cases the critical decision is whether to focus on improving the delivery of services within those organizations or relocate those offices within a structure that affords a higher priority to diversity initiatives. Such decisions are most appropriately made on a case-by-case basis because the leadership commitment to diversity initiatives varies significantly across units.

Any reorganization proposals should assign the highest priority to improving the alignment between academic and academic support initiatives. From this vantage point, there is a need for a more formal linkage between Educational Equity, the University Faculty Senate, and individual faculty with interests in promoting the University’s diversity objectives. There is also a need for better alignment between co-curricular educational programming and in-class explorations of diversity topics.

Reorganization proposals should also focus on the delivery of diversity-related programming. The Commission for Women, the Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity, and the Commission on Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Equity, advisory bodies comprised of volunteers and supported through Educational Equity, have increasingly taken on ongoing educational and advocacy activities. In many cases this is the result of the failure of line organizations to initiate appropriate diversity-relating programming and other activities. While the activities undertaken by advisory bodies certainly broaden involvement in efforts to make Penn State a multicultural institution, they tend to have relatively limited involvement with, and impact on, the formal academic mission of the University or on strategic decisions that affect the long term future of the institution.

A variety of major changes have been announced recently including the reorganization of the Commonwealth Educational System (CES), the merger with the Dickinson School of Law, and the merger between The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and the Geisinger Group. A number of smaller but significant changes have occurred as well including the revision of summer enrollment protocols. In several cases there are potential impacts. As an example, how will diversity efforts be coordinated in the new colleges that have been recreated as part of the CES reorganization? Do the changes in summer enrollment protocols offer an opportunity to increase minority enrollments? It is imperative that planning for major changes assigns a greater weight to the assessment of diversity impacts. In a similar vein, there is a need to establish formal expectations for strategic planning units in reporting on diversity initiatives in the annual updates of their strategic plans. The action plan to address these issues is indicated in the following text.


Goal: Institute the necessary organizational realignments, systems of accountability, resource mobilization and allocation strategies, and long-term planning strategies necessary to ensure realization of the University’s diversity goals


  • Re-examine the EOPC mission and assess the existing awards process; Introduce modifications as appropriate
  • Coordinate review of current organizational arrangements involving offices providing services to underrepresented groups including benchmarking with peer institutions
  • Establish Faculty Diversity Advisory Committee (in collaboration with the University Faculty Senate)
  • Develop recommendations for reducing reliance on volunteer organizations to provide critical services to underrepresented groups


  • Provide detailed assessments of diversity initiatives in annual Strategic Plan updates
  • Prioritize diversity initiatives in capital campaign solicitations


  • Develop a detailed plan to solicit funds to support university-wide diversity initiatives


  • Develop plans to ensure coordination of diversity initiatives system-wide