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Wharton Builds Bridges to LGBT Community

Wharton Builds Bridges to LGBT Community

Photograph by Kendall Whitehouse/The Wharton School

Administrators at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School this week released a revised diversity plan aimed at faculty, months after a student group criticized an earlier draft for failing to show enough support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community.

Spurred by Penn’s chapter of the LGBT organization Lambda Alliance, the Wharton Alliance, an LGBT undergraduate organization, requested that the school edit the diversity plan to include more frequent mention of sexual orientation and gender identity. The group was pleasantly surprised to see more changes than they had expected, says Wharton Alliance President Eddy Bueser, a junior.

The plan, excerpts (PDF) of which are online, calls for targeting ads to publications of interest to diverse candidates for faculty openings; developing a post-doc program to increase diversity; collection of diversity statistics on candidate interviews, offers, and acceptances; and providing candidates with information about family benefits available, including those for same-sex couples.

“I’m very satisfied with the changes,” says Frank Wolf, a sophomore and vice president of the Wharton Alliance. “I’m happy the door is open for us to remain involved in any changes moving forward.” In fact, Wharton diversity officer Anita Henderson says this is a work in progress, and she will be writing a report analyzing the advancement of some of the initiatives at year’s end.

Wharton has no way of determining the number of LGBT faculty on staff, nor can it ask those seeking employment about their sexual orientation. As a result, says Henderson, Wharton can’t determine advancement by head count. Ways to track progress for the LGBT community are still evolving, she adds.

“The thrust of the document was to say to potential faculty that we are continuing to build an environment that is inclusive,” Henderson says.

For students, Bueser says, the goal was never to get a certain number of LGBT faculty on staff. Instead, they would like to ensure that LGBT faculty feel comfortable about coming out—and more have been doing so, he adds.

Those who are wondering if this show of solidarity and tolerance is coming late, says Wolf, should give credit where it is due. “While I would have loved to see this sooner, Wharton has always been a welcoming community, and now it is just explicitly accepting.”

Join the discussion on the Bloomberg Businessweek Business School Forum, visit us on Facebook, and follow @BWbschools on Twitter.

Di Meglio is a reporter for in Fort Lee, N.J.

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