Affirmative Action Guidelines


The University of Pennsylvania’s special character is reflected in the diversity of the Penn community. Diversity is prized at Penn as a central component of its mission and helps create an educational and working environment that best supports the University’s commitment to excellence in teaching, research, and scholarship. We seek talented faculty, students, and staff who will constitute a vibrant community that draws on the strength that comes with a substantive institutional commitment to diversity along dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, disability, veteran status, interests, perspectives, and socioeconomic status.

Grounded in equal opportunity, nondiscrimination, and affirmative action, Penn’s robust commitment to diversity is fundamental to the University’s mission of advancing knowledge, educating leaders for all sectors of society, and public service. The University of Pennsylvania prohibits unlawful discrimination based on race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, national or ethnic origin, citizenship status, age, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected class.

Penn is committed to ensuring that its academic, social, recreational programs and services as well as opportunities for admission and employment are available on an equitable and nondiscriminatory basis without regard to an individual’s legally protected class status. Penn also has written affirmative action programs to address any underrepresentation of women, minorities, people with disabilities, and qualified covered veterans. The Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs, in collaboration with the Division of Human Resources and the Office of the Provost, oversees the implementation and administration of the University’s equal opportunity, affirmative action, and nondiscrimination policies and programs.

All faculty personnel actions will be in accordance with this policy. Questions about this policy as it pertains to faculty hiring, promotions, or terminations and/or questions about best practices in this area should be directed to the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty,



Ultimate responsibility for the University’s affirmative action program rests with the Trustees and the President. However, the Executive Director of the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs (OAA/EOP) has been designated as the executive responsible for coordinating the University’s equal opportunity programs. With the advice of the Executive Director of OAA/EOP, the Vice Provost for Faculty makes and officially promulgates affirmative action policies for the academic staff.


Working in close cooperation with the Executive Director of OAA/EOP, the Deans, and representatives of the Schools, the Vice Provost has primary responsibility for affirmative action/equal opportunity programs for the faculty. Within each Penn School, “Diversity Search Advisors,” are tasked with oversight of faculty searches and implementation of policies and best practices relating to faculty searches.


In each of the University’s twelve Schools, one or more Diversity Search Advisors are selected by the Dean to monitor equal opportunity compliance in the faculty appointment and promotion processes within the School. These officers are tenured or senior clinician-educator faculty member(s). Each fall the Dean will forward the name(s) of the Diversity Search Advisor(s) to the Vice Provost by September 1. The Diversity Search Advisor(s) may be given released time from some other duties or other forms of compensation in order to serve in this capacity. It is recommended that they serve for at least two years of service. The Diversity Search Advisor’s responsibilities include:

  • New DSAs should familiarize themselves with the appointments and promotion processes within his or her school and this policy, and should attend one of the training sessions offered by the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty. Both new and continuing DSAs should attend DSA programs and networking opportunities.
  • Before a search, it is expected that a DSA should (1) assist in formation of a search committee and either sit on each search committee or task a designee with responsibilities for ensuring that full and fair consideration has been given to women and minorities; (2) assess the needs and requirements of the position; and (3) evaluate the pool of potential candidates for the position. Pool data will be supplied annually and should be available through dean’s or faculty affairs offices within the schools. The first two duties are described further in the bullets below.
  • Wherever possible, search committees should include individuals from groups underrepresented on the Penn faculty, proponents of diversity, and individuals with clinical and research interests compatible with those sought through the search.
  • The Diversity Search Advisor should engage in some dialogue with the department regarding the breadth of the position (e.g. whether it is sufficiently broad to capture all qualified individuals while still providing candidates with a sufficiently specific description of the job and its requirements). Separate searches must be conducted for positions in distinct sub-fields. In addition, the DSA should approve the language of the posting. Development of the position posting is also an appropriate opportunity to discuss needs that may or may not be expressly included in the job ad relating to diversity. These “diversity related” qualifications could include cultural competency, working with diverse populations, mentorship of diverse students, or research interests compatible with work others are doing in the school. Job-related qualifications arising from the position description and other discussions can be used to generate a list used to evaluate candidates later in the process.
  • DSAs are responsible for ensuring effective outreach during faculty searches. Faculty positions are advertised on Penn’s faculty job board and the University provides funding for advertising open positions on several job boards through its relationship with JobElephant. In addition, departments should post descriptions on job boards, listservs, conferences, and other forms of outreach specific to the field and sub-fields, including outlets targeted to underrepresented groups.
  • Personalized outreach and connections are equally as important in reaching excellent faculty candidates, including those who are members of underrepresented groups. Diversity Search Advisors should make sure that search committees consider asking contacts at other institutions specifically for women and minority candidates, and that schools and departments actively follow outstanding faculty hires, who can present target of opportunity hires in the future. Thus advisors will be expected to evaluate the effectiveness of outreach in the case of the particular search, and as an ongoing responsibility, to work with departments to consider potential targets of opportunity.
  • Once the search is underway, the Diversity Search Advisor should review and approve before the start of the interview process the “short list” of candidates who are invited to campus. (This approval should not occur after a final candidate has already been selected). In cases where this initial list is not representative of the pool identified in the pre-search work, it may be appropriate to ascertain whether qualified underrepresented candidates have been overlooked, and to do further outreach to expand the pool.
  • During the search committee’s deliberations, the advisor should ensure that all candidates are evaluated in the same manner, and using the same criteria. (So, for example, questions about ability to travel or weekend work should not be asked only of young women who may be potential mothers, or candidates of religions that might have specific hours of non-work). The advisor should work with the committee to generate a list of relevant questions, and to encourage the committee to be clear on the criteria being used. Search committees are encouraged to look deeply at candidates’ qualifications, for example, reading publications and considering the content of letters of evaluation, rather than relying on institutions on a candidate’s CV as overriding indicia of merit, or being overly swayed by subjective or irrelevant content in letters of recommendation.
  • Once a candidate is selected, Diversity Search Advisors will certify that a search was conducted in accordance with federal law and University policy.
  • It is appropriate for advisors to help committees stay in touch with candidates while offers are outstanding, present an open and inclusive environment during recruitment, and address candidates’ needs such as information on family or school issues.

In the faculty appointment and promotion processes, substantive decisions on academic merit and staffing needs are the responsibility of the faculty of the appointing Department, the School personnel committee, the Deans and the Provost. If the Diversity Search Advisor perceives a problem with the procedures proposed for a faculty search or in reviewing the equal opportunity compliance form and accompanying documentation, the advisor should first attempt to address these issues with the participating faculty members. If, after consulting with the participating faculty members, the advisor continues to believe that an issue exists, he or she should notify the Department Chair or the Dean. If the problem is not resolved readily by the provision of further documentation or explanations on the part of the Department Chair, the Dean should mediate and assist in the matter and the problem should be brought to the attention of the Vice Provost for Faculty.



Formal searches are required for all new appointments to the academic staff. A national search is required for positions in the Standing, Standing CE, and Research Faculty. National search posting requirements include placing an ad in at least two locations likely to reach a national audience. An ad on Penn’s faculty recruitment website does not count as one of the ads. In addition, efforts to attract candidates that contribute to diversity among the faculty should be demonstrated. The duration of the posting is at least 30 days.

Associated Faculty positions other than Research Faculty on the academic staff of the University must be posted on either the Penn or a dedicated school website and an outside site for at least thirty days.

The following positions on the academic support staff need only be posted for fourteen days either on the Penn or a dedicate school website:

  • Lecturers
  • Instructors
  • Research Associates

There is no formal requirement for a time period that must elapse between the expiration of a position posting and the start of an appointment. It is expected, however, that search committees fully review and consider all applicants submitting materials during the posting period.

An appointment should never be based upon a search that was made two years or more in the past.

A position advertisement should specify the subfield if appropriate, desired qualifications, and faculty rank and track. Advertisements may specify one of two possible sentences relating to Penn’s equal opportunity obligations as a federal contractor:


  • The University of Pennsylvania is an EOE. Minorities / Women / Individuals with disabilities / Protected Veterans are encouraged to apply.
  • The University of Pennsylvania is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment and will not be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law. The University will not honor any offers, formal or informal, which are made before the Provost’s approval, which is only given when proper affirmative action material has been approved at the Provost’s level and the appointment has been approved by the Provost’s Staff Conference. Any offers that are made before the Provost’s approval must be conditioned upon these approvals.
  • Cases in which a formal search was not conducted at the time of the candidate’s initial appointment must be handled as new appointments (requiring a search), and not as promotions. For instance, if a person who is currently a research associate or research specialist at the University is to be recommended for an appointment as research assistant professor, a search must be documented. Similarly, if the pool for appointment of assistant professors in clinical departments is considered to be primarily medical residents in the clinical specialty at Penn, it must be demonstrated that the group of medical residents was chosen using a national search procedure that was not biased against minorities or women.


In certain circumstances, the Office of the Provost can waive a formal search. A formal written request for a waiver of search must be submitted by the Department Chair to the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty. This request must include a letter supporting the request that details the grounds and facts supporting the request, and the candidate’s current curriculum vitae. Written approval of the waiver of the search will be forwarded to the Department Chair. Grounds for waiver include:

  1. Specialist. Either a particular sub-field or the position sought to be filled is extraordinarily small, such that the location of an individual with the requisite credentials represents a unique opportunity. Please be aware that the general policy of the University is to require broad advertisements, and this particular ground for waiver will be applied exceedingly sparingly.
  2. Star. An opportunity arises to recruit an individual of great eminence who would ordinarily not be available, such as a distinguished scholar or nationally renowned artist or professional. This waiver is not appropriate for junior faculty positions.
  3. Outstanding Diversity Candidate. A hiring unit may have the opportunity to recruit a highly qualified woman or minority candidate for an academic position whose appointment would assist in rectifying current underutilization of available pools.
  4. Accompanying Spouse or Partner. The recruitment of a faculty member may require the appointment of a qualified accompanying spouse or partner.
  5. Research Team Member. The recruitment of a faculty member may require appointing others because they form an established research team.
  6. Grant Team Member. The receipt of a grant may be contingent upon assembling an appropriate research team in advance of its award.
  7. Emergent Circumstances. Searches will be waived under circumstances that the department could not have foreseen and has no control over. Examples include vacancies due to unexpected resignations, faculty illness, emergent teaching needs (including the need to cover a faculty member’s parental leave) and solid outside offers in the case of recruitments that are themselves exceptional.
  8. Senior Lecturer. Waivers can be requested to retain a highly successful Lecturer who merits advancement to an open Senior Lecturer position.

Departments are required to retain written records of data concerning candidates, and of all applications and supplementary material received from applicants for all full-time and part-time faculty posts, for three years after a position has been filled. This applies to records of both successful and unsuccessful applicants.


A formal search is not required for promotions. However, full and fair consideration must be given to all individuals in the same rank and years of service in the Department. Wherever there are several candidates of the same rank and equal time of service, the department is required to justify the choice of the candidate proposed for promotion.


If a Department initiates the termination, it must be shown that full and fair consideration was given to the faculty member’s qualifications as compared with all others in the same rank or promoted/reappointed during the last three years.


Access to the online equal opportunity compliance form is granted to approved users at the department and School levels including chairpersons, Deans and DSAs. It is the School’s responsibility to identify the users and coordinate training and access with the Vice Provost for Faculty.


The concept of race as used by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (O.F.C.C.P.) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (E.E.O.C.) does not denote clear-cut scientific definitions of anthropological origins. Current recordkeeping requirements request faculty and staff to first identify themselves as to whether they are ethnically Hispanic/Latino, and then, to identify themselves racially from the list below. Hispanic/Latino is defined as a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race. This does not include persons of Portuguese descent or persons from Central or South American who are not of Spanish origin or culture.

  • American Indian or Alaskan Native: A person having origins in any original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) who maintains tribal affiliation or has community recognition as an American Indian or Alaskan Native.
  • Asian: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • Black or African American: An individual, not of Hispanic origin, with origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific islands.
  • White (or Caucasian): An individual, not of Hispanic origin, with origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East.