The mission of the African-American Resource Center (AARC) is to enhance the quality of life for faculty, staff and students at the University of Pennsylvania, with a particular focus on those of African descent. AARC contributes to making the University of Pennsylvania a leader in higher education by constructively and proactively helping to create a teaching-learning community of real and harmonious diversity. The Resource Center will be a model for the academy and the society at large.
Our vision is a diverse inclusive community that supports one another by providing innovative and impactful alliances, advocacy, resources, and counseling.
The African-American Resource Center provides services to all.
An AARC volunteer with Director, Valerie Dorsey Allen (right) staff a sidewalk table to reach out to the Penn community.
In April 1987, the Black Administrators, Faculty and Staff (known as the African-American Association: Administrators, Faculty, and Staff) prepared and delivered a document to the President of the University of Pennsylvania, Sheldon Hackney. The document was entitled, "The Black Resource Center: A Working Paper", and outlined several instances of racial harassment, discrimination and degradation experienced by African-American employees and students at Penn. In addition, the document stated:
In light of the above egregious matters, it is imperative that there be created a specialized unit in the University, a Black Resource Center, wherein all members of Penn's Black community can specifically work on their problems; receive assistance in identifying and utilizing existing University structures; receive information related to their special needs, concerns, and issues...this resource center would create a viable sense of community and belonging for Black people in an otherwise hostile environment.
The President's response appeared in the June edition of the Summer Pennsylvanian. The Opinion article stated in part, "I do not believe that a Black Advocacy Center by whatever name, will advance us towards the goal that I fervently hope we all share."
Soon thereafter, approximately 125 persons gathered on College Green to reiterate that racism existed on the campus and to encourage the administration to establish a Black resource Center. As a result, a series of meetings were held with the President, his administration, and African-American leaders at the University.
It is important to note, however, that the request from the African-American community for a resource center was not the first of its kind. The struggle to create a resource center can be traced back to the early 1970's. Nevertheless, in September of 1987, President Hackney reversed his original decision and agreed to the establishment of the resource center. Two nationally noted educators were commissioned by the University to conduct a study to document and make recommendations regarding the organization of a resource center. A director was hired on a part-time basis in April 1989. On July 1, 1989, the director was hired on a full-time basis and the center opened its doors to the Penn community.
The first staff consisted of Dr. Allen J. Green; counselor, Isabel Sampson-Mapp; and Administrative Assistant, Afi Roberson Heywood. Jeanne Arnold served as director from 1996-2003 and Jack B. Lewis served as the Associate Director from 1998-2002.
The Center wishes to acknowledge the efforts of the consultants who compiled and submitted their reports to the University and the members of the various committees who worked toward the establishment of the African-American Resource Center. The center would also like to acknowledge the unwavering support of the African-American Association. Due to their efforts, we now have the African-American Resource Center. The Penn community is welcome to utilize the services and offer suggestions for the enhancement and enrichment of the Black community and the center.