September 3, 2021

A Message to Students from Liberal Arts Dean Clarence Lang

Dear Liberal Arts Undergraduates:

I hope you are doing well and that you have started to hit your stride as we approach the end of the second week of classes. Despite the uncertain times we find ourselves in, it is nice to see activity on campus again.

I was heartened by this week’s Penn State News article that indicated approximately 80 percent of our students at University Park—including 86 percent living in residence halls and 78 percent living elsewhere in the community—have provided proof of vaccination. Getting vaccinated is a simple yet significant way to regain the “normalcy” we all crave, so I am grateful to everyone who has already done so. If you have not yet been vaccinated and can do so safely, I urge you to please do so as soon as possible—and remind your classmates and peers who have not been vaccinated, or have failed to disclose their vaccination status, that they are subject to weekly testing.

I am grateful to your Liberal Arts Undergraduate Council president, Mia Wallis, for the message she sent you last week encouraging you to mask. In that vein, I want to reinforce her reminder that the University is requiring everyone to wear masks indoors on all Penn State campuses regardless of vaccination status. To be clear, this mandate applies not only to classrooms but to all public spaces—hallways, stairwells, restrooms, etc.—and on all campus transportation. While I understand wearing a mask can be an uncomfortable inconvenience, doing so is not optional—and the more we comply with the masking requirement now, the sooner we may be able to lift it altogether.

I also want to remind everyone that Penn State has coordinated with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to implement a contact tracing process that identifies, notifies, and monitors students and employees who have come in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 (or is presumed positive) while they were infectious. If Penn State or Department of Health contact tracers reach out to you, it’s important to engage with them and provide information about where you have been and with whom you have been in contact. Your protected health information will be kept confidential.

If you suspect or have confirmed that you have been in close contact with someone who is infected, you must self-quarantine and self-report by completing Penn State’s contact tracing referral form or by calling Penn State Contact Tracing at 814-863-8800. The University will provide you with quarantine support and guidance if it determines you meet the standard for being a close contact, and any in-person classroom instructors should be notified in a timely manner.

TW // sexual assault

Although I applaud the news regarding vaccination rates among students, faculty, and staff, I am deeply disturbed by the number of student sexual assaults that have already been reported this semester. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of consent in all sexual activity—it must occur without pressure, manipulation, withholding of information, or being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Both partners must freely agree to engage in sexual activity each time, and either partner can change their mind about what they feel like doing at any time—even if they have engaged in sexual activity with their partner, or anyone else, before. In the absence of such consent, the encounter constitutes sexual assault—which is not just a violation of the University’s Student Code of Conduct but a crime.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating or relationship violence, stalking, or sexual exploitation, please know the Penn State is committed to giving you the help and support you deserve; please visit the Office of Student Affairs’ Victim and Survivor Support and Advocacy page to access the resources available to you.

As I have said on numerous occasions, ensuring that our college is a safe, inclusive, and equitable environment for all students, faculty, and staff remains one of my highest priorities, notwithstanding the current challenges involved in this effort. We will do our best to make sure you receive the support and resources you need to navigate your time at Penn State. In return, all I ask you to do is work diligently, think deeply, engage respectfully, take care of yourselves, and keep others out of harm’s way.

I look forward to communicating with you again soon. Until then, please be safe, be wise, and be well.


Dean Lang 

Clarence Lang
Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts 
Professor of African American Studies 
The Pennsylvania State University 
111 Sparks Building 
University Park, PA 16802