Updated 4/26/12, 1:28 a.m.:
Following several accounts of racism on campus and pressure from groups including the ASG Diversity Committee and Coalition of Colors, the Northwestern administration released a "Diversity and Inclusion" report to the public Wednesday before an open forum on diversity at ASG Senate. Around a hundred students participated in the two-hour forum on campus diversity held in the Northwestern Room of Norris Wednesday evening.
ASG Diversity Committee Chair and outgoing Allianza President Hayley Stevens opened the gathering by quickly summarizing the diversity petition drafted by the ASG Diversity Committee that has garnered 775 signatures. She also said that the university had released the report but not publicly. This was then clarified by Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin, who spoke next and officially announced that the university had put the report online Wednesday as of about 3 p.m.
Telles-Irvin touched briefly on the six demands put forth by the diversity petition, including notably the appointment of Dona Cordero to the office of assistant provost for faculty development. (she is also retaining her previous position, director of change management) In this new position, Cordero will take on the role of chief diversity officer, called for by the second point of the petition, Telles-Irvin said.
Additionally, Telles-Irvin mentioned two initiatives she and Dean of Students Burgwell Howard are overseeing. She has been working with faculty, staff and students to resurrect the long-dormant Policy Advisory Board. She and Howard are also working to develop a new way to report culturally insensitive incidents like recent events.
"Burgie and I have been working on an online bias incidence portal," Telles-Irvin said. "Some have suggested the portal as a model where the students are the ones to respond."
She also mentioned that University President Morton Schapiro and Howard regretted not being able to attend the forum due to prior engagements. "They wanted me to let you know they're very committed to this issue," she said.
The floor then returned to Stevens, who announced the launch of Rally NU, a group to promote an inclusive campus and open dialogue between students. As part of its inaugural event on campus, the group will participate in Stand Against Racism, an event sponsored by YWCA to occur at 9 a.m. Friday, stretching from Chicago to Wilmette. All participants will stand — shoulder to shoulder — to form a human wall for ten minutes.
After addressing the advent of this student movement group, Stevens introduced Matt Dolph, the president of the NU Ski Team, the group involved with recent incident.
Dolph briefly issued a reiteration of the apology the group released and expressed gratitude for being invited to take part in the conversations with various student groups. Members of the ski team were also in attendance.
When ASG Senate Speaker Ani Ajith initiated student participation in the forum, senior Kellyn Lewis raised his hand to ask a question on the half sheet of paper, listing questions for Telles-Irvin, circulated to members of the forum beforehand, offering the guiding phrase "no concessions."
The question sheet, critical of the newly released diversity report, included inquiries about the new Chief Diversity Officer, why we are "behind our peer institutions" in cultural competency requirements, when we'll catch up and why it has taken so long to publish the report. The 46-page document details current policies, practices and demographics, and acknowledges that diversity efforts so far have had only a "modest effect." The report was previously available only by appointment, with no way to disseminate the included information to the public.
Lewis was quickly cut off by Ajith and Stevens, who told the room — to the audible protest of many — that the forum was for student discussion. Telles-Irvin was only in the room as a guest, not to answer questions, they said.
This was a disappointment to those wanting to have questions answered by a member of the administration and set a heated tone that pervaded the remainder of the forum. Tension also persisted between some forum participants and Stevens and Ajith, who served as moderators throughout the night.
Comments ranged in subject matter from frustration and anger with the university administration to calls for increased student action to lamentations on the small percentages of both African-American and Hispanic/Latino students. The engaged forum participants mostly made their reactions heard during or after a student made a comment, while the most eloquent and widely-supported statements were met with snaps and applause.
In one statement towards the beginning of the forum, senior Dallas Wright expressed his frustration with an administration that seemed too slow to respond on these issues.
"There's a lot of frustration in this room," Wright said. "I love y'all, but I don't pay you. I pay Northwestern. I'm not a student — I'm a customer. If you got a car with three wheels and no windows and the salesman tells you to wait for it to get fixed, you don't."
Coalition of Colors Chair Jazzy Johnson spoke to the relatively small number of people in the room and proposed an event that would actually see many more Northwestern students engage. She proposed a campuswide meeting at Deering Meadow from 5 to 6 p.m. Friday to uproarious applause of the room.
This idea would be a great way to get students together on a larger scale than was assembled in the Northwestern Room tonight, said senior Tyris Jones, a forum attendant who has been a member and leader of both Coalition of Colors and For Members Only during his time at Northwestern.
"I think any time you get people out together, it's cool," Jones said. "Even to get that picture out on Deering, I'd be happy. ... People are generally good and if you give them the opportunity for these discussions, they will generally happen."
Original post 4/25/12, 10:53 p.m.:
After pressure from groups including the ASG Diversity Committee and Coalition of Colors, the Northwestern administration released a "Diversity and Inclusion" report to the public Wednesday evening during an open forum on diversity at ASG Senate.
The report was previously available only by appointment, with no way to disseminate the included information to the public.Following several accounts of racism on campus, including the recent "Racism Olympics" incident, a petition formed, making six demands on the administration. One was the release of this report.
The "central theme" of the report is the "need to formulate policy responses to diversity that involve the creation of a new mainstream culture for Northwestern..."
The 46-page document details current policies, practices and demographics, and acknowledges that diversity efforts so far have had only a "modest effect." It also looks at how to diversify demographics, curriculum, culture, and plans for the creation of a centrally organized diversity infrastructure and overall strategy.
"They met the first demand, but there's a lot of work to be done," said Speaker of the Senate Ani Ajith. "It's just that we want to keep the pressure up...on the entire community, not just on the administration."
Events planned for the rest of the week to "build understanding across the student body" include a "Stand for Racism" on Ridge Avenue, in which participants will link arms and created a physical barrier, said Ajith. They'll then march through the arch and up to the Technological Institute.
Full disclosure: Ani Ajith has written for North by Northwestern.