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UI panel eyes more openness

BY ALYSSA GUZMAN | APRIL 15, 2015 5:00 AM

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After recent events caused uproar in the African-American community, students at the University of Iowa gathered to form the President’s Black Student Advisory Committee.

In the wake of events such as the KKK statue displayed on the Pentacrest and resultant controversy in December 2014, students met with President Sally Mason and formed the committee in order to help create an environment that is cognizant of all cultures, specifically black culture.

The committee is composed of 14 African-American UI students, including two co-heads.

“We want to create a campus where everyone feels welcome,” said Georgina Dodge, the committee’s adviser and the UI chief diversity officer and associate vice president. “[Though] students are focusing on what’s important for black students, we know it will translate into what’s important to all students.”

UI freshman Denzell Hayes, a committee member, said the committee is hoping to find out some of the goals and problems people feel black students are facing on campus so they can properly address and solve them.

“We want to know not just what the committee thinks, but what everyone thinks,” Hayes said.

UI sophomore Andrew Turner, a committee member, said it’s important to talk to African-American students on campus and really focus on getting everyone involved.

“We want people to feel like they have a voice,” he said.

Turner also said the committee hopes to create programs for incoming black freshmen in order to encourage them to reach out to committee members and voice any concerns they may have.

“[We want to] make sure black students on campus feel more included and comfortable on campus,” he said.

At the group’s open forum Tuesday, committee members broke into small groups with UI students and other people who attended the meeting to discuss specific issues and their potential solutions.

Among the issues discussed were cultural incompetency on campus, which forum attendees suggested could be combatted by providing classes on culture.

Students talked about most black professors being in African American studies, but they believe the university should increase their hiring of black professors in other fields of study, such as math and science.

The solution presented by that group indicated creating a ratio of black professors — one black professor for every 200 UI students — to help create a more welcoming environment for black students.

“[We want to make] sure black students are provided with resources on campus,” Hayes said. “[We want to make] sure they have what they need to succeed.”

Students also suggested more support and funding for African-American student organizations, which in turn could lead to a better black greek-life community on campus.

Attendees talked about creating a black living-learning community in the dorms and making an effort to have more black professors.

In addition to addressing concerns of the black community, the committee will also act as a liaison between concerns the black community has, and what the university is doing to address them.

“We want to gather the input of a large, broad range of students so we can work to form tangible policies,” UI freshman and committee member Marcus Smith said. “[We will act] as a communication channel between the black community and UI administrators. We’ll also relay what the university is working on in their office and tell the black community what is going on in there.”

The committee will also act as an advocate for the African-American community in helping aid the search for the next UI president.

“President Mason did a really good job of informing us that this committee is going to continue on [after her retirement],” Turner said.


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