Mizzou isn’t the only university concerned with lack of diversity this week.
At 8 a.m., an interchanging group of 20 to 40 students dressed in all black stood outside the doors of Rose Administration, holding hands and inviting students and community supporters to join.
The group of concerned students, none representing specific organizations, collectively wrote a letter titled “We only have one demand” and placed it in University president Stuart Bell’s secretary’s possession that morning before classes started. The secretary confirmed that she received the letter.
“We want the administration to actually acknowledge that racism exists on campus,” said Maiya Gaspard, a sophomore majoring in general health studies and one of the students standing in front of Rose. “We want for people to call it what it is, so we can start change.”
The UA students stood for two reasons.
One was as concerned students for the University of Missouri, where the University president stepped down on Monday after controversies in which minority students demanded action from school leaders over what student activists called a climate of racism for the predominately white campus. Graduate student Jonathan Butler led a hunger strike and the football team refused to participate in team activities the last week before the president’s resignation. Since then, the social media campaign has ensued, with the hashtags #ConcernedStudent1950 and #InSolidarityWithMizzou.
“It’s [Mizzou] creating a bridge,” said Kaylyn Lee, a senior majoring in political and communications studies.
The second reason dealt with students’ grievances about administration involvement and acknowledgement on the UA campus about diversity and racism. The letter addressed the need for a diversity officer, a cultural diversity space and an updated version of the University’s 2008 strategic diversity plan.
The students requested an interim diversity officer be appointed by the Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA) before Dec. 10, be it a graduate student with sufficient education in intersectional inclusion or other person with legitimate credentials, not a “pointless figurehead,” as the letter said. The letter requested that BFSA work with administration to sanction a meeting space to conduct a series of meetings aimed at hearing student requests and ultimately formulating a list of resolutions that the interim officer will take to administration by no later than Nov. 30.
The students requested a permanent Office of Diversity be in place no later than spring 2017, but a diversity space, or a place for minority students to feel safe on campus, must be in place by Feb. 2016. Specifically, the letter addresses the need for an improved strategic diversity plan focused on increasing recruitment, inclusion, retention and funding for minority students, faculty and programs.
Right now, The University of Alabama remains the only SEC university without an Office of Diversity.
The University of Alabama issued the following statement concerning the students outside of Rose Administration this morning:
“President Bell has been meeting with students, faculty and staff to listen to their concerns and encourage further dialog about issues of diversity and equality on our campus,” the statement reads. “We all share the same goal – to ensure The University of Alabama is a more welcoming and inclusive campus for everyone. While we are pleased with the progress already made, we know more steps will be necessary in the coming weeks and months. We thank our students for submitting their thoughts and recommendations as we move through this process to address both short-term concerns and long-term resolutions.”
The concerned students said the demonstration was peaceful and that the vice president of student affairs came by shortly after 8 a.m. to invite all the students to the Ferguson Center at noon for an open dialogue.
“We wish to trust our administration and believe that they would not ask us to pretend as if our experiences are not real,” the letter stated.
UPDATE: The Crimson White has obtained an image of the letter given to Bell this morning.