U administrators host talk on diversity

The U is looking at buildings besides Coffman for student group spaces.

Political science senior Gina Bussman expresses her concerns about University students and faculty’s knowledge of white privilege.

Bridget Bennett

Political science senior Gina Bussman expresses her concerns about University students and faculty’s knowledge of white privilege.

Cody Nelson

When Mark Chan  registered with Disabilities Services, he hoped his health issues  would be addressed in the classroom.

Instead, the University of Minnesota psychology senior failed a class because he said instructors didn’t “readily accept” or accommodate his nonvisible disability.

When Chan asked Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Karen Hanson  and President Eric Kaler what he should do, Hanson said he should’ve come directly to her.

Disability concerns were one of many issues addressed by Kaler and Hanson at an open listening session attended by about 30 students Tuesday
afternoon.

The event touched on a range of issues, from racial and cultural diversity to renovations of the second floor of Coffman Union.

“I think diversity is a very broad and elastic word,” Kaler said.

The number of undergraduate students of color has increased by 1 percent   over the past six years on the Twin Cities campus, according to University data. This fall, about 5,500 undergraduates are students of color.

Students in attendance voiced concerns about renovations to the second floor of Coffman, which is home to many student group offices and cultural centers.

One student was curious if the renovations would reflect “ideological changes” for the University.

Hanson said she’s concerned with
preserving current spaces, but there may not be enough for all groups.

Other buildings in close proximity to Coffman, like the Science Teaching and Student Services  building, are being considered for alternative spaces for affected student groups, she said.

Another student concern at the session was a lack of diversity in science and engineering programs at the University.

Kaler said the University doesn’t have the critical mass needed to promote diversity in these programs, something he said requires a “systematic approach.”

In addition, there is a shortage of African-American males in the University’s undergraduate program, he said.

“We’re not where we need to be, particularly in some sub-groups,” Kaler said.