Students, faculty members address racial concerns at Express Yourself

Liala Helal

Subtle racism is alive and well at the University, and it has been hidden too long, said a number of students who on Thursday attended an event honoring Black History Month.

“We want to make the University community more aware of the problems before we can start to make a change,” University student Charles Helm said.

Express Yourself, an event organized by the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, which was in the Black Student Union office, gave students a chance to speak up about various issues around campus. A speakers panel with prominent faculty members from various University departments participated in the discussion.

“We’re hoping to improve how we’re represented around campus,” University student Aurelius Butler said.

One topic attendees discussed was the General College, which they said has helped many black students enter the University. Many said the college is being ignored, has poor advising and might not exist in the future. But many faculty members reassured students the college will continue to exist.

“We intend on staying and have a rightful place here at this research university, and we work towards making it a powerful experience for you,” said Robert Poch, assistant dean of General College.

Other issues included relocating the African-American Learning Resource Center, which students said was a vital aspect of their success. Students and faculty members also discussed a lack of resources for black students, low graduation rates in the black community, problems within residence halls, segregation on campus and programs that might be cut because of future funding shortages.

University student Ayi’Anna Kennerly spoke about a recent incident in which someone wrote racial slurs on her door in her residence hall. She was one of the few black students on that floor, she said.

“I think the University can do a better job of getting people of different walks of life together to understand one another, because I feel that this happened because of ignorance,” she said.

Speakers from Housing and Residential Life responded and expressed their willingness to help. After the event, Kennerly said she was glad to hear there would be positive steps taken at the University.

Speakers commended the students for speaking out and urged them to attend a meeting with the University’s provost Tuesday to share their feelings on race on campus.

By the end of the event, both students and faculty members said they were willing to work together to make the University a better experience for minority students.

“I’m very happy with the sincerity of the faculty and students,” Helm said. “I can happily say that I am able to leave today with the sense that positive change is definitely going to come.”