Diversity dialogue to remain open
Published: Thursday, January 7, 2010
Northwesternâ€™s ongoing problems with race relations gained a television audience over Winter Break.
Communication senior Joshua Williams went on Chicagoland Television on Dec. 29 to discuss minority enrollment at NU, the racial educational achievement gap and his claim that four NU employees treated him unfairly based on his race last May, when he was stopped four times in the Donald P. Jacobs Center and asked for his WildCARD to verify he was a student.
Williamsâ€™ story also served as inspiration for an event held Dec. 30 by The Black Star Project, a Chicago community organization founded by activist Phillip Jackson to improve minority educational achievement.
The event, titled â€œBlack Students at Northwestern University Fight Against Racial Profiling, White Students in â€˜Blackface,â€™ and a Paucity of Black Male Students on Campus,â€ attracted several NU alumni, including Vernon Ford, SESP â€™68, who said NU still faces the same problems with diversity it did when he was in school.
Jackson criticized NU for having a â€œlaissez-faireâ€ attitude toward minority enrollment, and Williams said events like the blackface incident occur because of the low number of black students on campus.
NU has been working the past few years to attract talented minority students, said Burgwell Howard, the interim dean of students. The DAILY reported there were 132 black students admitted to the Class of 2013, an increase from 87 students admitted to the Class of 2012.
â€œIn terms of Mr. Jackson, I (want) to be clear that the University welcomes the help of folks who can bring NU to the attention of talented students,â€ Howard said. â€œThere are lots of wonderful students in the Chicago Public School system, and we would hope that they would consider a top-tier institution in their own backyard.â€
Jackson said he scheduled to meet with University President Morton O. Schapiro to address Jacksonâ€™s concerns that NU does not recognize the significance of race. Schapiro was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
â€œI believe President Schapiro understands that youâ€™ve got to have community involved,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s my expectation that NU is going to partner with the Evanston community, with the Chicago community, to accomplish a goal thatâ€™s going to be good for all of them.â€
In addition to allegations of racial profiling, NU has faced controversy with the Multicultural Student Association director and a Halloween blackface incident in the last year. Dulce Acosta-Licea, external relations vice president for the Muslim-cultural Student Association, said she was impressed by student response to cultural issues during Fall Quarter, especially efforts initiated by the Coalition of Colors.
â€œWe can only do so much without our fellow multicultural group members,â€ the Weinberg senior said. â€œEspecially now with the current climate, weâ€™re growing our push for ethnicity and diversity.â€
Coalition of Colors member Alex Sims said she thinks small steps have been made but still has hopes for the future.
â€œ(The incident) allowed people to articulate some of their problems with the University, but at the same time people were able to keep a positive mind frame,â€ the SESP senior said.
â€œIt was the first time the entire campus had been involved in a discussion on raceâ€”faculty down to students. Now itâ€™s time to do something about it.â€
Proposed solutions, such as the creation of safe spaces, curriculum changes and the NU Police Department advisory board, have not fully materialized, Sims said.
â€œItâ€™s getting to be a frustrating process,â€ she said.
The initiative, â€˜Inclusive NU,â€™ created in the aftermath of the blackface forum to continue dialogue on the issue, also has plans for the quarter, Sims said. The group plans to release a video to increase public awareness on diversity issues.
University Provost Daniel Linzer said he would be interested in any effort to bring qualified students to campus. NU is currently working with organizations such as QuestBridge and the Chicago Public School District, he said.
â€œDo we have a lot of work? Absolutely,â€ he said. â€œBut Iâ€™m glad to see weâ€™re working on them.â€