Campus Life, News

Task force to combat racial tension

Donna E. Shalala announced the creation of a “Task Force to Address Black Students’ Concerns” in February with goals to review current efforts in diversifying faculty and to assess the campus climate for black students. University of Miami students asked the administration to make a change.

In December 2014, UM students organized a rally on campus called #BlackLivesMatter to increase awareness about racial equality after the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Organizers included senior Mischael Cetoute, junior Hülya Miclisse-Polat, President of UBS TeQuan Taylor and President of Planet Kreyol Guerdiana Thelomar.

Following the rally, controversy broke out on campus social media with racially charged insults directed toward the protesters. In response, organizers of the rally came together to write a letter to Shalala and UM’s administration about the “disappointing” reaction to the rally across the university.

“That, along with the other concerns black students had like the low numbers in black faculty, the resources available to black students to ensure their success and retention at UM, and more all led to the students demanding for a meeting with President Shalala and the higher administration to address these concerns,” Thelomar said.

The letter cited usages of racial slurs by students on popular social media platforms like Yik Yak and Facebook during what Cetoute said was a “blatantly racist” and “appalling” response.

“Students were literally moved to tears because they never in a million years thought they would experience this kind of prejudice at a place like the University of Miami – one of the most diverse institutions in the country,” said Cetoute.

Rather than seeking retribution, Cetoute says that organizers focused on implementing changes to promote racial harmony for the future of UM’s campus.

“As students, instead of retaliating or focusing on individual aggression, we decided to look at structural issues that can be adjusted to create a more progressive racial climate,” he said.

The letter culminated in a request to the administration for the creation of a task force for diversity and the inclusion of black students on campus.

“The task force, in my opinion, is long overdue and I’m excited to be a part of making changes that will ultimately improve our university,” said Cetoute.

“I think it is important that we have the opportunity to not only voice our concerns, but also my goal is to continue to have the space to create concrete solutions that will positively impact the university as a whole,” Miclisse-Polat said.

According to Taylor, the specific goals of the task force include exploring resources for diversity programming, enhancing sensitivity and inclusivity training, and exploring current efforts in the recruitment of faculty.

These goals were influenced by the specific needs and requests of the rally organizers who drafted the letter, according to Cetoute.

“Most of our recommendations stem from our own experiences on campus, many of them negative,” he said.

The organizers who drafted the letter will now serve on the task force that they helped to create.

“My personal hope is that the actions from the task force will make this a better campus for everyone, but specifically black students who feel that they belong here and that this campus provides nothing for them,” said Taylor.

Thelomar shared similar sentiments.

“I feel honored to be on the task force and to help make much needed improvements at the institutional level that will not only positively affect the lives of the black community at UM, but overall enhance and create a more inclusive and accepting environment for all,” Thelomar said.

March 24, 2015

Reporters

Sophie Barros

S Molly Dominick


ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Task force to combat racial tension”

  1. Nathan Skinner says:

    What a complete waste of time and resources, and this is coming from a person of color. The last time I checked, true diversity has nothing to do with color, it has to do with viewpoints based on a variety of life experiences. As a Black person, if you want to attend a school in which the majority of the faculty looks like you, then you shouldn’t be here, you should be at an HBCU. Whether we like it or not, there’s always going to be some people who are ignorant, and can’t be helped. The greatest thing about America is the fact that you’re free to be an ignorant bigot if you so choose. It’s not on the University Administration to stamp out anything that we may feel is uncomfortable. That’s the same logic that leads to stupid ideas such as “Safe Spaces” and “Trigger Warnings”. Outside of the bubble we know as The U, there’s a cold, unforgiving world that doesn’t care one iota about your feelings. Time to face it, and learn how to work around it.

    By the way, “Inclusivity Training”? Surely you’re joking. Good lord. If you bring something tangible to the discussion besides your race, you’d be amazed how much you’d be included. Frankly, we as Black students need to stop segregating ourselves. We need to stop rolling in our little cliques, and expecting people to reach out to us. You’d be amazed how many people here just want to meet other quality people, the only thing you have to do is make an effort. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating our heritage, but we need to stop limiting ourselves. We’re much more than our skin color.

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