Event offers forum for black students to discuss ‘State of the U’

In an effort to open a dialogue of issues facing the black student community on campus, the Tau Rho chapter of Delta Sigma Theta hosted the first part of the Black Student State of the “U” Address on Thursday night in the Storer Auditorium.

Due to scheduling conflicts several administrators and faculty originally were unable to attend the event, touted as the first of its kind on campus. As a result, organizers changed the format to a forum for the 40 audience members, to discuss the positive and negative of issues involving black students.

Though the event was open to all students, the vast majority of attendees were female.

Ebony Wheaton, second vice president of DST, said they have several specific goals in mind for this and the upcoming event, which will take place as soon as the panel is confirmed.

“I’m hoping that we really get something accomplished here,” she said, “which is to really bring out the issues that black students feel are important to them so we can then take them to the administration and campaign for change, so it’s not something that ends here.”

The sorority used surveys handed out earlier this year as the basis for the discussion topics. Wheaton emphasized that the surveys were not meant to be fully representative of the black community at UM, but that they were handed out to an array of students in order to get the widest range of opinions.

Felicia Prater, president of DST, said that the topics discussed Thursday will be compiled in a report to be presented to the administration for part two.

“We’re also going to use this opportunity as students to not only go to the administration with things but we’re also looking for suggestions for what we can do as a small minority community as far as effecting change,” Prater said, adding, “We’re not just looking for administration to do it all.”

Two special guests included Artie Jamison, residence coordinator for Mahoney, and Ricardo Hall, dean of students. Both weighed in during the discussion.

“You have access at the highest levels of this institution,” Hall said. “You’re voice is worth just as much as anyone else’s. We’re not going to run from you.”

For students who attended the event offered a unique opportunity.

“I really enjoyed this program,” Dione Occenad, a senior, said. “It was a very progressive event and I think it’s really important because it brought more of a social conscience to kind of contemplate on where we are inside our campus community and what we’re doing. Sometimes we get stagnate and this is about moving forward. I think it’s a good step in the right direction.”

Greg Linch may be contacted at g.linch@umiami.edu.