SIU system hosts virtual discussion about systemic racism

By Kallie Cox, News Editor

The SIU system hosted a two hour discussion on Monday about systemic racism in higher education.

This conversation follows the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as two racist incidents involving SIU students that surfaced on the internet within the past month. The panel featured the chancellors of SIUE and SIUC, system president Dan Mahony and student representatives from both schools. 

At the beginning of the meeting, panelists shared their experiences with systemic racism, spoke briefly of how standardized tests can further systemic inequality, and whether there should be a mandatory diversity training class at SIU, before taking questions from the audience.

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One of the questions asked SIUC Chancellor Austin Lane what actions he plans to take regarding a current student who was recorded making racist remarks and what Lane has to say in response to claims that SIU is not taking sufficient action. 

“Being an African American male and having to deal with some of those hurtful messages that we’ve heard about already here and being discriminated against in different ways, that hurt,” Lane said. “To see that from our students, Salukis, that’s not the culture that we want to create here or have folks aspire to be Salukis and represent us that way. We don’t want that.”

Lane said it’s important that the entire campus community understands the university has due process channels.

“I know some folks will feel like ‘well you are not moving fast enough’ there is a process, just like there is out in the real world if someone does something, it’s still our job to investigate and it’s our job to make sure once we investigate, that we act,” Lane said.

Another question asked panelists how they will address the recruitment and hiring of diverse faculty staff and students.

Mahony said there are a lot of biases in the hiring process and SIU needs to be much more aggressive in recruiting diverse faculty and staff and be more diligent in advertising position openings.

“We have done the same process for a long time,” Mahony said. “We haven’t done a good job of recruiting diverse candidates and our response is to keep doing the same process over and over again and thinking the results will somehow be different, they won’t, we need to do some different things.”

A question from the audience said: “SIUC and SIUE have participated in numerous performative allyship actions and ignored how they uphold white supremacy in every aspect of higher education, what makes this time different for SIU?”

Mahony said there are task forces at the system level and at both universities that are working on creating actionable solutions to these problems. 

“We need to develop assessments so we are constantly evaluating how well we are doing,” Mahony said. “We need to have a culture of accountability and this needs to be part of what we do all of the time. It can’t just be again, we do a couple things at this moment and then we move on.” 

Mahony said SIU needs to have clear accountability for everyone and it needs to work system-wide to create a lasting change.

The full discussion can be watched here.

The next discussion will be held sometime in August and the date and topic has yet to be determined. 

News Editor Kallie Cox can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @KallieECox.

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