Daily Egyptian

Center holds first student listening session in years

By Diamond Jones, Daily Egyptian

Students were able to air out concerns about racism on campus Wednesday during a meeting held by the Center for Inclusive Excellence in Guyon Auditorium at Morris Library.

Nathan Stephens, director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence, labeled the two-and-a-half-hour meeting as a “listening session” for students to open up to the administration. Administrators took notes during the meeting, but did not offer many solutions to students. 

The meeting was a reaction to issues on campus in the last few weeks, he said. He wants students to feel like they have a resource to talk about these issues — even when it seems like they’re not available.

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The panel of administrators said students can be open when filing complaints, and explained what resources students have to file a complaint. Administrators included SIU police chief Benjamin Newman Chad Trisler, of Students Rights and Responsibilities, and Kevin Bame, vice chancellor of finance.

“I would never not want a student to bring faculty concerns to our attention because of fear of outcome,” said David DiLaila, associate professor of psychology and associate to administration. During the meeting, DiLaila heard students’ concerns of a lack of a diverse administration and lack of minority faculty members.

Some students felt the meeting was held in response to a week-old Facebook video made in Brown Hall that exposed some of the racist acts that occur on campus.

“The fact that the meeting was one of the first listening sessions to be organized in years that addresses racism and diversity really puts into question what the university does to actually assist students who experience [racism],” said Kelechi Agwuncha, a freshman from Westchester studying cinema and radio-television.

The verbal attacks and incidents exposed in the video made by freshman Leilani Bartlett affect every minority in some way, Agwuncha said.

Omar Lopez, who is a resident of Brown Hall, said he personally witnessed a group of students chanting racial slurs toward African-Americans and Mexicans, even threatening to physically hurt them.

“These are people who’s supposed to represent the school and this is how they choose to act — it’s very disappointing,” said Lopez, a freshman from Oak Lawn studying criminology.

Students said SIU administrators must be more personal, communicative and direct with students to create positive change.

“We should take the approach of Staples,” Stephens said in reference to the slogan of the office supply store. “You got questions, we got answers and we want to help students as much as possible with resources and the utmost support.”

There was a longer discussion about involving curriculum that teaches African-American and Hispanic culture rather than classes about basic college information such as university college courses. 

“People need to learn to accept everyone and not just with race, but with religion and with their culture as well,” Lopez said.

Lopez said minorities on campus are ignored. He said the university doesn’t highly consider some students’ voices because of the smaller population of certain races.

Students and administrators also discussed the budget crisis and addressing the causes of recent protests by minorities on campus. 

“I believe that things will change on both sides if students are more aware and speak up. The administration will take in more consideration to the actions on campus,” Lopez said. “They need to show that they actually care.”

Diamond Jones can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325.

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