City council to examine Human Relations commission

By Gus Bode

University backs down as joint partner with the city

The Carbondale City Council will decide Tuesday whether it should pursue the creation of a human relations commission without the University as a joint partner.

Establishing the commission was one of the main recommendations made in November by the SIU/Carbondale race relations task force with the goal that such a commission could address racial grievances. Seymour Bryson, associate vice chancellor for diversity, recently informed Carbondale Mayor Neil Dillard in a letter that “there are some duties, rights and responsibilities that the University simply cannot delegate to another entity.”


Bryson told the Daily Egyptian the University supports the creation of the commission, and that there should be student involvement, but the city is going to have to be the agency that creates it.

“We’re just not able to give over some of the power that the task force is recommending,” Bryson said. “We support the concept of a human relations commission and will participate as appropriate. But it’s not appropriate for us to give a body the legal responsibilities that the [task force] was recommending.”

The task force recommended that the human relations commission have subpoena power and the ability to levy sanctions against city and University employees. The task force was created in April 2001 after Carbondale Police officers used Mace on about 80 black students while dispersing a block party. Some students contended that the use of Mace was racially motivated.

Carbondale City Manager Jeff Doherty said he will make his recommendation at the Tuesday city council meeting. He said he will be looking for direction from the council on how he should proceed.

“For instance, if the council wanted to establish or form a human relations commission, the council could direct me to prepare an ordinance creating that,” Doherty said.

The idea could feasibly die if no one from the council speaks in its favor. Councilwoman Maggie Flanagan said that is something she won’t let happen. Flanagan thinks the commission could be an effective go-between in mediating and conciliating problems citizens have with the city. She would ultimately like to see the commission walking citizens through the city’s complaince process if a grievance should arise and making recommendations to the council about them.

Creating a Human Relations commission would only create more bureaucracy, according to Councilman Brad Cole, and that’s not what he thinks is the best way for the city to fix the problems the task force was trying to address. Cole said it would be pointless to have a separate commission because the final authority to get anything done in the city lies with the council.


“The council was elected to be the leaders in the community, and if there’s an issue, we need to be out if front of it,” Cole said. “Why put up another group of different people when that’s what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Cole suggested that the council meet as a separate body called the Human Relations Commission in the same way it meets as the Liquor Control Commission when it takes care of city liquor business. He’s not discouraged that the University backed down from the task force’s original recommendation that the commission be a SIUC/Carbondale body and thinks the problems behind the idea have merit.

“The University kind of said, ‘look we’re about teaching and service and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to try to maintain our academic credibility and if there’s a problem then we’re going to address it when it comes up,'” Cole said.