Safety concerns discussed at SIU Diversity Council forum

By Olivia Spiers

The university’s newly established Diversity Council held its fourth open forum Thursday afternoon.

Of the 25 attendees, those who spoke agreed that little is being done to ensure the safety of marginalized SIU students.

“The overall agreement of students at these forums tells us that [safety] is a serious problem that needs to be fixed,” said René Poitevin, coordinator for SIU’s Hispanic/Latino Resource Center.


The forums began Monday to gather student opinions for a survey that will be used to develop a campus-wide plan that “reflects and advances our historical mission and commitment to inclusive excellence,” interim Chancellor Brad Colwell wrote in a September letter.

During the forum, Phynix Huhn-Simmons, a freshman from Chicago studying cinema and photography, advocated for better promotion of the university’s resources through Saluki Success, or UCOL, an introductory course that is required of incoming freshman. Huhn-Simmons said she is diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and it wasn’t until she missed class because of an anxiety attack that she found out about Disability Support Services.

“Why do I have to go to extremes to get the help I need?” Huhn-Simmons asked.

Jada Kelly, a sophomore from Chicago studying political science, said the university is “more reactive than proactive.” The other students in attendance agreed that SIU does little to prevent incidents such as hate crimes or sexual assaults.

Evita Lynne, a former art student from Paducah, Ky., who said she is considering leaving the university because she doesn’t feel safe on campus, proposed that students be required to take a “diversity inclusivity course” in place of UCOL. Lynne said forums should be held every semester so the university can be “on top of” key issues before they happen.

“Whatever plan they create now could be useless in a year, unless students continue to be heard at these forums,” she said.

Staff writer Olivia Spiers can be reached at [email protected], 618-536-3325 or on Twitter @_spierso.


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