Students petition for measures to promote diversity on campus

Stephanie Yang

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A petition signed by 200 Northwestern students asking the University to address issues with diversity on campus will be presented to NU administrators on April 30.

The petition’s requests include adding a cultural competency requirement for the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, hiring a chief diversity officer for NU, increasing resources for Multicultural Student Affairs, giving more attention to diversity in incoming classes, developing a detailed Diversity Plan and releasing and publishing the Diversity Report, a data set on NU diversity that was compiled during the creation of the University’s Strategic Plan.

“Those are just (problems) that we’ve seen for a long time now,” said Weinberg junior Hayley Stevens, chair of the Associated Student Government Diversity Committee.

The ASG Diversity Committee was formed during Winter Quarter in response to several incidents that highlighted problems surrounding diversity at NU. The committee’s events included the Caucus Against Racial Prejudice on Campus, held after Weinberg senior Tonantzin Carmona reported racial harassment while walking home Jan. 12, and a diversity roundtable Feb. 12 with members of the administration to discuss diversity and inclusion.

“We decided to start (the committee) basically because we realized there wasn’t a centralized location for all the diversity issues,” Stevens said.

Stevens said NU students have a tendency to create a student group whenever an issue arises on campus, but these groups rarely last long. She said she hopes the Diversity Committee can be different.

“We are trying to make this really be a permanent organization,” she said.

The petition went online Wednesday, and Stevens said students involved have used Facebook and email to spread the word.

SESP senior Tiffany Chang, a member of the undergraduate student staff for Multicultural Student Affairs, signed and supports the diversity petition.

“I was pretty much aware that (the petition) was going to happen one way or another, so there was no surprise,” Chang said.

Chang said NU has problems with isolation and communication within the student body and the administration. She said because of self-segregation, some minority students do not feel included in a “greater Northwestern experience.” She also said with more funding and resources, the MSA could play a greater part in NU students’ lives, and its current resources are not sufficient forthe number of students it serves daily.

“From what I’ve heard, the administration is trying to fix things,” Chang said. “I think the petition is a way of making sure it happens faster.”

Medill senior Dallas Wright said the administration could use “an extra push” to implement changes for diversity issues.

“The University only responds when they have to, so it’s up to us to put the pressure on them,” Wright said.

“They want us to be in brochures talking about how diverse the school is and sit on panels talking about how wonderful the campus is for minority students,” Wright added. “But they don’t actively maintain and cultivate that environment.”

Wright said even though the changes will not all take place immediately, the University is very capable of accomplishing what it desires.

“If they want to put in a green space or open up a new research center on campus, it gets done right away,” Wright said. “They aren’t telling donors to be patient.”

Jake Julia, associate vice president for NU’s Office of Change Management, said some of the recommendations regarding diversity for the University Strategic Plan will be addressed in the near future.

“There will be announcements coming out very shortly that would outline some of the initial steps that are being considered as part of this strategic plan,” Julia said.

Julia would not mention specific details but said announcements for these measures would take place early this week.

“There’s definitely work underway to engage people,” he said. “We want to work with the University community to continue to enhance our diversity experience.”

After presenting the petition to the administration, Stevens said she hopes the administration will be more willing to work with the students to meet their needs.

“We are hoping that they will finally see that it’s not just a few students that want this anymore, it’s everyone,” she said.

syang@u.northwestern.edu

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