Task force to study Native American community, make recommendations

Tyler Pager, Assistant Campus Editor

The Native American Outreach and Inclusion Task Force is currently studying Northwestern’s ties to the Native American community to better understand problems the community faces and to improve its relationship with the University.

The committee, which was fast-tracked earlier this year, was originally supposed to be formed after the John Evans Study Committee released its report on Evans’ role in the Sand Creek Massacre. 

(Northwestern to form second John Evans Committee)

The committee will still make recommendations to Provost Daniel Linzer on how the University should respond to the findings of the report, which will be released in late May. The task force will also examine enrollment issues, support services for Native American students and practices at peer institutions. 

“The work of the committee and task force members will provide us guidance on how Northwestern can increase its outreach to and develop stronger relationships with the Native American Nations,” University President Morton Schapiro said in a press release. “I appreciate the willingness of the task force members to engage in this important process and I look forward to seeing the results of their work.”

The committee is chaired by Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs, and Phil Harris, one of the vice-chairs of NU’s Board of Trustees. 

Harris said the group has met twice so far and plans to meet on a monthly basis. However, the committee has designated working groups, which he expects to meet more frequently. The committee requires a large time commitment, but those involved are dedicated to creating a more inclusive campus, Harris said.

“I think the people on this committee have a lifetime of commitment to diversity and inclusion,” he said. “We want to know how can we do better and how can we be more diverse.”

Harris said he hopes the committee is ready to begin discussing recommendations to send to Linzer by the end of the academic year, but he wants to give the members enough time to do research.

The committee includes 19 people consisting of students, faculty and members from other universities and organizations. SESP sophomore Forrest Bruce, co-president of the Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance and former co-president Weinberg junior Heather Menefee are the only two undergraduate students on the committee.

Dona Cordero, assistant provost for diversity and inclusion and a member of the task force, said the group’s focus on the current population of Native American students is important.

“This is a population at the University, and it’s important that as a university we understand the needs of a diverse population of students, faculty and staff and that we try to serve the needs of everyone,” she said.

Cordero said the group is currently learning about the issues NU’s Native American community face.

“We need to educate ourselves before we can start thinking about how we can do a better job of looking at the issues that need to be addressed,” she said.

However, she added the committee will make suggestions to improve the University. 

“The group was established to make recommendations on what the University needs to do,” she said. “I’m confident there will be action that comes out of it.”

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