by Geoff Larcom, Published December 09, 2016
YPSILANTI -- At a meeting Tuesday, Dec. 6, with members of the Black Student Union at the Eastern Michigan University Student Center, Eastern Michigan University Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Calvin Phillips and Adviser to the President Leigh Greden provided an update on the status of efforts to implement the Black Student 10-Point Plan, a list of demands presented to University administrators by Black student leaders. Some areas of the plan have been completed, others show significant progress, while others remain under review.
Dr. Phillips said, “Work on the Black Student 10-Point Plan has been underway for nearly a year and progress is being made.”
Eastern’s Faculty Senate has approved a resolution authored by Professor Ronald Woods, Department of Africology & African American Studies, endorsing the “framework” of the Plan as a starting point for conversations to improve the campus climate, and referring the Plan to the President’s new Diversity and Inclusion Commission for specific recommendations.
Phillips added, “Senior staff of the University meet regularly with Black student leadership from Student Government, Black Student Union, EMU-NAACP, Diversity & Community Involvement, and other groups regarding these initiatives. These and other student leaders continue to receive multiple updates regarding campus initiatives and we continue to work together to keep everyone informed.”
The PowerPoint presentation that was provided at the December 6 meeting can be found at Black Student Union Presentation.
One of the key points of the plan calls for increasing the number of Black faculty. Several initiatives are underway in this area. Beginning this semester, all academic Department Heads and academic search committee chairs must undergo training designed to prevent bias in search processes. The training will be expanded to individuals who chair non-academic search committees.
Academic Human Resources, which reports to the Provost and manages the faculty hiring process, actively recruits for new faculty through diversity organizations and publications.
The efforts are working: 13 percent of new faculty hired for Fall 2016 self-identify as Black, reflecting a placement rate that exceeds the nationwide population and dramatically exceeds the available pool of Black faculty in virtually every academic discipline.
Another point of the plan calls for mandatory cultural competency training for all faculty and staff. Much of this already takes place and more will be instituted in the coming months. For example, Eastern’s Department of Safety already undergoes extensive and regular cultural competency training. Expanded training to University leadership and all current employees will be implemented in the coming months.
Another point in the Plan called for a designated space at the University where marginalized students can gather and learn about financial and academic resources available to Black students. “The Intersection” – a lounge in the Student Center for under-represented and under-privileged students – was planned over the summer, built with donor funds, and opened earlier this semester.
Following is a detailed point-by-point breakdown of each demand within the 10-point plan (IN BOLD TYPE) along with the University's progress or response to that particular element of the Plan, which actually features 11 points rather than 10.
#1: “Percentage of Black faculty to equal that of Black students at EMU (excluding Africology & African Studies faculty)”
The University recognizes the importance of our students having role models and mentors. Black students are 18 percent of the student body at EMU. The Black student leadership on campus understands the challenges in attempting to hire a corresponding percentage of Black faculty, including legal limitations and the fact that there is a limited national pool of black faculty. Nonetheless, EMU has taken several steps and is making progress enhancing the representation of black faculty.
#2: “All students will take a general course on race, ethnicity, and racism.”
Currently, all undergraduate students are required to take one course in “U.S. Diversity” as part of the General Education requirement. Examples of courses that meet this requirement include Interracial/Interethnic Communication, Civil Rights and Liberties in a Diverse U.S., Introduction to American Indian History, and African American Literature.
#3: “A course on Black studies will be built into the curriculum of every major.”
Black student leaders are working closely with faculty administrators to explore curricular options to further this goal. There are well-understood challenges in attempting to incorporate Black studies into every major. For example, it may be difficult to incorporate Black studies into certain natural science majors, and doing so across all majors will require revisions to many courses.
#4: “Mandatory cultural competency training for all faculty and staff, including DPS”
Significant progress has been made in this area and communicated, in writing and verbally, to Black student leadership:
#5: “Designated space where marginalized students can gather safely and learn about financial and academic resources available to Black students.”
Completed. “The Intersection” – a lounge in the Student Center for under-represented and under-privileged students – was planned over the summer, built with donor funds, and opened earlier this semester.
#6: “Explore options for utilizing outside vendors to provide culturally appropriate food for certain student organization events.”
Dining Services asks that they be given the opportunity to meet all menu requests but, if they lack the capacity to meet cultural needs, they have always allowed clients to use outside vendors. For example, Jewish Studies events often use outside vendors because Dining Services cannot meet Kosher requirements.
#7: “Alternate meal plan options for low-income students”
With Chartwells having recently joined EMU, several options are being explored, including a designated program to provide a free meal plan to low-income students who work in Dining Services, or a specific plan for low-income students as part of a Financial Aid package. The Student Food Services Advisory Committee will review this request.
#8: “Professional staff designated to identify financial resources for Black students”
Completed. A financial aid staff member has been assigned to this role and is actively working with students.
#9: “Committee designated by members of BSU to serve on the Homecoming Committee with the freedom to plan events for Black Homecoming”
Completed. Additionally, the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs plans to designate a specific staff member to work with Black Homecoming. Budget was added to DCI in 2015 to accomplish this objective.
#10: “Doctorate and Master’s Program for Africology and African American Studies with adequate funding and no less than three full-time graduate assistantships”
The Africology & African American Studies Department has not submitted such a request. Such requests would come from the academic department.
#11: “Women’s Resource Center dedicate at least three program per year to black women faculty”
Completed: This was accomplished last year and is expected to be continued this year.
The administration is committed to continuing these and other initiatives and to regularly communicate with the campus community on the status of these efforts.
Details about the various institutional actions and responses to the discovery of hateful and racist messages directed at the Black community can be found on the University’s community information website.