Project 1000 asks for more representation and retention
April 20, 2017
Filed under Life & Culture
Through united action and mobilization, students across the University are coming together to fight for Project 1000, which calls for equal representation of African-American students on campus.
Phrases such as “We Demand Better” and “Project 1000” cover sidewalks on and around the Main Quad, encouraging passerbys to take notice of the campaign.
Project 1000 is a student-run movement started by the Black United Front. The project calls for awareness of the under-representation and retention issues black students face at the University. Project 1000 presents a step forward by encouraging the University to recruit, enroll and retain at least 1000 black students every fall semester by 2020.
Black United Front is an RSO that was created to hear the voices and ideas of black students at the University. According to its website, its mission is to sustain, mobilize and multiply the black student body through discourse, organization and united action.
According to the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations, in the fall of 2016, out of 44,800 University students, African-American students made up only 5.16 percent of the population, which is significantly lower than the nearly 18 percent of African-American students that make up Illinois public schools.
Black United Front wants an on-campus transformation.
“Project 1000 is the best opportunity for the University to show how important their students are to them,” said Evan Sosin, senior in LAS.
The project has a timeline for the next four years. By fall 2017, they want 500 students as well as a 25 percent increase in the total state budget for the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center, the Department of African-American Studies and retention programming for African-American students. They are also aiming for $2 million in funds for Project 1000 and more scholarships for black students.
By fall 2018, Black United Front wants to increase the number of black students enrolled to 650, then up to 800 in the fall of 2019 and ultimately enroll 1000 students by fall 2020.
However, the group’s mission does not stop with Project 1000. Part of the issue of under-representation is also the lack of adequate resources to ensure the success of all students.
In efforts to increase retention, Project 1000 wants to provide black students with a better college experience by increasing financial aid and academic support. Sosin said he has noticed the under-representation of black students on campus through students struggling and having limited resources of support.
There have been campaigns similar to Project 1000 in the past. In April 1968, Project 500 was created to bring in 500 African-American freshmen each year. Black United Front is calling for a stronger program to meet today’s demographics.
Sosin said this campaign is very similar to Project 500, but Black United Front hopes to have an even bigger impact. Sosin said the University needs to be accountable and uphold their standards.
To ensure Project 1000 is successful and on track, the group is creating an advisory committee made up of both students and administration members. Responsibilities of the committee will include a recruitment campaign targeting black high school students across Illinois, over-seeing programming and budgeting and a dispersal of resources to programs focused on retention.
Sosin said the advisory committee is the most important aspect of the project. The goal is to reach 1000 students in each admitted class by 2020, but it is the committee that will keep the project going past its goal.
A’keisha Lee, Black United Front member, said she knows the need for a more representative campus applies to everyone at the University.
“Increasing the number of black students on campus benefits everyone, academically, socially and politically,” Lee said.
The work being done through Black United Front and Project 1000 is historically significant and by integrating enrollment and retention programs, African-American students are given an equitable chance to succeed at the University.
Morgan Leopold, sophomore in Media, said she was shocked to learn the statistics of African-American enrollment.
“Even though I have seen U of I as a diverse campus, I would have never considered it an inclusive campus,” Leopold said. “Though we may have many different ethnicities present at this school, I feel like I always see the same races working and interacting together rather than multiple races intermingling.”