Black students discuss racial issues on campus

By Molly Rafter

The key word of the night was unity at Monday’s town hall meeting for black student organizations on campus. Student organizations as well as faculty members met to discuss possible solutions for several racial issues on campus.

Actions United, a coalition of black student organizations on campus whose goal is to unify black students, conducted a survey at the meeting to determine the racial problems on campus and how to implement students’ ideas on how to solve them.

Kristina Ellis, senior in applied life studies and member of Actions United, said the organization represents all of the black student organizations on campus and works to unite all the groups.

“We work to unify the black student organizations and to benefit black people as a whole,” she said.

Helen Neville, an associate professor of educational psychology and African-American Studies , discussed racial issues on campus at the meeting.

“Racial discrimination is on the decline, but is still occurring on campus and off,” she said.

Neville explained that on the 2003 exit survey taken by seniors, black students rated the University’s way of addressing racism on campus as a 2.7 on a scale from one to five (one being poor, five being good).

Students at the meeting agreed that racism could be defined as being treated unfairly based on color of skin and not having the same opportunities as people in the majority racial group.

Though racial discrimination issues are still ongoing on campus, the students offered solutions. Members of NAACP on campus who attended the meeting explained they had complaint forms that a student can fill out if they feel like they had been racially discriminated against. The group would then take action by giving the complaint forms to the Chancellor.

Sundiata Cha-Jua, director of African American Studies, offered solutions as well, pointing to the progress that has already been made on campus. He explained that after Project 500 was initiated in 1968 to bring more African-American people to the University, the Black Student Union was created. The Black Student Union then led to the creations of the Office of Minority Student Affairs, African-American Studies and the African-American Cultural Center. He said that the groups made the racial environment more tolerant and bearable on campus.

“If you want to understand how to solve a problem, study the history of its development,” Cha-Jua said. He explained that the groups must find a way to create an overarching organization that focuses on problem solving to challenge the system.

Actions United members, like Ellis said, believe their organization is doing just that.

“I have faith that the group will grow and act united as one, and we’ll be able to solve the problems together,” Ellis said.