Romano: Future discussion needed to solve problems

By Meghan O'Kelly

Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Renee Romano announced Tuesday night that the University is reviewing the judicial system procedures and student code. As a panelist at the town hall meeting to discuss the racial and cultural climate on campus, to which she invited the University community earlier this month, Romano spoke about the role of the First Amendment in the context of the University.

“Free speech is a very important value of a University community,” Romano said, elaborating on her opening remarks addressing stereotypes and acts of intolerance. “We will continue to talk. We won’t be silent on these issues.”

In light of recent controversial events, the administration is reviewing the student code to find a balance between free speech, civil rights and the personal rights of others, Romano said.

Professor A. Belden Fields also served on the panel and recommended five instances in which the administration could act under the student code. They include: threats of violence, encouragement to commit violence, taunts referring to identities, stereotyping that marginalizes certain groups and behavior of exclusion.

“I prefer educating people instead of punishing people,” Fields said.

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Professor Jorge Chapa, director of the Center on Democracy in a Multiracial Society, delivered a presentation on race-hate in cyberspace. He presented photos of recent acts of hate at universities across the country, including photos of the stereotype party that occurred on campus in September.

“Things like this happen everywhere all the time,” he said, adding that since the advent of the Internet, evidence of these events is now easily accessible in the public arena.

Two students also served on the panel. Chime Asonye, student trustee, said events like stereotype parties are a manifestation of something larger and such behavior derives from racism, power and privilege. Illinois Student Senate President Justin Randall encouraged students to think about issues of racism and stereotyping when dressing up for upcoming Halloween festivities.

Moderator Domonic Cobb, interim associate vice chancellor for student affairs and director of intercultural relations, then invited comments from those in attendance. Professor Stephen Kaufman, the first to the microphone, called on the administration to publicly announce the “real” reason for the retirement of Chief Illiniwek and to stop hiding behind the NCAA as the cause of the Chief’s end. He said that although the Chief no longer dances, the symbol’s legacy and the prevalence of Chief merchandise make stereotyping at the University clear.

“Daily, Native American students and faculty are confronted with the Chief,” he said.

Students also provided a strong voice to the meeting, with administrators answering questions and responding to concerns. Issues of segregation in residence halls, underrepresentation of minorities and the administration’s “lip service” were common themes among students.

Romano said the administrators would take the students’ concerns into account and called for more conversation.

“I hope that in some years to come, students don’t feel that it’s lip service,” she said.