Campus group demands new approach to addressing racism and discrimination at UI

The group organized demands Tuesday for University administration in relation to the racism on campus. Member and student Pasha Trotter said she believes the demands given to administration by the group early Monday morning are both measurable and reasonable.

“We’re not asking extremely hard things,” Trotter said. “I think in some instances people think it’s hard to meet the needs of black women. But in reality, we’ve made these things pretty simple.”

Trotter was one of six members of Standing with heR to meet with Barbara Wilson, interim chancellor, Ed Feser, interim provost, Renee Romano, vice chancellor for student affairs and Menah Pratt-Clarke, associate provost for diversity at the Swanlund Administration building.

The University made national headlines with the formation of an Illini White Student Union in response to the Black Students for Solidarity rally and University administration has faced criticism for its handling of the group’s formation; additionally its response to both specific instances and a climate on campus some students have voiced makes them feel targeted, unsafe and unhappy.

“We want to speak out against what we read as violence and terror that the Illini White Student Union group was doing by using a black undergraduate student’s profile picture as a way to surveil her,” Trotter said. “Our work looks at and engages and addresses attacks on black women and it seemed organic and necessary that we would speak on it.”

Trotter said Standing with heR has made attempts within the past year to speak with University administration on conflicts facing black members of the campus community and black women in general, but has been routinely redirected away from meeting with the chancellor.

Recently, the group requested a meeting with the chancellor to discuss their strategy to target racism on campus and heard back before the Dec. 2 deadline they gave.

Trotter said she believes the demands and goals presented to the University are tangible and that the University is capable of following through.

“We seek to have a situation in which the University actively recruits, retains and economically supports black women faculty who do a particular type of research because we believe that these women play a critical role in dismantling systems of privilege and oppression, so that’s actionable that’s something they can do,” Trotter said. “We asked them to take particular actions on reinstating a black woman faculty member in the college of Education; that’s something that they can do.”

Standing with heR works through the specific intersection on black women to discuss issues of racism and sexism. Trotter said that by addressing and working to alleviate issues that affect black women, campus as a whole will be uplifted.

“We believe and our taught through black feminist scholarship that if you attend to the needs of black women, then you attend to the needs of all people,” Trotter said. “We are concerned with black lives and then we make that specific and we think about black women, but by doing that, we attend to the situations and issues that impact all people.”

While the group sees meeting with administration as a step in the right direction, it is only the beginning of cooperation. She said she expects the University to “take the time — as they agreed to do — to read our letter, the list of demands that follow that letter and begin to think in critical ways and engage with us on how they can begin to ensure those demands are made tangible.”

Trotter said she expects a response from the administration by Jan. 16.

“It’s then that we begin to see what that partnership looks like in action, in practice,” Trotter said. “Cooperation and partnership is not this one time action.”

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