Saturday, February 14, 2015

Imagining increased opportunities for African American students

SIUE students meet with Chancellor Julia Furst-Bowe

For years now, I have been organizing "listening sessions" on campus, where groups of people discuss barriers and opportunities concerning "students like us," as one participant put it. On Wednesday, February 11, Chancellor Julie A. Furst-Bowe joined and co-hosted one of the sessions with me. The gathering included about 25 students and a few faculty, staff, and administrators.

During the one-hour event, participants offered suggestions on how we might expand university services to address the paucity of African American students involved in extracurricular academic and professional activities at SIUE. As more than one commentator noted, black students are largely excluded from special opportunities like the university's full-scholarship program and the honors program.

Even though some sectors of the university have touted the record high enrollment of black students at SIUE, there are areas that have not changed. For instance, black faculty have remained somewhere around 5% to 6% for at least the last 20 years. Many academic departments struggle to offer courses that reflect the shifting diversity of the student body.

Our gathering gave us an opportunity to address some of those concerns and others with the lead university official. The event was notable, among other reasons, for suggesting that the lives, experiences, and perspectives of African American students at our university matter. Too often, black students are viewed as mere objects to help diversify marketing photographs or to serve as potential audience members to be talked at.

By contrast, on Wednesday, students had the opportunity to actively participate in sharing and producing knowledge. In addition to having the Chancellor in attendance, the event was significant because of the diversity of the participants, which included students from different majors, at different stages of their academic careers, and from multiple groups around campus.

The gathering was an important step in a longer process of increasing academic and professional opportunities for African American students.

Collegiate Students
Spring 2015 Programming

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