Diversity and minority student retention issues were discussed last night as a part of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Week, during an Emergency Black State of the Union held in conjunction with the Association of Balck Students (ABS), Coalition of Black Ambassadors (CBA) , the African Student Association (ASA), the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and Heavenly Voices.
“This meeting is just a time to roll out what we have been doing as black student leaders, what we have presented to our administration and what administration has done,” said Erin Gaddis, Baylor’s NAACP vice president.
The emergency meeting was called in response to the situation at the University of Missouri to ensure the community that Baylor students and administration have already been working together to address diversity and culture on campus.
The meeting focused on 13 suggested solutions to improve the retention of African American students at Baylor.
Gaddis said the suggestions are the result of a three year NAACP project. Some of their ideas are already being acted on, others will take more time and money.
The recommendations and their status are:
Recruiting and retaining more students of color outside of sports teams:
Gaddis said this is a constant work in progress.
Building or designating a multicultural center or building:
Dr. Kevin Jackson, the vice president for student life, said a multicultural center will be a part of the plans for a new l student life center in the next few months.
“I hope you see that we are making progress, but for as much progress as we have made there is much to be done,” Jackson said. “A multicultural center in a new student center is essential.”
He said they are also looking at different options for a multicultural center before the new student center is planned and built.
A domestic exchange program between predominantly white institutions and historically black college and universities:
Dr. Edwin Trevathan said a program like this is a matter of matching curriculum with other universities, but that plans are in the works.
“We’re very excited about it because it’s not only an opportunity for Baylor students to go to these universities for a semester, but also for those students to come to Baylor and experience a semester here,” Trevathan said.
A greater campus wide appreciation of black art and social life through concerts and university programming:
Gaddis said this has already started happening thanks to Monday night movies at the Hippodrome and Lecrae’s concert in October.
Hiring more faculty of color:
“I think the issue of faculty hirance is obviously critically important and one that I think all of us take very seriously,” Trevathan said.
He said the larger and more diverse the pool of applicants almost always means a better and more qualified pool of applicants.
Adding Harambee and Black Student Orientation to university Welcome Week events.
An increased minority organization fund:
Gaddis said $15,000 has been allocated this year to support minority organizations in their efforts to bring speakers to campus, decorate Homecoming floats or participate in Sing.
A greater fund for the All University Campus Diversity Committee:
Gaddis said that in the past, the committee has only been allocated $10,000, which leaves them fighting for pennies. She said more funding is on the way now.
A multicultural cabinet through the university president’s office.
A cultural climate check from the office of the president:
Gaddis said this happened at Black Student Orientation this year.
A student chief of diversity officer:
Gaddis said creating and filling this position is in progress.
A chief diversity officer for the university:
Gaddis said this position will be filled soon, and that a committee is hunting for the correct person to fill the job description.
Questions or feedback about the position can be directed to CDOGroup@baylor.edu.
Dr. Heidi Bostic, the chief of the commitee, said they have received a lot of good feedback, but also a few faculty members who were confused and concerned that the position would change Baylor’s values.
She said 99 percent of staff are in support and she said this will not be a shift in Baylor’s course.
Ramona Curtis, NAACP’s faculty adviser, said Baylor used to have a director of human relations, so the step to hire a chief diversity officer is a step back to that.
“I’m excited that there’s talk again of having a chief diversity officer,” Curtis said.
A cultural competency and awareness program through BU1000.
Gaddis said this has been addressed in community leader training, student life training and staff training in the fall of 2015.
She also said that the university is in the process of doing a campus wide cultural competency program.
As a part of their own efforts, NAACP will be starting a web series on cultural competence, based on real student experiences.
Gaddis said they will be turning them in to learning experiences and will focus on explaining vocabulary surrounding diversity and racial tension.
Their first episode will focus on micro-aggression and will be based on one of Gaddis’ experiences.
To get involved in filming or starring in the series, to offer an experience or to ask about the rest of this weeks events, students can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It doesn’t matter what color you are, you can be culturally incompetent and black,” Gaddis said.
Today, NAACP will be going to the Hilton in Waco on University Parks Drive at 7:00 p.m. for the Black Art Experience. Tomorrow, they will be hosting a seminar on correcting credit in Foster at 7:00 p.m. Friday night, NAACP will be participating in community service at the Bledsoe Miller Recreation Center.