Conference to combat racism

By Lisa Daigle

In an attempt to decrease racial discrimination on college campuses, NIU will sponsor a conference open to all Midwestern colleges on Oct. 28.

“Racial Discrimination on Campus: Promoting Peer Initiatives and Student Action” will be the topic of the national one-day conference featuring Cherie Brown, founder of the Boston-based National Coalition Building Institute. Brown will lead most of the day’s discussions. The conference will last from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Don Buckner, special assistant to Barbara Henley, acting NIU vice president for student affairs, said the conference will take the “peer approach” to rid campuses of racial discrimination. “The peer approach is the best way to make an impression on values,” he said.

The event will feature three speakers—Silas Purnell, director of educational services at Ada S. McKinley Community Services in Chicago; Clarence Shelley, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana; and Jon Dalton, former NIU student affairs vice president, who now holds the same position at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Participants will spend most of their day listening to Brown speak on a specific topic concerning racial discrimination, and the audience will then break up into small discussion groups to analyze the problem, Buckner said.

This student interaction conference is a “follow up” to an administrative conference held at NIU last year. Three hundred administrators attended that event, 100 from NIU alone.

Conference organizers are encouraging student delegations from various organinzations to attend so the students can return to their campuses and organize their own anti-discrimination activities, he said.

Buckner said he expects at least 40 to 50 students from NIU’s residence hall councils and black student councils. He also expects student representatives from the ROTC, fraternities, sororities and the Black Student Union to attend.

The goal for NIU student attendance at the conference is 100 students, Buckner said, adding he expects to meet that figure.

Buckner said a 30-minute videotape will be made of the conference’s events. The tape will be distributed to other colleges to help stimulate discussion, he said.

“This is one step of many that has to be taken to tackle this problem of discrimination in our society,” Buckner said.

A pre-conference event scheduled for Oct. 27 will include performances by the Black Theater Workshop acting out racially discriminatory scenes to help stimulate discussion.

The conference is sponsored by the Midwest region of the National Association of Student Personal Administrators and co-sponsored by the NIU student affairs office.