Seminar targets racial diversity

By Stephanie Bradley

Officials from midwestern colleges said during NIU’s Feb. 4 conference on racism that diversity should be made more apparent.

Barbara Henley, assistant vice president for student affairs, said during a seminar entitled “Racial Diversity on Campus,” minority students are alienated on college campuses, and if the trend continues, students will be likely to choose schools more open to them. Awareness and appreciation of diversity should be apparent as soon as a student walks on campus, she said.

Henley said NIU’s Unity through Diversity Week was the beginning of an attempt to show appreciation of diversity. She said even though it was one week, it was “better than nothing.”

Walter Gilliard, a University of Dayton administrator, said appreciation of diversity has to start at the very top—with college administrators. He said he would like to see an advisory committee made up of students, faculty and staff.

“Racism is alive and well on campus, and there is a large number of people who don’t think they are racist but (they) are,” Gilliard said. Programs should target these people, he said.

William Monat, NIU political science professor, made several recommendations to promote diversity. A discrimination hotline might be established as a basis for reporting complaints. Students would call the hotline to find out where they could report complaints of racial harassment, he said.

Monat said a summer orientation for new students and faculty might address the idea of diversity to parents, students and faculty. Another idea is for administrators to make it clear that racism of any kind will not be tolerated by the university, and offenders will be punished. A specific judicial code might be set up to deal with it, he said.

Monat said he realizes racism cannot be eliminated, but it can be made so it is not feasible to practice it. He said there is “a perception that minority students and staff perceive themselves functioning in an environment that is at best indifferent and at worst hostile.”

DeKalb is not necessarily a friendly place, he said, but it is up to the staff, students and faculty to make it one.