Officials comment on week’s events

By Jim Wozniak

Administrators, faculty and legislators attended a reception Wednesday held for author Jacqueline Fleming, the legislative black caucus and two Board of Regents members as part of Unity Through Diversity Week.

Fleming, who spoke Wednesday night on the “impact of campus environment on minority student achievement and retention,” said although she is not aware of all the events this week, she believes it helps reduce racial tensions.

“I do think it helps when the administration backs what has been planned,” she said. “Students only do what they think they can get away with. There’s quite an administrative presence here.”

Jon Dalton, vice president for student affairs, said he is pleased with the week so far even though the white Greek/black Greek forum was canceled Tuesday night and the white racism forum had only one student in attendance.

“I think the attendance has been great,” he said. “I thought the turnout for the international foods has been good. Some things have been better attended than others. I think there’s been a very good spirit this week. I don’t think everyone can be directly involved. I think everyone knows this week is going on.

“The Unity Through Diversity Week has been a collection of things, and obviously not everything will be well-attended.”

Dalton said the committee that arranged the week will compile an evaluation later to determine which events might be retained if the event returns in the future.

Ken Beasley, assistant to NIU President John LaTourette, said the president also has been pleased with the week. But Beasley said he does not know yet whether LaTourette would like to have the event again next year.

“I do know he is very concerned about building tolerance for others,” Beasley said. “He feels very strong about this.”

Walt Owens, a physical education professor and member of LaTourette’s Task Force on Discrimination, said the week has created awareness but will not stop racism entirely because “people are unaware.”

“It’ll make a change this week,” he said. “I think the awareness is a plus. Anything is good. I’ve coached people who were unaware of minorities. When Detroit opened up the schools to blacks, they became aware.”

Admasu Zike, director of the Center for Black Studies, agreed with the others by saying the week will help combat the recent racial incidents that have emerged on campus.

“It won’t solve it, but it’s a good start,” he said. “I don’t think there is a specific, written-down goal (for the week), but I’m pretty satisfied with the diversity of programs. Some of the attendance is a bit disappointing, but I would like to credit the people who helped.”

With the $3.3 million budget cut Gov. James Thompson imposed on NIU this summer, the university was forced to seek additional funding by raising tuition $150 for the spring semester.

Some in attendance said the hike would harm minority access to higher education or harm programs universities might want to implement.

“Not only in higher education, but in elementary and secondary education is where the problems will be,” Regent Jerome Bender said. “ISU (Illinois State University) had several programs—one on early intervention problems in Rockford—(that had to be scrapped).”

Fleming said, “Any increased finance causes problems for minorities. Lack of resources is basically th