The tongue is proportionally the strongest muscle in the human body.
That being the case, members of Students Together Against Racism, or STAR, are urging fellow students and faculty members to flex it to speak out against racism.
Northern Kentucky University has grown rapidly in size and status, and will continue to grow at such a rate in the future. An increase in racial and cultural diversity among NKU students will accompany the continuing rise in student enrollment and will require expansion to accommodate the university’s ever-evolving student body.
Changes to the curriculum, staff availability, and campus space in regards to the diverse population is a common concern of campus groups interested in eliminating kinks that exist within the university’s racial relations.
STAR, Latin Student Union (LSU), Black United Students (BUS), Black Women’s Organization (BWO), Black Men’s Union (BMO), and Delta Sigma Theta are the main campus organizations focused on improving race relations at NKU.
Members of STAR hosted a dialogue on Nov, 13, which involved audience members and the administrative panel of NKU speaking out about questions, concerns, and issues regarding minorities on campus.
Eleanor Wells, an, African-American STAR member and co-host with Lovingson Mtongwiza, a journalism major from Zimbabwe, began the evening discussion when she said, “Racism cannot be fixed in one day. There is no quick fix.”
Students said they wanted to see more full-time faculty of varied races for better teacher availability, especially those teaching courses that focus on or around cultures and ethnicities of foreign peoples.
Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences, Barry Anderson, said, “[NKU officials attended] a recent conference specifically to recruit members for teaching in African and Latin studies. It is hard, because there is a small pool to recruit from, but they are looking. It must be done carefully, slowly.”
Rogers Redding, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost, commented, “In the last three years [the administration has] identified and set aside funds for recruitment of faculty of color. It is an extremely competitive market, because every university in the country wants this also.”
An updated curriculum of classes was also an issue. Students want more courses available that are of relation to or focused on racial and cultural studies.
Student Annette Fournier suggested NKU bring back the African-American dance class she participated in last year. The class, which has been discontinued, was listed in the directory under ‘Special Topics and Dance’, and requirements to take the class included previous dance classes completed and the Head of the Music Department’s consent.
Fournier said, “It was a wonderful class, lecture-based, we danced, we traveled places. Most people couldn’t get into it or find it because it was listed under a strange title and had strict requirements to keep non-music majors from [taking] the class.”
Another main concern discussed was the need for NKU to expand the offices that minority groups occupy on campus. Students, especially LSU President Melissa Alvarez, insisted that larger offices would attract more minorities to NKU and to give groups working in the offices more room. Alvarez said, “If steps are not taken to meet [our] requests, I recommend the university re-evaluate its multi-cultural mission statement.”
Katie Herschede, President of Student Government, voiced her idea on how to effectively expand campus diversity offices. “Instead of thinking about growth of offices in competition, think of a diversity center that houses all offices in one building to work together; not in competition. That could have a great effect for growth over the future of NKU.”
Mark Shanley, Vice President for Student Affairs, said, “[President Votruba] and administration are very interested in listening to and understanding issues. Are we perfect? No. Are we committed to change and progress? Yes. At NKU, we believe the glass is more full than empty.”
Committing to change and progress is helpful, but the solution comes in action. STAR member since 2000 and a speaker at the dialogue, student Desera Favors wants to handle issues, not just by talking but elimination. “Being silent only contributes to the problem.”