Black students at Weber State University (WSU) in Utah held a public meeting last week to share their personal experiences of racial discrimination on campus while demanding change from the administrators in attendance.
Dressed in black, students spoke about feelings of marginalization and isolation at the school and discussed the reasons behind the declining enrolment of Black students at the university over the last five years.
President Brad Mortensen, Vice President of Academic Affairs Ravi Krovi, Chief Diversity Officer Adrienne Andrews, and Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Enrique Romo attended the meeting. Additional administrators also attended via Zoom.
‘Personal Harms Have Threatened Our Well-Being’
The conversation comes at a time when the school, along with several others, is helping students process the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted for the murder of George Floyd.
During the event, students shared several personal examples of racism they have encountered from fellow students, faculty, staff, and police officers. They also described how campus police laughed at students who took part in the Black Lives Matter protests last year. This environment of racism has led to many students leaving WSU.
Jordan Stephens, one of the students who sat on the panel, said, “We don’t trust the administration’s words of wisdom because we feel as though personal harms have threatened our well-being intellectually, emotionally, and physically.”
That said, Stephens finds it encouraging that his university has finally embarked on a discussion about racial injustice, although it “needs to back up what it says with action.”
To redress the wrongs experienced by Black students, students now want the university to set up an ethnic studies curriculum as part of general studies requirements and provide redress for the harm caused by racist incidents.
When the floor opened up for administrators to speak, Andrews, who has worked at the school for 16 years, was quick to defend WSU. She claimed that the school is actively working on diversity issues. “I’m always willing to show up, do whatever I can, however I can to support you,” she stated.
Mortensen also assured the speakers that the school would take action to alleviate students’ concerns. “We look forward to continuing working on the issues that have been discussed,” he said.