Last November, after a lengthy meeting with a group of black students, University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto ordered that a controversial mural in Memorial Hall depicting black worker or slaves to be covered up. He also convened a task force to decide how to display the mural in the future.
But now the students want to know how he is dealing with the many other and more substantive topics they discussed, issues that range from the enrollment and graduation gap for minority students to college access and affordability.
To that end, the UK Black Graduate and Professional Student Association, along with the Lexington NAACP, has issued a “call to action,” an open letter to UK administrators that they hope hundreds of people will sign. In addition, they’ve invited UK administrators to speak at a “UK Call to Action Town Hall” on Feb. 29 at the Singletary Center from 7-9 p.m.
“Addressing the university community at this event will foster a sense of trust, transparency, and help alleviate frustration among African/African American students,” the letter says. “Let us continue to work together, openly and transparently, in order to create an environment that truly promotes equality, equity, inclusion, and diversity at the University of Kentucky.”
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The group’s specific recommendations include the following:
▪ UK should create accountability measures and consequences for colleges and departments in order to reach the diversity goals outlined in the 2015-2020 strategic plan. Those metrics are detailed for students, faculty and administration. For example, under-represented students now make up 11.6 percent of student enrollment. The target for 2020 is 12.9 percent.
▪ UK should have a campus-wide racial climate survey to track concerns and assess improvements.
▪ The UK Office of Institutional Diversity should include a harassment reporting office for formal reporting and remediation procedures for harassment cases. In addition, UK should select black students to serve on the search committee for the new vice president of institutional diversity.
The group met with Capilouto again last week for more than two hours, UK spokesman Jay Blanton said. He called it “a very productive discussion about the institution’s efforts to be responsive to many of the issues being raised — from access and affordability and support services to recruitment and retention of faculty ... Everyone involved in the meeting agreed that tangible progress has been made. And we all agreed that there is still much work to do in addressing these issues and others. To that end, we applaud these students and their continued resolve to make sure these issues are a matter of important focus for the university. We look forward to continuing our work together.”