NORMAL — Illinois State University President Larry Dietz is inviting concerned groups to meet with him and the Campus Climate Task Force in the wake of a protest march and accusations that ISU is treating black students and their organizations unequally.
The Black Homecoming Committee in a series of tweets raised questions about a homecoming event that it had to cancel and whether it was treated fairly. But the group also made clear that its concerns and the march it organized on Monday extended beyond homecoming.
More than 260 people took part in the march around the quad to the steps of Hovey Hall, the ISU administration building, chanting, “This fake diversity has got to go.”
In a letter emailed to students, faculty and staff late Tuesday afternoon, Dietz said, “It troubles me deeply when Illinois State is characterized as not upholding its value of diversity and inclusion ....”
He said students, faculty and staff should raise any concerns they have, “and I promise that we take those concerns seriously.”
He said, “In the coming days, I will be inviting representatives from concerned student, faculty and staff groups to meet with the Campus Climate Task Force and me. We promise to listen to ideas and determine how we can move forward in making Illinois State University a better place for everyone.”
The Campus Climate Task force was created about two years ago to address diversity and inclusion, including not only race issues but also gender equity and concerns from the LGBT community.
After Monday's noon hour rally, the Black Homecoming Committee and Black Student Union had a meeting Monday night at which students could express their concerns about and experiences with discrimination or unequal treatment.
Vice President for Student Affairs Levester Johnson and Dean of Students John Davenport both attended the meeting — to listen, not talk.
“I thought things went well,” Johnson said Tuesday. “The students had an opportunity to share their experiences that they've had on campus.”
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Davenport said, “We're taking this to heart.”
The Pantagraph reached out to the Black Homecoming Committee through email and Twitter for a response to Dietz's letter but did not receive a reply.
However, the Black Homecoming Committee did compose a form letter with the subject “Black ISU Demands,” which it encouraged concerned students and others to email to Dietz and other administrators.
The letter said, “As marginalized students, our experience has proven that diversity and inclusion is not upheld by Illinois State University.” It stated that they “receive major pushback” when trying to create an experience that the university fails to do.
“We demand to be valued with equity,” the letter said.
Among the demands made in the Black Homecoming Committee letter were:
• Transparency related to “policies and procedures pertaining to event planning, venue updates and reservations.”
• Accountability for discrimination and equal treatment related to requirements for metal detectors, pat downs and extra security.
• An unbiased task force to assess the concerns of minority groups, including roommate, professor/classroom and general concerns.
Although Monday's protest related to a broad range of issues, the triggering event was cancellation of a homecoming event the committee was planning. The group said its reservation for a concert at Redbird Arena was canceled because of a last-minute volleyball practice.
However, Dietz said in his letter that information regarding scheduling conflicts was inaccurate and that security concerns raised about the potential event applied to the entire university, not just certain groups or individuals.