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Trustees react to diversity worries

Black Student Union protests before meetings

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Mar. 6, 2006 

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Members of IU's Black Student Union assembled Friday to let IU administrators know they're concerned about a lack of diversity in University leadership.

With both IU President Adam Herbert and men's basketball coach Mike Davis announcing their imminent departures, members of the group took last week's board of trustees meeting as an opportunity to have their voices heard. About six to eight students stood with signs, such as "More Dollars for Minority Scholars," outside the Frangipani Room of the Indiana Memorial Union, before the board's academic affairs meeting at 8 a.m. and the business meeting at 2:30 p.m.

Courtney Williams, president of the Black Student Union, said the demonstration was sparked by IU losing its first black president and first black head coach of any sport.

Herbert announced he would not stay beyond the end of his contract in July 2008. Davis announced he is stepping down this season and reached a buyout for his contract with the University.

Still, Williams said the issues go far deeper than just Adam Herbert or Mike Davis.

"Diversity is not a new issue," she said. "IU has had a problem with diversity for quite some time."

Williams said members of the BSU are concerned that black employees make up only 3.8 percent of IU's faculty, staff and administration -- the same percentage of black students enrolled at IU, according to the Office of Academic Support and Diversity. Only 9.2 percent of the student body and 12.27 percent of the faculty are minorities.

Sophomore Sara Alghani, historian for the BSU, said having more black faculty and administrators at IU would have a positive impact on students.

"Having these positive role models on a predominately white campus can make a big difference for students," Alghani said.

Two agenda items at the academic affairs meeting dealt directly with increasing diversity at IU. The trustees discussed changes in search committees and admissions standards.

Charlie Nelms, vice president for institutional development and student affairs, said he thinks that changes need to be made to IU's search and screening process to attract more minority candidates for positions at IU. He said one of his main suggestions is to have more diversity on the search committees.

"It's not enough to have an affirmative action policy," he said. "We need to make diversity in searches a University priority."

IU already has several measures in place to ensure diversity in hiring. Still, trustees Sue Talbot and Steve Ferguson said the policy is hard to enforce.

"We have language that says we need a diverse pool of candidates and we promote it every time, but it's tough to enforce," she said. "It really comes down to who is conducting the searches."

The trustees discussed changes to the makeup of searches and whether some positions could simply be appointed without searches. Herbert has said that bypassing searches would affect diversity.

The Bloomington Faculty Council also had a first reading at the meeting of the new admissions policy, which could make IU more elite. Some say the policy will have a negative impact on diversity enrollment.

The policy proposes that students need to take additional math and language courses and that preference will be given to students with a B-average or better and Indiana students who rank in the top 40 percent of their class or the top 30 percent of their class if from out of state.

The policy could be approved by as early as the next meeting and would go into effect in 2011.

Alvin Chambliss, visiting professor in education and African-American studies and famous civil rights attorney, said he thought the new policy would still hurt IU's diversity. He said it's unreasonable to give preference to those with higher test scores and not expect diversity to be negatively affected.

Nelms said he was thrilled with the students' involvement.

"I've been here for more than eight years, and I don't ever remember a group of black students coming to a trustees meeting," he said.

 

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