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OPINION: Another Kelley professor's comments make black students feel unwelcome



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Students work Jan. 29 in Hodge Hall. Izzy Myszak

Two weeks ago, I wrote a column about the hypocrisy of Google profiting off of black bodies but not supporting black people. Kelley School of Business senior lecturer Benjamin Schultz did not agree that Google was at fault. He argued that the value of a company lies in its value of shareholders and that Google has no reponsibility to increase diversity. 

While I am always open to criticism being a writer, that does not mean I am open to ignorance as to how society functions, especially from someone teaching the next generation of business professionals. Schultz said I was comparing apples and oranges by criticizing Google for having low rates of racial diversity while also making an advertisement about Black History Month. But celebrating black contributions to society is different from actually giving black people opportunities to be great.

The Kelley School of Business must do more to foster a comfortable community for students of color. Especially following the widely discussed racist, sexist and homophobic comments by Kelley professor Eric Rasmusen, it's clear there have been too many incidents with professors espousing questionable beliefs about diversity and inclusion.

I was immediately confused and disappointed as to how a marketing professor could foster these harmful views. I could not help but to imagine how a minority student in his class would feel knowing their professor does not recognize the importance of diversity in companies. 

Decades of research have shown that fostering a diverse environment leads to increased productivity and profitability. 

“Whether we like it or not, publicly held companies in this country exist for the sole reason of improving shareholder value,” Schultz wrote in his letter. 

In August 2019, Business Roundtable released a new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation. The statement was signed by 181 CEOs. 

The statement included five commitments which include: delivering value to our customer, investing in our employees, dealing fairly and ethically with our suppliers, supporting the communities in which we work and generating long-term value for shareholders. 

So, clearly only improving shareholder value is not the sole reason for businesses to exist. And that is not coming from me — it's coming from almost 200 people who are well-versed in how businesses function. 

I met with Kelley School of Business Dean Idie Kesner and Joshua Perry, Glaubinger Chair for Undergraduate Leadership and Associate Professor of Business Law, and they brought the Business Roundtable to my attention. 

They also acknowledged not all of their professors are fully aware of the five commitments. 

Kesner said she will open a discussion about the Business Roundtable at the required training sessions for faculty.

While Kelley has various diversity organizations and programs in place, some students believe the school is not doing enough to foster a safe learning environment. 

Senior Swede Moorman III is an economic consulting and business analytics major. Moorman is part of Mu Beta Lambda, the nation’s first minority business fraternity. He believes Kelley should do more to make minority students feel comfortable.

He said Kelley’s value proposition is to get their students jobs and in the workplace. 

“If I am a minority student and there is faculty that doesn’t value my worth, how am I supposed to do that?” he said. 

Moorman believes a major component is a person’s compassion and cultural awareness. He acknowledged that Kelley has a diversity task force, but the incidents have not necessarily slowed down, so one must question how effective they truly are. 

Moorman said the black population at Kelley is very close knit and believes the biggest change will come if students organize to demand action. 

Jorge Hutton, a senior at SPEA majoring in management and a member of Mu Beta Lambda, believes it is difficult feeling less supported as a black student at IU. He thinks it is unacceptable that these discriminatory ideas and thoughts are continuing to be fostered.

“Who wants to come to a school where they don’t feel welcome?” Hutton said. “We fight tooth and nail to have equal spaces and equal opportunities. This is 2020, yet it feels like 1963.”

Hutton believes unwelcoming comments from professors could be harmful for a minority student in Kelley, and it could discourage black students from applying to major corporations such as Google. This is clearly detrimental to the learning environment and does not offer a space where every student can feel valued, appreciated and seen. 

When asked what he would say to Schultz, Hutton said, “I am black, but I am also equal. I fit any business model. I add value to everything that I encounter. I am a human. There is no business model that I can’t fit. I have no words for a person who has already counted me out.”

Jaclyn Ferguson (she/her) is a junior studying journalism and African American studies. She is the secretary of the National Association of Black Journalists at IU.

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