The UA Little Rock Race and Ethnicity Forum hosted another public forum over the summer just before the start of the Fall 2020 school year to cover topics relating to race on campus.
The forum aims to enhance equality and inclusion on campus through thoughtful and constructive dialogue from students, staff and faculty.
There was a Student Forum on Race and Ethnicity on Sept. 9 that lasted about an hour and thirty minutes. The forum’s format was webinar styled, so everyone’s cameras besides Chancellor Drale’s and a set of panelists were unavailable. The panelists included Dr. Mia Phillips, the Director of Student Experience and Inclusion Programs, Sharon Downs, the assistant Vice Chancellor for Wellness and Inclusion, and Chair of the Diversity Council. The panelists on the forum also included Lauren Wilson, a graduate assistant in the Multicultural Center and an American Sign Language interpreter.
The students were able to ask questions and share their thoughts through the chatbox on Zoom. Wilson would check the chatbox for questions and comments and relay them back to Chancellor Drale and the other panelists.
At the beginning of the discussion, Drale mentioned that the university would be relaunching the Multicultural Center on campus.
“We are going to locate that Multicultural Center in Ottenheimer Library,” she said.
Wilson was one of the first participants to propose a question to Drale.
“How will you specifically be working to ensure these effects last beyond your term as a chancellor or beyond this time where it’s being publicized in the news and being talked about globally?” she asked.
Chancellor Drale acknowledged the fact that these systematic racial issues will be long-lasting and will take time for improvement to be noticed.
“Those are things that are not just ‘oh we’re going to talk about it and do a discussion today then a year from now nothing has changed or we’ve forgotten everything that we determined was important,” she said.
Drale said that one way to combat the issue is to start with its roots and address those problems first.
“These issues didn’t form overnight,” she said. “They won’t be solved overnight either.”
Drale also mentioned that establishing a standing committee whose purpose is to continuously examine how racial issues would be a good place to start.
“By doing that, we can have a better chance of addressing those systemic problems that need to be acknowledged,” she said.
Landon Dekay, the Student Government Association (SGA) president, asked if it would be in the interest of the University to make African American history a core requirement for graduation.
“It would probably be a good thing,” Drale said. “The problem is that the curriculum is the purview of the faculty, so it’s not something a chancellor can dictate. However, one of the things I think that has been a positive aspect of this discussion is that faculty, chairs, and deans want to promote their courses that are already available to students about this topic. They want to encourage not only students to sign up, but for the faculty and staff to audit them.”
Another student asked about the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), a council that consists of nine predominantly Black sororities and fraternities, and if it was possible if the NPHC could have their own spot on campus that could be used for events once deemed acceptable by the university.
Phillips stated that they have been working on this long-standing issue.
“This issue has been present since I’ve been at the university,” Phillips said. “We recognize that their is not fair treatment as far as space and reservations for events for Greek organizations. However, each organization is important and valuable to the university, and we will continue to fully combat this issue.”
More Forums like these will appear throughout the school year.