Student groups join with UT department to promote diversity

Allison Harris

Two new student groups will help coordinate campuswide responses to diversity issues, a Diversity and Community Engagement official announced at a town hall meeting Wednesday.

The division’s vice president, Gregory Vincent, announced that a Diversity Student Advisory Committee, which will give him student input, and a Campus Climate Response Team, which will respond to incidents of bias, will launch next fall. The advisory committee and the Multicultural Engagement Center hosted the meeting, which about 55 people attended.

Vincent also recommended that Student Government and individual academic units create standing diversity committees.

“You have to make sure that things get institutionalized, meaning that they’re going to live beyond the time that you’re here,” he said. “Even though the students might change, the energy and the mission remains the same.”

Vincent said the division could try to reach out to the entire student population through campuswide events.

“We talk about, for example, what if the entire first-year class had a book that exposed them to these ideas?” he said.

Spokeswoman for the committee Leslie Blair said students at the Multicultural Engagement Center became interested in organizing a town hall after an incident at this year’s Roundup when a black female student claimed another student’s actions against her may have been racially motivated. A few weeks later on April 24, a student wearing blackface came to a Black Student Alliance meeting. Blair said the town hall could prevent
future problems.

“Sometimes issues arise related to campus climate because of misunderstandings or not understanding their culture or the perspective they’re coming from,” she said. “A town hall provides the opportunity to share your perspective and hear other people’s perspectives.”

Vincent said it would be essential to foster a more inclusive environment on campus even if those specific incidents didn’t happen occasionally.

“We’re the place where these issues can get rooted out, addressed, so when you go back to your communities you can go and serve to make sure that these issues of bias and exclusion are minimized and eventually eradicated,” he said.

Government senior Andrea Buckley said she hopes Vincent can host a larger forum with Student Government. Vincent said he would be open to doing so.

“A lot of people may not have known about this event,” she said. “I think issues get addressed on campus when SG is behind it, and I think it is a good idea to not just have one group or one office on campus looking at an issue, but getting several groups together.”