Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include a response from the Cockrell School of Engineering.
The UT National Society of Black Engineers released a statement with eight demands to the Cockrell School of Engineering leadership Wednesday in light of the recent protests for justice in the police killings of Black Americans including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Mike Ramos.
The statement, signed by more than 30 student organizations and almost 300 students, faculty and alumni, said Cockrell is failing to support its Black students, and called for the school to better meet the needs of its members.
“We know that there are some changes that they're trying to push behind the scenes, but we know there's a lot more that can be done to ensure that Cockrell is a place where Black students … feel welcomed and are also put in a position to succeed academically and in their careers,” UT NSBE President Alexander Tekle said.
Cockrell officials, including Dean Sharon L. Wood, responded Thursday to the list of demands in a letter sent to students.
“As members of the Texas Engineering community, we know we must do better to address the needs of Black students — and all underrepresented minorities — within our school and throughout the greater STEM community,” said the letter, signed by Wood, Christine Julien, assistant dean of diversity, equity and inclusion, and Michele Meyer, assistant dean of engineering student services.
Six out of 284 Cockrell engineering professors in 2019-2020 are Black, according to the student statement. The statement demands that the school hire more Black faculty, administrators and advisers.
“We urge the Cockrell School to diversify its staff to create an environment where Black students feel represented and welcomed,” the statement said.
The statement also proposes the school create a Cockrell Diversity Report, a yearly statistical summary of the number of Black faculty and the number of Black students in each major.
Tekle, an electrical engineering senior, said the organization went through all the professors in Cockrell and counted the number of Black professors themselves since they could not find the number publicly available.
Cockrell’s letter said a previously planned UT Engineering Diversity Report is scheduled to be completed August 2020.
The statement also demands that Cockrell expands outreach for prospective Black students and proposes that Cockrell create a “Black Youth Day” event. The event would invite Black children at neighboring schools to the University for a day to participate in STEM activities.
“This event can provide a long-lasting impact on the youth in our communities and will serve as a reminder that they are welcomed at the Forty Acres and are more than capable of becoming engineers,” the statement said.
In their response, Cockrell officials proposed creating a planning team this summer that will commit to organizing a Black Youth Day.
On June 5, UT’s Association of Black Computer Scientists released a list of demands to the University and the computer science department to create a safe space for Black students. The organization called on the department to enact immediate change, including increased representation in administration.
Tekle said UT students should stand in solidarity with each other through this time since there is strength in numbers.
“All these minority groups on campus should work together to really demand change in order to make the Forty Acres more inclusive and more equitable,” Tekle said.
Tekle said Thursday night he was pleased with Cockrell’s response to the list of demands.
“We're definitely glad to see that (Cockrell administration) is also in agreement about this … and just overall listen more to (UT NSBE) on how we can make the school better for Black students,” Tekle said.