President Glassman listens to students’ concerns about discrimination

President+Glassman+and+diversity+committee+member%2C+Samara+Abdoulaye+Pedila+discussed+issues+affecting+minority+groups+on+campus+of+Eastern+Saturday+in+the+Charleston%2FMattoon+room+of+the+Martin+Luther+King+Jr.+University+Union.

Justin Brown

President Glassman and diversity committee member, Samara Abdoulaye Pedila discussed issues affecting minority groups on campus of Eastern Saturday in the Charleston/Mattoon room of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union.

Chrissy Miller, Administrative Reporter

Students expressed concerns about discrimination students face from police, in campus housing and the Greek community during a forum with Eastern President David Glassman.

Glassman said making all students feel welcome and that diverse groups felt they had a voice in the community was important.

“We want to do our very best to be proactive and to do the things that are necessary in order for respect and inclusion to take place for everybody on this campus,” Glassman said.

Glassman said he wants students to know there is a presidential task force on diversity whose goal is to make the campus as inclusive as possible.

Maya Lee, a sophomore sociology major, said one issue she sees on campus is that housing arrangements seem to be based on race.

Lee said one example would be the differences between Thomas Hall and Taylor Hall. When Lee saw that Taylor houses predominantly minority students and Thomas houses mostly white students, she said, it discouraged her.

“Having that division automatically eliminates opportunities for real diversity,” Lee said. “When you do that, it limits the chance for exposure to people of different backgrounds so you’re automatically setting people up to stay closed into one group.”

Lee said besides Thomas Hall having nicer furniture and equipment, having the Honors floor housed there also seems discriminatory.

“I just feel like that sends a very wrong message to have the predominantly white hall being the one that has the Honors floor, because when you look deeper what does that really say?” Lee asked.

Glassman responded that housing was based not on race, but rather on seniority. He said Taylor Hall was already scheduled to have its lobby remodeled this summer.

“We don’t have the money to do all of (the halls) at the same time, so we stagger them,” Glassman said. “But that’s been approved for over the summer, so if you’re living in Taylor and you come back next fall, you’re going see a beautiful lobby.”

Dameon Cooks, a junior Africana Studies major, said even if unintentional, this grouping of minority students is detrimental to their growth.

“If you’ve got everybody from these same neighborhoods and you bunch them all together, it’s like we’re still in the same neighborhood,” Cooks said. “For these incoming freshmen that come to college to get this diverse type of feel, it’s not fair to them when we’re living in the dorm room we’re still like the South Side of Chicago.”

Cooks also brought up discrimination by the University Police Department against minority students.

Cooks said officers seemed to fine and ticket minority students more for things of little significance, like having a chair out on their porch in University Court.

Cooks said he has tried going to the director of his residence hall with these issues, but he was dismissed.

Catherine Polydore, a professor in counseling and student development, said she has witnessed some of this discrimination by University Police officers. One graduate student told her police followed him one day for no reason and questioned why he was going so many different places.

“It is within his right to go wherever as long as he wasn’t doing anything illegal,” Polydore said. “So, it happened multiple times.”

Hillary Fuller, a member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority, said discrimination is prominent in the Greek community as well.

Fuller said her sorority recently learned they were being called “Little Africa.”

“The (National Pan-Hellenic Council) building is where we live, it’s our home,” Fuller said. “It’s really insulting because I have to walk past these two-story, grand Greek houses and they come into my one-story Greek house, which I have a lot of pride in and call us ‘Little Africa’ for just living.”

Fuller said using this is a slur because it is meant to imply savagery.

“It’s not like I’m embracing my culture,” Fuller said. “It’s more like you spit on mine.”

Glassman said he needs to look into the inclusivity of Greek Week because African-American sororities and fraternities did not participate in it.

“If there are reasons as to why the Black fraternities are not participating in Greek Week… I’d like to know about it,” Glassman said. “I’d like to see it be holistic.”

Glassman said it will take time to address all these issues and create a truly inclusive university but he will do everything in his power to make the campus experience a positive one for all students.

“Inclusion isn’t a light switch that you can turn on and all of a sudden everybody accepts it, everybody embraces it and everybody moves towards it,” Glassman said. “It’s something that takes steps to move forward and bring people together.”

 

Chrissy Miller can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]