A coalition of diversity councils told University of Iowa's president that they are "severely disappointed and frustrated" with the campus' response, or lack of a response, to the Black Live Matter movement in an open letter Monday.
The letter, which comes after local protests against police brutality and racism in policing practices, is endorsed by seven committees at the UI dedicated to diversity, including the African American Council. In the letter, the councils say university leadership appears "oblivious to the intense fear, struggle and trauma that permeates the University of Iowa community each day."
The letter references recent student accounts of racism in athletics setting as well as the student-led 2019 #DoesUIowaLoveMe Twitter campaign, where students shared their experiences with racism on campus. The letter also references a 2018 classroom incident that led a Black student, a Rhodes Scholar, to stop attending class.
"When it comes to social justice and diversity, equity and inclusion commitments, the trust between students, staff and faculty and the top administration at the University of Iowa has been decimated," the letter reads. "Students, in particular, are traumatized, tired and targeted."
In addition to the African American Council, the letter is signed by the Council on Disability Awareness, the Council on the Status of Women, the Latinx Council, the LBGTQ+ Council, the Native American Council and the Pan Asian Council.
What the diversity committees want of the UI
Members of these councils point to a statement by the university's president and provost in response to the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died of suffocation after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes. In the statement, provost Montserrat Fuentes and president Bruce Harreld wrote that "each of us must lead change within our individual communities to actively disrupt racism (interpersonal, systemic and societal)."
The group offers the following three suggestions, which they say will go toward the administrator's efforts to make good on their call to lead the change:
- Respond personally to students who are Black, Indigenous or people of color and have expressed frustrations and fears to administrators.
- Appoint an interim assistant vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion immediately.
- Consider input from diversity councils when in "the decision-making processes that guide the institution."
The letter is signed with "sincerity and great expectations."
"We offer our expertise and strengths to you and senior administration as willing partners in working to heal the deep wounds of mistrust, fear and trauma in our communities," the letter reads.