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Niehoff responds to African American Alliance demands

January 28th, 2016

 

The African American Alliance (AAA) of John Carroll University recently proposed a series of systematic changes to increase racial equality on campus in the form of a list of 10 demands.

 

On Tuesday, Jan. 19, the Office of the President issued an e-mail to all students informing them of the actions to be taken by the University in response to reported incidences of injustice on racial grounds, as well as the AAA’s demands. The black cultural organization, which had presented similar demands in November 2015 to the Rev. Robert Niehoff S.J.

 

AAA continues to advocate for an environment of mutual respect and security between students of African-American and Caucasian descent.

 

AAA members feel there is a lingering spirit of racial divide at John Carroll. Their feelings are justified due to walking past racist graffiti on their way to residence halls and messages they perceived as threatening that were posted to Yik Yak, a mobile application.

 

Amid a larger wave of recent instances of racial strife across the country, Niehoff invited Rep.  Marcia L. Fudge, who represents Ohio’s 11th District, to speak on Jan. 19 in the Donahue Auditorium of the Dolan Center for Science and Technology. The theme of Rep. Fudge’s speech was affordability, inclusion, and access to higher education.

 

“We open the spring term with a focus on the urgent questions of inclusivity on college campuses in America and here at John Carroll,” Niehoff’s e-mail read. “I invited Rep. Fudge to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and to make the legacy shine even brighter on campus.”  Niehoff explained, “I feel this urgency because the light of inclusivity has dimmed across the nation, and we are not, as Martin Luther King Jr. observed, facing up to the truth that all men and women are ‘caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,’ a network that must be just and loving.”

 

He acknowledged “campus protests across the nation have occurred because prejudice still resides in our culture and exclusionary practices still operate in our systems.” In reaction to the complaints and propositions voiced by members of AAA in his office, Niehoff said he was saddened to hear that the dreams they had for their collegiate experience have been diminished. “These men and women are our students, and we cannot fail to support them as we do all of our students,” he wrote.

 

The President has committed himself to monthly meetings with Provost Jeanne Colleran, Vice President for University Mission and Identity Edward Peck, Vice President of Student Affairs Mark McCarthy, CSDI Director Danielle Carter and Assistant Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terry Mills to discuss the University’s collective progress toward inclusive excellence.

 

In addition to the policies and practices that are already in place. Niehoff will soon be implementing further actions regarding the ten demands raised by the AAA. The school plans to continue the progress with similar monthly conversations on inclusive excellence.

 

Other measures to be introduced in coming months include an improving of the Bias Reporting System. The goal of this system is to hold people accountable for discriminatory language and actions.  The plans to update the hiring procedures incorporates the AAA students’ opinions in hiring a diverse faculty.

 

In addition to increasing attention to diversity of faculty and students on campus, AAA hopes to build strong relationships with the Student Union Programming Board and actions and keep the University aware of these acts of intolerance.

 

With the goal of creating a culturally inclusive and racially aware campus, demands of AAA bring more minority faculty members and hiring a counselor for minority students as also planning to be addressed. However, the matter of a specific area allocated for the group requires further examination.

 

Niehoff, who asserts that in the meantime the University is “looking at ways to attract a more diverse student body,” has furthermore contacted several prominent African American members of the Greater Cleveland area to advise the University with regard to racial issues. He plans to engage them on making pathways for our students and on ways in which John Carroll can contribute effectively to a more just civic society.