SIU administrators succumb to student demands, issue new ‘diversity plan’

Southern Illinois University surrendered to student protesters Tuesday, issuing a new diversity plan in response to a May 2 campus-wide walkout.

Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell unveiled the plan in a message to the campus community, saying the university’s goal is to provide a “welcoming campus where all of our students, faculty, and staff can study and work in a respectful, positive environment free from racism and intimidation.”

The new initiatives come in the wake of a May 2 protest in which more than 200 students angry with “racism, sexism, student debt, the state’s historic budget impasse, and administrators’ salaries” marched through campus shouting slogans including “No justice, no peace,” “Hands up, don’t shoot!” and “Fuck Donald Trump!”

[RELATED: SIU students to hold strike against austerity, ‘rampant environmental destruction’]

The day after the protest, Colwell put forth SIU’s diversity plan, which includes seventeen points “to improve the climate of our campus,” “to better support all of our students,” and “to ensure that our faculty and staff better reflect the diversity of our community.”

One aspect of the plan involves the creation of a campus-wide diversity council drawing from numerous constituent groups, including students, which Colwell expects to be in place by the fall semester.

Additionally, SIU hopes to “integrate cultural diversity into the curriculum.” Although no specifics were given, similar campus protests, such as November’s Mizzou campus unrest, yielded specific plans to require “diversity-intensive” courses for graduation.

Several conversations and workshops that focus on “understanding, valuing, and respecting diversity” are also now scheduled for the fall. Accordingly, SIU plans to “incorporate cultural awareness” in its fall orientation for incoming freshmen, and even amended its student conduct code to “ensure that it adequately addresses discrimination and intimidation.”

Moreover, SIU will require administrators to demonstrate “knowledge, skills, and abilities in diversity and cultural competency” when interviewing for a top spot at the university, and even intends to train hiring managers to spot qualified candidates from “a range of backgrounds.”

“SIU embraces its tradition of access, opportunity, and inclusive excellence,” said Colwell, whose university has earned four consecutive Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Awards for “initiatives supporting all aspects of diversity: gender, race, ethnicity, veterans, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ community.”

The May 2 Strike Committee, whose demands SIU was responding, have not issued a public response.

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