A Residential College mini-course focused on the “Black Lives Matter” protests concluded Wednesday with a panel featuring University President Mark Schlissel and Angela Dillard, LSA associate dean of Undergraduate Education.

Black Lives Matter is a nationwide movement started in response to multiple deaths of unarmed Black men in encounters with police officers over the past several months, notably involving the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York. The mini-course was intended to foster discussion both about the incidents and the protests, as well as talk about broader issues of inequity in the United States. It was open to faculty and community members as well as students.

The course has hosted several other guest speakers, including Shaka Senghor, an author and motivational speaker, and Detroit activist Ron Scott. Wednesday’s seminar provided an occasion for attendees to ask questions and express their opinions about issues regarding diversity on campus, particularly LSA’s Race and Ethnicity requirement. Several students drafted several proposals to change the requirement last year, and the LSA Curriculum Committee is currently looking into plans to review it.

Dillard’s presentation focused mainly on the history of the requirement, as well as how a series of events last year, such as the #BBUM movement, provoked initial discussion about reconsidering it.

The #BBUM Twitter campaign launched in November 2013 by members of the Black Student Union and was intended to express the experiences of Black students at the University. The hashtag generated thousands of tweets from across the country.

Dillard said the #BBUM campaign and other diversity-related expressions of student concerns generated an internal discussion within LSA about how to educate faculty on issues of diversity and inclusion.

“We believed that the way of addressing some of these concerns was to give faculty more information and then start to give them resources for how to think about microaggressions and the other kind of things the students were talking about, inside their own classrooms,” she said.

Speaking to broader University struggles with low minority enrollment, Dillard said one particularly troubling rate at which enrolled Black students leave the University for another institution.

She said the University must take decisive steps to make significant progress on the issue.

“When I think about race in America, I am increasingly coming to find that what we need to do is to not just think in incremental ways,” she said. “I think we’ve been really inhibited by that — we can only do things around the edges, that we have to be careful. So it means that nobody wants to do anything bold anymore.”

Dillard said there are currently about 99 courses that fulfill the University’s Race and Ethnicity requirement. She said 43 percent of these courses focus on issues within the United States. Overall, Anthropology 101 is the most popular.

She opened up conversation of specific reforms to the crowd, asking how attendees think the requirement could be reformed. Dillard said the committee planning the review of the requirement remains in the information gathering stages, and is still exploring what changes could be made.

Students’ concerns were mostly centered around whether the courses should focus more on past or current issues related to race, as well as whether current courses clearly address matters of race. Attendees also discussed how future courses could do a better job of educating students who haven’t previously engaged with these topics.

LSA freshman Darian Razdar, a frequent seminar attendee, said in an interview after Wednesday’s session that while he was confident Dillard is passionate about reforming the requirement, he was disappointed by omissions in the information she presented.

He pointed, in particular, to courses listed in part of the requirement that he said don’t focus heavily on race — an issue also raised during the group discussion.

“I feel that she should want to have substantive discussions of race happening, and I didn’t hear anything on that from her,” he said.

Schlissel also addressed the requirement. He said he didn’t think it was possible to design an ideal Race and Ethnicity requirement course, and that he liked the idea of many courses fulfilling the requirement.

“I think that one purpose of the race and ethnicity requirement is to promote the discussion,” he said. “Any kind of discussion that taps into this set of issues and that licenses you to speak with one another and to speak with the faculty about this set of issues of what it’s like to be part of a group or many groups in modern society in any context.”

Schlissel added that he felt the University did have an obligation to make everyone on campus feel safe, but said achieving that would require some unsettling conversations.

“If we want to make progress on this set of issues together, which I think most of us would recognize are the most challenging issues we’re dealing with in terms of the campus climate, we’re going to have to go through some uncomfortable times and some really difficult, challenging, threatening kind of conversations in order to educate each other and to see how one another are looking at these difficult issues,” he said.

Along with discussing the requirement, attendees also asked questions about a variety of issues, including campus police and faculty and staff knowledge of diversity issues.

In response to a question about his plans to increase diversity overall, Schlissel highlighted several initiatives from the past year. He pointed to his launch of a planning process for the whole campus to increase the diversity of the student body.

“There are series of creative ideas that are being considered, and we are going to pick some and get started and see how it works, with the goal of increasing diversity of the campus in many ways,” he said. “Not just racial and ethnic but socioeconomic, geographic. I think there is dearth of diversity of political thought on our campus — I think that’s an important thing to diversify. So, in many ways.”

Razdar said hearing from administrators exposed him to the realities of working within institutions.

“I didn’t really hear completely everything that I wanted to out of the president, in particular, when it comes to concrete solutions,” he said. “Obviously it’s hard for him to talk about that because he is getting to know the University after a year. I don’t know. I was slightly disappointed. I felt like he could be more pointed on his remarks.”

LSA sophomore Reon Dawson, who has attended several seminars, said while the guests addressed many issues, group discussions like Wednesday’s also showed that sometimes the challenge is not identifying problems, but implementing solutions to make the University a safer place.

“The way we talked about (diversity) in class, there was no set solution,” he said. “There were solutions, but nobody was ready to put it in place.”

In an interview with the Daily after the event, Schlissel said he thought these kind of discussions help make progress on these sets of issues

“The things I learned today give me a sense of what’s important to students, what’s important to some of the faculty and (to) this gentleman from town,” he said. “All these thing get incorporated in how we think about the plans we need to make.”

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