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Coalition of Black clubs urges ND officials to take action against racism, hate

| Friday, June 5, 2020

In a statement released Friday the Notre Dame Black Student Association (BSA) called members of the University community to action in regards to racial injustice. The statement was signed by members of the BSA, Africana Studies Club, Black Business Association, Black Cultural Arts Council, Frontline, Multicultural Pre-Medicine Society, National Society of Black Engineers, Shades of Ebony and Wabruda.

The statement identified six main areas for improved action, the first being amongst campus and local policing. In addition to annual extensive racial bias training, the statement requests the University inform the student body about instances of racial injustice that occur in the greater South Bend community.

“We currently receive emails about thefts that happen in the area so there is a platform for which this action can occur,” the statement said. “Acknowledging a loss of life does not require a political stance and would further bridge the divide between Notre Dame and South Bend.”

In regards to boundaries and challenges in student life, “Black students also face additional burdens as they interact with peers and faculty on campus,” the statement said.

BSA implored the administration to recruit more students of color in an effort to make the student body more representative of the United States population.

Additionally, the statement asked the administration to “reiterate the University’s intolerance to any act of discrimination and increase transparency when situations arise,” and for all students to strive to create an inclusive environment. 

In regards to mental health, the statement requests that the University pay better attention to the mental health of Black students as racial trauma prevails in daily life. The statement acknowledged virtual resources available from the University Counseling Center (UCC) regarding racial injustice, but stated that they were not adequate. 

“These responses are insufficient in terms of providing the correct form of help to its Black students who may experience an increase of anxiety and depression and overall uncertainty, during this time,” the statement said. 

The statement outlined three calls to action including the addition of more Black counselors to the UCC staff, the inclusion of mental health related questions to the Inclusive Campus Survey and for a more thorough plan of action for students to deal with situations, much like the current one. 

In regards to professors and staff, the statement asked the University to require professors to take diversity training and a cultural competency test prior to teaching in order to combat against professors who engage in problematic behavior that harms Black students.

Black students have made note of professors who allow other students to overstep boundaries, professors who force Black students to speak on subjects about Black struggles, or professors who make racist/prejudiced comments or allow other students to make them,” the statement said.

The students urged the administration to commit to hiring more Black professors and administrators in every school and major in the University, as the lack of diversity makes it difficult for Black students to connect to their processors. In addition, the statement pointed out a retention issue for the few Black professors employed by the University, and asked the administration to provide more Black professors with an avenue for tenure. 

“Black professors have varied bodies of knowledge that are not only reflected in their research but the way that they structure their classes,” the statement said. “Even if they are not teaching subjects about race, Black students will still feel more comfortable contributing in class and going to office hours if their professors look like them.”

While the Moreau First Year Experience includes units on privilege and cultural competency, the statement said these components “often fall short because of unfamiliarity from both students and instructors.”

The statement urged all students to participate in these conversations rather than simply depending on students of color to contribute and offered structural changes to the course to make the units more effective. The statement suggested a cultural competency and privilege component to the end of semester capstone project for the fall and spring semesters, respectively, and proposed dedicating five classes to discussions regarding cultural competency, diversity and inclusion.

Pointing to Notre Dame’s commitment to the principles of the Catholic Social Tradition (CST), the statement argued that the University “often fails to uphold these principles with respect to all aspects of human life and dignity.”

While solidarity is one of the themes of CST, the statement said solidarity is “impossible when the largest stakeholder group of students in our community are not equipped with the ability and desire to fight against injustice.”

As the majority of the University’s population is white and the median household income is among the highest for students around the country, a large portion of the student body is not equipped to understand the effects of socioeconomic inequality and racial injustice, the statement said. To combat this issue, the statement suggested professors in all schools incorporate discussions regarding racial justice into their curriculum and mandate students take at least two classes on race, social justice or multiculturalism.

The statement also asked the University to support other pro-life events like Black Lives Matter marches in the same manner in which it supports the March for Life.

To conclude the call to action, the writers thanked the University for the prayer service held in honor of George Floyd’s murder but asked Notre Dame to the continue to acknowledge social injustice and combat racism.

“While we recognize and appreciate Fr. Hesburgh’s great contributions to the Civil Rights Movement, his legacy is so much more than a single picture,” the statement said. “It should inspire us to create new images of resistance and resilience instead of holding onto the past as proof of commitment.”

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