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ND Black Alumni Club creates petition demanding accountability for racism, police discrimination, healthcare disparities

| Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Black Alumni Club of Notre Dame created a petition Wednesday through change.org urging the University to take substantive steps to stop racism and create an inclusive and respectful campus environment for Black students.

The petition said when several members of the alumni club decided to attend Notre Dame, they expected “to feel the spirit of Christ throughout campus” when they joined the University’s Catholic student body and community.

“Instead, throughout the journey of obtaining our prestigious Notre Dame degree, we were left to deal with unchecked and unacknowledged racism that ran rampant throughout the Notre Dame community,” the statement said.

In the petition, anonymous Notre Dame Black alumni shared numerous stories of their personal encounters with racism on campus.

“‘During a freshman Moreau class, a white student told me, in front of our peers, I was only accepted into Notre Dame because I am Black. The Moreau leader proceeded to cut me off when I tried to explain why that thinking is racist’,” one excerpt said.

The petition — directed to University President Fr. John Jenkins, executive vice president Shannon B. Cullinan and provost-elect Marie Lynn Miranda — outlines the club’s six expectations for the University, ranging from mandatory coursework for first-year students to stronger diversity in campus healthcare.

The first request is for top University officials to host a virtual town hall meeting to hear directly from staff, faculty and students to speak freely and directly about their grievances with the University’s policies and responses to racism.

“For too long, senior leadership has lacked an ear to the campus climate and has avoided sitting in front of the faces it has consistently let down,” the petition said.

The petition asks for the University to create a mandatory Black history and anti-racism course for all students that would be established by the 2022 fall semester for all first-year students to take.

“An ideal course would discuss the definition of racism and its explicit/implicit forms, as well as covering cultural backgrounds on groups that have faced substantial racism in this country,” the petition said.

Additionally, the club asks for the creation of an accountability board — by spring of 2021 — made up of 15 faculty and staff members appointed each year by the executive boards of the historically Black organizations on campus.

The statement said the board’s purpose would be “to ensure that a racially inclusive and anti-racist environment for students is being upheld.”

In regard to residential life, the petition suggests changes to Welcome Weekend and hall staff expectations, including “a mandatory discussion of rules in dorms built around maintaining an environment for cultural competency” when first-year students arrive to campus and “racial and cultural education emphasized during rector, RA and AR training to provide a solid foundation for how to prevent and respond to racist instances within the dorm.” The petition said the club expects both of these policies implemented by the fall semester of 2021.

The petition also requests that Black healthcare providers make up 20% of the University’s healthcare staff by 2022. To fight implicit bias and neglect in healthcare, the club expects all visitors to St. Liam’s to be able to fill out an evaluation form at the end of a visit.

“If Black students experience neglect by St. Liam’s, the expectation is that the accountability board will oversee alleged cases of misconduct,” the petition said.

In regard to police discrimination against Blacks and misconduct on campus, the Black Alumni demand “better conduct amongst the Notre Dame Police Department when interacting with Black students at Notre Dame” and for all accounts of police misconduct to be reviewed by the accountability board.

“Far too often there are instances of police officers racially profiling Black students and questioning their status as a Notre Dame student, while their white peers roam campus freely,” the petition said.

The club said it expects Notre Dame senior officials to respond with the creation of a task force to combat these issues within the next seven days.

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