A group of student representatives from the Black Student Union have a list of six requests of their university, which they presented to University of Idaho administrators Jan. 22.
Cynthia Ballesteros, Izaiah Dolezal, Jayson Egwuonwu, Jamal Sanders and Adonay Berhe met with UI administrators in hopes they will take these points into consideration in order to further diversity on campus and enhance the student experience.
“We called upon student leaders across campus, sat down and for each group made specific points that each student group wanted to see met,” Ballesteros said. “We met up and it seemed like we had themes reoccurring in each of our lists.”
The six points they ultimately approached the UI administration with were the need for an African-American student space, a retention program geared toward increasing the admission of African-American students, departmental outreach for student athletes, an increased administrative cultural competency program, increased diversity among faculty and staff and more programs to connect current students to alumni of color.
They presented their ideas to UI President Chuck Staben, Dean of Students Blaine Eckles, Director of Diversity Yolanda Bisbee and Office of Multicultural Affairs Director Jesse Martinez.
Dolezal, ASUI director of diversity affairs, said he felt both parties left the meeting having learned valuable information.
“(Staben) was definitely listening,” Dolezal said. “We provided perspectives he hadn”t thought of before, and he did the same for us.”
Egwuonwu, vice president for the UI chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), said he was encouraged because several of the points they brought up the UI administration said they were already working toward.
“I guess the goal of bringing this up is to hasten the process,” Egwuonwu said. “We”re here, we want this to be happening as quick as possible, there”s always going to be setbacks but we want to let them know we want to see it – if not in our time, then in future diverse Vandals” times.”
“Laying the groundwork, as we do,” Dolezal added.
Bisbee said Staben welcomes students who want to have a discussion with him, and he consistently makes an effort to be knowledgeable of campus issues.
“I think any time the president can sit with students and discuss interests and issues will make the university more productive,” Bisbee said.
Bisbee said the UI administration hopes to continue working with the Black Student Union and the Office of Multicultural Affairs as well as Enrollment Management to improve retention of diverse students.
Berhe, president of NSBE, said the group was encouraged by the Mizzou Solidarity demonstration that took place in November.
At the demonstration, students expressed support of demonstrators at the University of Missouri campus who pushed back against their university administration for their treatment of diversity issues, ultimately resulting in the resignation of two major administrators.
At the UI solidarity demonstration, Berhe said Martinez, Eckles and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jean Kim made an appearance. Ballesteros said the night before the demonstration, Staben sent a letter of support as well.
“Maybe this might be the time for UI,” Berhe said.