Diversity council

Sean Cleary, Copy editor

University policy regarding issues of race and diversity on campus will receive increased scrutiny over the next several months.

Early last week, the Diversity Advisory Council held its first meeting. The council was formed by President Kennedy following racially charged Snapchat photos posted at the beginning of the school year.

According to a UND press release, Kennedy has tasked the council with three primary objectives:

1. Complete inventories of existing diversity and inclusion practices with a specific focus essential studies that qualify under the diversity requirement.

2. Identify best practices that enhance our understanding of diversity and inclusion in higher education

3.    Based upon our current programs/practices and best practices of other institutions, provide a list of recommendations for consideration for UND.

There are thirteen members of the council:

Sabrina Balgamwalla, Assistant Professor of Law

Stacey Borboa Peterson, Director of Multicultural Student Services

Lee Edward Brockington, Student in School of Law and President of UND’s Black Law Student Association

Samantha Chairez, Student in Biology Department and Treasurer of UND’s Organization of Latino Americans

Connie Frazier, Executive Director of Housing/Dining

Jonathan Holth, Owner of Toasted Frog restaurant

Sara Kaiser, Coordinator of Student Organizations & Activities

Krista Lynn Minnotte, Professor of Sociology

Sandra Mitchell (Chair), Associate Vice President for Diversity & Inclusion

Linda Neuerburg, Assistant Director of American Indian Student Services

Carolyn “Cassie” Ozaki, Associate Professor of Teaching & Learning

Brian Urlacher, Associate Professor of Political Science & Public Administration

Ryan Zerr, Director of Essential Studies and Professor of Mathematics

In the wake of the incidents, students held a zero tolerance rally, an event at which students shared ways in which racism on campus had impacted them. Leaders of the Black Student Association advocated for a zero tolerance policy for racist speech at the university.

Earlier this month, Kennedy declined to adopt a zero tolerance policy, citing the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“While I appreciate the desire for such a policy, it is unachievable under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The challenge we all face is to find the balance between wanting to eliminate expressions of racism and bigotry and supporting the free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Kennedy said in a campus-wide email. “ If we value freedom of speech, we must acknowledge that some may find the expressions of others unwelcome, painful or even, offensive. We can, however, speak out and condemn such expressions, and we can work to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment.”

In that same email, Kennedy announced that students would be added to the Diversity Advisory Council; Chairez and Brockington were named as the two student representatives on the council last week when the council first convened.

In an interview with the Dakota Student, Chairez said that her perspective as a student would allow her to offer insight regarding the council’s suggestions for essential studies requirements at UND since she had experienced the classes as a student. She cited a class she took on American Indian studies as a way students could learn more about the diverse group of people around them.

Additionally, Chairez said she is open to input and feedback from other students about what they think is important as the council’s work continues.

The council will meet throughout the rest of the semester, and it will present its findings to Kennedy on December 15. Following that, the council will focus on long-term implementation of the recommendations.

Sean Cleary is a copy editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]