The Black Student Alliance, or the BSA, met with some of MSU’s top administrators, including MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon on Friday at Brody Hall, determined to see action in response to a series of racial incidents that have occurred on campus this semester.
The group read off a list of 22 demands they want to see implemented by administrators, each demand with its own expected date of completion.
Included in the list of demands were the establishment of a freestanding multicultural center, the creation of a required course for all students teaching cultural sensitivity and an increase in black students, faculty and staff at the university to match the 15.2 percent of blacks in Michigan’s population, according to U.S. Census data.
Interim Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Services Denise Maybank and director of the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives Paulette Granberry Russell also were in attendance, but Simon responded on behalf of the administration in most cases.
The tone of the meeting was contentious, with members of BSA’s executive board frequently raising their voice and interrupting Simon on multiple occasions.
At one point when Simon referred to the demands as “recommendations,” journalism junior and BSA Vice President Silver Moore interrupted Simon to respond.
“You keep throwing around the word ‘recommendation,’” Moore said at the meeting. “These are not recommendations or suggestions. If they were suggestions we would put them in a suggestion box. These are demands.”
Simon said the administration would send a written response to the BSA’s demands “in due course” and said the university has to continue to improve graduation rates and health and safety issues, among other concerns.
After the meeting, Simon said she was unhappy with the way the meeting played out.
“I’m disappointed this turned into another repeat of demands and not a chance to talk about how we can work together to really dig down in these issues and try to find some solutions,” she said.
“We’re a university, and there are always going to be differences of opinion and there are solutions that can work. … But to simply respond to a list of demands, I don’t think gets you to where you want to go as an institution.”
Education senior and BSA President Mario Lemons said he believes the demands are feasible and hopes the meeting will motivate discussion and action with the administration in the future.
Lemons said the lack of representation from the administration at BSA meetings and events during the past few weeks are part of the reason behind the group’s emotion and passion at the meeting.
“Because the administration has not spoken to us and heard our voices (and) have not made a priority to have those discussions with us, we are more aggressive today,” he said.
Describing the BSA’s demands as “comprehensive,” Granberry Russell said the administration recognizes there are areas that can be improved.
“I think, as (Simon) indicated, there are places we have common concerns and agreement, particularly around issues of education and also regarding the effectiveness of university policies,” she said.
“At the end of all of this … we’re about students’ success. We’re about creating a campus climate where students feel supported, and there’s all those steps in the middle, and that’s where we’re going to continue to have this discussion.”