The University of Virginia’s College at Wise held a Race and Community Forum on March 27 at the Slemp Student Center. Members of the administration attended this forum UVa-Wise after several racially controversial issues were apparent on campus.
A work group was also formed to “create a supportive environment, which promotes the students full participation and the life of the college and heightens the sensitivity of the larger community to the needs, interests and cultures of students of color. It advocates their interests and fosters the modification of prohibited institutions structures policy and practices,” UVa-Wise Chancellor Donna Henry said.
There were around 80 people at the forum, which included students, faculty, staff and administration. At the forum students were encouraged to be frank and honest with their experiences and offering up ideas to combat the problem.
Chancellor Henry told the forum audience, “I hope you will share your thoughts with us. Your ideas are welcome and your ideas are necessary to the process.”
Several students shared their experiences on campus and in the community that made them feel like they were as one student said “less than or dirty.”
A subject that came up frequently throughout the forum was the controversy around a poster made by a resident advisor on campus promoting Black History Month. Students were frustrated because the poster advertised free Bojangles chicken at the event, which they considered stereotyping and offensive.
The resident advisor was not present, but there was a discussion between the student that brought up the controversy and a close friend of the RA. Elijah Roucka reported the poster to the housing office and confronted the RA through social media over the issue. The close friend of the RA, Lyndra Frimprong gave insight into the mind of the RA saying, “she didn’t mean to be racist, she’s a minority too and then you made her feel like she wasn’t welcome coming here this evening. She’s eight hours away from home too and you all have hurt her just as much as you claim to have been hurt by the poster.”
Conversations like these went on for around two hours and gave students as well as faculty the opportunity to share their experiences and thoughts on the controversy surrounding the campus.
After the forum both Chancellor Henry and Title IX director Tabitha Smith gave their reactions to the turnout and comments from students and faculty.
Smith said she was happy with the turn out of the event.
“As a Workgroup member, I was pleased with the attendance for the event and the input from our students and I am so happy we are having these important conversations,” Smith said. “The Workgroup will provide feedback to Chancellor Henry and include suggestions for consideration.”
“During the forum, the workgroup and I listened carefully to those who voiced their experiences and concerns regarding the climate for students of color on campus and in the community,” Henry said. “Members of the workgroup will discuss the issues raised at the forum and previously held focus groups. They will soon draft a report that will outline any recommendations the workgroup believes could create a more inclusive campus for everyone at UVa-Wise.”
“I look forward to receiving that report and acting on the recommendations. I thank the workgroup for its time and effort to date,” Henry said. “I also thank everyone who attended the forum for their frank comments and suggestions.”