North Texas Daily

Smatresk reveals initiatives to promote anti-racism after private meeting with student leaders

Smatresk reveals initiatives to promote anti-racism after private meeting with student leaders

Smatresk reveals initiatives to promote anti-racism after private meeting with student leaders
June 19
16:47 2020

President Neal Smatresk unveiled initiatives to combat racism in an official notice to the community Wednesday after his private meeting with student leaders to discuss possible steps needed to address complaints of institutional racism.

“Our plan addresses the action steps we have already taken and a number of steps we are committing to take – from mandatory cultural competency and simplicity bias training to hiring a more diverse workforce to better supporting and promoting inclusivity across campus,” Smatresk said.

Some students, like former Student Government Association President Yolian Ogbu, have called for mandatory cultural competency tests and similar training since November. Smatresk previously ruled out mandatory training.

“I feel this plan is a solid step in the right direction, which advances diversity and inclusion on our campus in significant ways and confirms our commitment to becoming an anti-racist campus,” Smatresk said. “While we have addressed most of the requests that were presented to us, we all know that there is much more than needs to be done to create an equitable campus and build a culture that actively promotes diversity as a core value. We are dedicating ourselves to moving down this path together as a diverse community that fosters mutual respect and promotes our students’ success.”

The letter links to “Moving Foward Together: UNT’s Action Plan for Improving Diversity and Inclusion on Campus,” which promises diversity and inclusion training in multiple forms.

“UNT values training and is committed to ensuring all faculty and staff undergo diversity and inclusion training,” the page says. “There are a number of virtual Diversity and Inclusion Training webinars spanning topics from ‘Unconscious Bias’ to ‘Communicating About Culturally Sensitive Issues’ to ‘Managing a Diverse Team.’ Additionally, Diversity and Inclusion provides keynotes and talks from programs such as the UNT Equity and Diversity Conference and Unlikely Allies in the Academy Series to provide additional awareness through recorded diversity and inclusion programming.”

While President Smatresk invited student leaders from varying groups to the meeting, he did not disclose who attended.

SGA Vice President Cameron Combs named two groups in an email— Black Student Union and the National Pan-Hellenic Council— as having representatives attend the meeting.

Combs said the representatives “did go to this meeting sadly after going against what the demands read from Coalition1956.”

The North Texas Daily reached out to both organizations for comment but received no response.

Coalition1956 is a recent “collective of students that seek Black liberation at UNT,” which has been at the forefront of student backlash towards the university and Smatresk in the past few weeks.

In a private statement, the group outlined their reasons for not meeting with Smatresk.

“As a group, we chose not to meet with Neal or any of his administration because we felt that these meetings are obsolete,” Coalition1956 said. “Black student leaders have spent the last academic year meeting with President Smatresk and members of his cabinet to discuss Black issues. Students are tired of doing the work that the administrators are hired to do. We wanted to give the administration the opportunity to show us that they have put in the work to address the demands of Black students in November 2019. We saw no need in meeting with administrators until they showed initiative.”

Featured Image: UNT President Neal Smatresk speaks during a board of regents meeting while students conduct a sit-in protest on Nov. 14, 2019. Image by Ryan Cantrell

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Will Tarpley

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