University hires Black counselor, takes steps to increase diversity among students

Last+week%2C+Black+students+presented+a+list+of+demands+to+Marquette+administrators%2C+including+Provost+Kimo+Ah+Yun+and+President+Michael+Lovell.+They+agreed+to+meet+this+week.

Photo by Joceline Helmbreck

Last week, Black students presented a list of demands to Marquette administrators, including Provost Kimo Ah Yun and President Michael Lovell. They agreed to meet this week.

Following a demonstration led by Black students Aug. 27 and a meeting Sept. 3, University President Michael Lovell and Provost Kim Ah Yun announced specific steps the university will be taking toward creating a diverse student body and improving the experiences of Black students, according to a Sept. 3 university news release.

The release stated that the stories presented by Black students at the demonstration made “vividly clear” the racism that is part of campus life at Marquette, though those stories are not new.

Over the summer, Black Student Council worked to fight for these changes to be made before the fall semester began. After meeting in-person with administration and various departments on campus, progress was not moving fast enough, Breanna Flowers, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences said. The demonstration was a last resort.

After the changes were agreed upon and signed off on Thursday, Lazabia Jackson, a junior in the College of Commincation, said it was a relief.

Not all the requests could be met, as they either didn’t fit within the budget or administration didn’t have jurisdiction, Flowers said.

“We believe that this is open-ended for year to come,” Flowers said. “The people that come after us can follow suit … it’s a continuous fight. We’re not done yet.”

Aleeya Conway, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said students should lead into the changes taking place in the world and on campus.

“The time is always now,” Conway said. “(Students) need to talk to their Black peers and their Black friends … they need to embrace changes and embrace people that are different from them. The world we’re living in is not comfortable for everybody.

Flowers said not everyone is an expert on injustice, and you don’t need to be.

“The biggest thing you can do is be present and and educate yourself on the things that are taking place,” Flowers said. “Black people get tired of talking, of doing this over and over again. We need white people and non-Black people to stand up for us as well.”

Jeremiah Walker, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, said we need to change the norm.

“The norm at Marquette is based off discrimination and microaggressions,” Walker said. “We want to make it better for the next person who comes to Marquette. … Let’s talk about the real questions, let’s stop sweeping it under the rug, let’s stop sitting there holding back on the things that need to be done.”

Flowers said the university needs to step up and do the work that is needed on campus.

“(Things) should be changed because they want to do it, and not because it’s a reactionary thing … to do it out of love and not (to appease),” Flowers said.

Conway said she’s looking forward to Marquette having more Black students, for the new cultural center and feeling more comfortable on campus.

Beginning fall 2021, the university will add 40 four-year, full-tuition scholarships every year for graduating seniors from high schools around the Milwaukee. Fundraising for room and board scholarships are also underway. The university will provide Black students with financial support for additional educational expenses like books and housing.

The university has also committed to the diversity of counselors in the Counseling Center and has hired Shakari “Kari” Lewis as its first counselor and coordinator for Black student support.

Marquette’s Core Curriculum will also change to include issues relating to racial justice. Black Student Council has also been granted representation on the University Board of Undergraduate Studies and the Committee on Teaching, a subcommittee of the University Academic Senate.

The university has agreed to review policies regarding hate speech and racist behaviors to improve the campus environment and is working toward a Black Living Learning Community in a residence hall, similar to the Honors LLC and Nuestra Hogar, the Spanish-speaking LLC.

Additionally, the university will consult with Black Student Council to provide training for students, faculty and staff to raise awareness of bias, harassment and discrimination faced by minorities on campus.

A permanent cultural center for Black students is being planned and fundraised for as well.

There will now be regular meetings between Black Student Council and the Marquette University Police Department to discuss concerns.

Marquette will also create a Committee for Black Student Initiatives, according to the release. The committee will implement programs designed to increase the recruitment, retention and success of Black students. Marquette is also looking to hire a Black student liaison to track the progress of said initiatives and programs.

Along with recruiting more Black students, the university has promised to recruit more Black faculty, resident assistants and bring Black-owned businesses to campus.

The release said racism and discrimination are not tolerated on Marquette’s campus, and emphasized the importance of recognizing injustice, whether in the form of individual actions of racially biased structures.

“To those of our community, past or present, whom we have failed by not addressing the racial injustice in our Marquette community, on behalf of Marquette University, we apologize and ask your forgiveness,” the release said.

“I’m looking forward to the day Marquette doesn’t feel like a (predominantly white institution) anymore, or that it isn’t,” Conway said.

Flowers, Jackson, Conway and Walker, along with Lioneal Clay, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences; Emmanuel Johnson, a junior in the College of Education; Biluge Ntabala, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences; Mariah Bentley Henderson, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences; Corrine Flowers, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences; Lona Kujjo, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences; Jamie Crawford, a senior in the College of Education; JaMisha Matos, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences; Sierra Jones, a junior in the College of Health Sciences; Sir Lawrence Tender, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences; and Marquasia Lampley, a senior in the College of Business Administration all worked on these changes.

This story was updated Sept. 7. 

This story was written by Alexa Jurado. She can be reached at alexa.jurado@marquette.edu.