University makes progress on promises to Black Student Council

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A mural dedicated to George Floyd, who’s death inspired many protests against racial injustice

Marquette University is taking the steps needed in order to keep their commitment with the Black Student Council (BSC). In his seventh presidential address, Marquette University President Michael Lovell announced new scholarship and fundraising plans, better representation on academic councils and the development of a new Living Learning Community for Black students on campus.

“Marquette has been staying true to their efforts about the things we discussed. It has been very encouraging” Breanna Flowers, President of BSC, said.

In September, BSC met with Lovell and Provost Kimo Ah Yun to discuss concerns about Marquette’s response to racial injustice. Following the meeting, the university released a statement to the greater campus community about the steps Marquette planned to take to address racial injustice on campus.

Part of the statement said that the university would help to conduct meetings between BSC and Marquette University Police Department.

“The agreement calls for regular meetings (at least once per semester) between the Black Student Council and the Chief of MUPD and other MUPD officers. MUPD has exceeded the minimum number of meetings with BSC members,” MUPD Sergeant and Diversity Liaison officer Josiah Williams said in an email. 

Williams stated that the agenda of the meetings have been largely guided by the members of BSC to help address concerns that Marquette community members have.

“MUPD is happy to meet with BSC members at any time. We appreciate the opportunity to create space where BSC members are heard, seen and respected,” Williams said in an email.  

In addition to having regular meetings with MUPD, the university will officially have a Black LLC this upcoming fall semester.

“We’ve named the LLC Umoja: Black Living Learning Community. ‘Umoja’ means ‘unity’ in Swahili,” Tracy Gerth-Antoniewicz, assistant director of Residence Life Education, said.

The program will be composed of about 20 first-year students who will apply as part of their housing application for the 2021-22 academic year. The LLC will be located on the 16th floor of Carpenter Tower.

While the official plans for the Black LLC are just now being executed, the idea has been tossed around in years prior.

“I began two years ago, meeting with about 15-20 Black students at Marquette, asking questions and seeking their input on what they would be looking for in a living learning community,” Gerth-Antoniewicz said in an email.

Gerth-Antoniewicz also developed a committee, which has been meeting monthly, to help figure out how to best implement the new community. 

“This past year I put together a committee of folks including faculty, students and staff to assist in providing input on how to structure and support the Black LLC,” Gerth-Antoniewicz said in an email.

Another part of the agreement between the university and BSC was to have BSC representation on both the Committee of Teaching, which helps plan things such as the Marquette Core Curriculum, and the University Board of Undergraduate Studies (UBUS).

While the Committee of Teaching has been able to acquire BSC representation, UBUS has not been able to, despite being a part of the agreement.

“We were not approached as a committee to add a BSC representative this year, but we would certainly be open to that possibility moving forward,” Joshua Burns, associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Arts & Sciences and faculty chair of UBUS, said. 

Burns said that the absence of a BSC representative on UBUS has less to do with a lack of interest and more so to do with the priorities of BSC.

“It’s my understanding that once the distinctive functions of UBUS and the Committee of Teaching were explained to the students, they decided for this year to focus on the Committee of Teaching,” Burns said.

Typically, UBUS deals with more procedural issues, while the Committee of Teaching has a more direct impact of on the day-to-day life of a Marquette student.

“The Committee of Teaching is involved with issues that touch students more directly, issues of pedagogy, accessibility, student success. They take care of, or discuss, issues that touch more directly on the student experience,” Burns said.

The university also announced the creation of 40 urban scholarships and a new fundraising program at the Feb. 4 presidential address.

This semester, the university has also created a temporary Black cultural center in Humphrey Hall’s rooms 182 and 184 until a more permanent structure can be put in place.

We have more work to do but we believe our partnership with the university has grown and we can see a lot of the changes already happening on campus,” Flowers said. We are still doing a lot of work behind the scenes but everything is starting to come to fruition but the fight does not stop.”

This story was written by Megan Woolard. She can be reached at megan.woolard@marquette.edu