After the NAACP sent a letter criticizing the lack of diversity on campus, the university responded by holding a meeting to address their concerns.
Held in late September, university administrators including Acting President Nancy Targett and leaders of the local NAACP chapter attended the meeting.
Targett said the meeting was motivated by a simple idea: getting the two organizations to communicate more often.
Although the goal was in place, there was no set agenda for the discussion. Targett said she invited NAACP leaders to the university because she envisioned “a meeting of some sort in which we would have a dialogue and it wouldn’t be a one-and-done.”
She said it was important to university officials that the NAACP realize that the university has responded to concerns about diversity progress. The provost’s office is developing a diversity action plan—just one example of how the university is striving for diversity at its top level.
“We’re a better university when we have a diverse community to bounce ideas off of,” Targett said. “So we all win when we have this diversity.”
Even with programs in place, Targett said the challenge remaining is ensuring the programs are connected, coordinated and effective. The diversity action plan will address some of these implementation issues.
While the meeting was planned to address current concerns over a lack of diversity on campus, university director of government relations Rick Deadwyler said it is important to recognize that the two groups have been building a relationship for years.
“This is not an event or this thing that happened,” Deadwyler said. “It is something that’s an ongoing dialogue.”
The timing of the meeting coincided after an alleged noose sighting prompted a campus-wide discussion on diversity in front of Memorial Hall. Even after investigations by university police concluded that the objects were remnants of paper lanterns and hate crime had not been committed, the campus environment remains tense.
“When we have an event like we had here on The Green, the conversation is easy because they do have a connection into the university, and they know that there is a welcome mat for them to reach out and to have conservations,” Deadwyler said.
Deadwyler said it is important for the NAACP to realize that they have a voice at the university and their concerns are taken seriously by the administration.
“They’re an extremely important stakeholder and we believe that their input, feedback, is going to be very important to our success,” Deadwyler said.
Looking forward, Targett said the meeting will provide a starting point for the university to address future concerns brought up by the NAACP.
“If you know each other, you come to the table and you’re able to have that dialogue and talk about some of the hard issues and understand,” Targett said. “It’s just much easier to have that discussion and to get to a common ground where you need to get to for a resolution.”
Deadwyler said the meeting was an important development in the relationship between the university and the NAACP.
“We meet just to communicate,” Deadwyler said about the current rapport between the two groups. “In any successful relationship, communication is key.”