Thursday, September 29, 2022

Opinion: University investments showcase administrative priority

OpinionOp-EdOpinion: University investments showcase administrative priority

BY DALTON SCHIRLING
Staff Reporter




After the completion of my final examination for my Africana Studies course, a classmate, our professor and I found ourselves discussing the allocation of resources; or the lack thereof as we’d soon realize, designated for the Africana Studies Department. 

Our professor shared information with us about several opportunities that were available to Africana Studies majors. Opportunities, mind you, that we both had neither seen, nor heard about in any publication or other resources across the entirety of campus.  

Not a flier.  

Not a posting in Trabant.  

Nothing.  

This had been the case for many similar opportunities from the inception to the completion of my coursework here at the university, such as the Ankh Maat Wedjau Honors Society, for instance, which has gone quiet and unattended to in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most Africana Studies majors do, or did, not even know of its existence.  

As the three of us walked around to the back of Old College, the conversation continued.  

“Well, you know that’s how they do us,” my classmate said. “There’s never any publication.” 

In response to her statement, I brought something up that I had noticed during my commute through campus over the past four years:  

“It’s wild to me that the Center for Black Culture (CBC) is literally one house on a street; I mean, there’s a sorority house right next to it that’s larger than the CBC.”  

Now, what insights could that provide about the motives and values of the university?  

These insights are particularly interesting when you critically examine the lengths that are taken by the university to represent the campus as one that emphasizes diversity, equity and inclusion. This is a claim the institution upholds ubiquitously as a commitment to all incoming students despite the fact that the university tokenizes the actions and achievements of the very students it has undervalued.  

As a result, I reason that if the investments that the university make can be seen as an indicator of their priorities, then it is clear that the University prioritizes business, Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM), Greek life, athletics and new construction projects over all else — even to the detriment of the arts and humanities departments, Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) students and the renovation, creation or expansion of dedicated cultural centers and departmental buildings.  

If they are appropriately managed and maintained, they can provide more spaces for the students and faculty to exist freely and develop as optimally as they are able to during their time at the university.  

This is especially important since BIPOC populations are not always considered, welcomed or comfortable in other primarily white spaces.  

Accepting the assertion above, one can conclude that it must be the funding that’s the issue; the CBC, the Office of Women and Gender Studies, the Africana Studies Department, etc. cannot be renovated or given new space on campus because there is just not enough money within the university to go around! Right? 

But why then is there $165 million ($101 million of which was raised by the university itself as well as donating partners) allocated to the active construction of Building X, a multidisciplinary laboratory that, according to the university’s President Dennis Assanis, aims to “educate more than 1,000 students a year in critical areas of healthcare need”

Further, why is this construction taking place while the nearly two-thousand Hispanic and Latino/a students and over fifteen-hundred Black students at the university are left without much, if any, investment directly into programs that benefit their intellectual pursuits and institutional footholds?   

For example, the CBC has remained unchanged since the 1970s, with the exception of a name change in the 1980s, all the while the university has profited on many of the programmatic initiatives started and maintained by this department — most notably being the UDAB program, whose inception can be credited to the current director Kassandra Moye, (CONF) though you’ll be hard pressed to find evidence of her contribution on the program’s information page. Despite all these millions of dollars for new construction projects, especially over the span of four decades now, why has the CBC never expanded, or even been renovated?  

Why must the Mathematics building house the entirety of the Africana Studies Department in an academic hall that also hosts countless lectures when classes are held? Don’t those departments serve several thousands of students independently let alone when combined? Why don’t they have their own buildings? Why does all the money go to athletics, STEM and business?  

Ultimately, Building X will surely be beneficial for countless entities (students, faculty, researchers, investors, etc.) in the university for decades to come. But it is essential to ensure that the offices, departments and students currently at the university, as well as those coming in, are adequately supported before anything else.  

As we can see with the Building X project, the money is able to be obtained.  

So why isn’t it being allocated to improve the existing resources and organization of departments and cultural centers already on campus?  

These changes in monetary allocation could benefit both the students and faculty in funding-deprived programs and the thousands of students who belong to marginalized communities and feel disenfranchised on campus in its many predominantly-white spaces.  

What exactly is stopping the university from making these moves? Further, why haven’t these aforementioned initiatives, or anything similar, been established before? 

Now, there are, admittedly, a lot of intricacies in the university’s budgeting process that I am not personally privy to. However, one thing I do understand is that the university responds to demand.  

For instance, there was no Center For Black Culture on campus until the Black Student Union held a days-long protest and presented their demands to the administration of the university, and even then it took numerous years of continuous pressure to get the cultural center for Black students officially established by the university.  

Even with years of organized and unrelenting pressure, the university’s administration can be slow to react, as we saw with President Assanis’ response in regards to the acts of gender-based violence that occurred on-campus last October, as well as other incidents of note that directly affected the lives and mental wellbeing of the university’s students. He apologized for his lack of response, condemned the act and committed to working with faculty, students, and other experts in the name of decreasing the prevalence of gender-based violence on campus 

This is all the reason to fight more intensely, to organize in greater numbers and hold protests to demand the reallocation of funds to support programs that have already been historically underfunded by the university.  

As we saw in the aftermath of the October assault, the university’s president sent out a statement only after the immense waves of student protest caused enough disruption, and garnered enough national attention, to necessitate his response. 

In the wake of the alleged assault, the university has been making some progress in addressing the flaws within its inner workings that allowed a culture for the assault to happen; but it was solely in response to the demands of the mass student population.  

So, in the case of the arts and humanities and the programs and funding that directly benefit BIPOC students at the university, where can the support come from?  

If the several thousands of students that could benefit from this funding aren’t enough to persuade the university to reallocate funding, then what will it take?  

By prioritizing funding in the manner that it does, one can’t help but receive the impression that the university’s administration is more concerned with providing a picturesque experience for hypothetical future students while at the same time neglecting the students already present at the university.  

BIPOC students and arts and humanities-based departments have been fighting and demanding for more equitable treatment for decades, yet the problem persists.  

So, if those two agents are in collaboration, then the coalition is really only missing representation from two bodies: the alumni and the two-thirds white population at the university. Combined, these groups would create a unified voice much like the one that was witnessed in response to the events in October. A voice that the university would be grossly negligent to ignore. 

The alumni have the network, the capital and the influence to shift the flow of funding in whichever way they desire. Work must be done to present this disparity in funding to the various alumni groups that make up the university’s expansive network. Networking is truly the most powerful tool at our disposal; somebody knows someone that could help, we just have to find the right people, state our case and apply pressure. And then keep applying it.  

Further inquiries about funding and connection to alumni can be emailed to Alumni Association’s email, which is alumni-association@udel.edu. If everyone reading this sends an email out demanding the reallocation of funds, then the office is bound to at least notice. Without relentlessness, the demands will be lost in the shuffle, either to workload or genuine apathy.  

Continuing on the topic of apathy, it is paramount to the success of any progressive motion on this campus, for the predominantly white students to break from their idyllic view of the university, and join their BIPOC peers in pressuring the university to make the changes that the student body demands.  

At the end of the day, it’s a numbers game.  

Even if half of the White students on campus, roughly 7,000 of the 15,000, break from the picturesque notions they may hold of the university and demand more from the administration, combined with the efforts of the BIPOC members of campus, and the number of the protesting body jumps from around 3,000 to around 10,000, which is a lot harder for the university to ignore.  

It’s going to take all of us, the students, to come together and put forth the work necessary to get the BIPOC population and various underfunded arts and humanities departments the funding they deserve.  

And, lastly, to any White person reading this, you must realize what’s going on isn’t right.  

You yourself may not be a direct opponent in underfunding these departments and programs, but your silence and your ignorance (through no fault of your own) are the main pillars of support that keeps these rigid systems in place; that keeps things from changing, that keeps thousands of students going into tens-of-thousands of dollars in debt to feel unwelcome and unrepresented on their college campus, all the while they must walk past a $165 million construction project every day on their way to class.  

The university’s administration can’t ignore 10,000 voices, let alone the voices of 10,000 tuition-paying students.  

Therefore, we all must scream as loud as we can until what we have to say is heard and properly attended to.  

Organized and continuous, unrelenting pressure and protest are the only way to cause administrations to get things done, so share this article; contact anyone you can and inform them of what’s going on; make the calls; type the emails; host the sit-ins; fill-up Trabant and Perkins and hoist up a demand list on each window; flood Main Street with protest signs. 

Because, if we wait for the administration to make the changes themselves, then our conditions will never improve. 

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