President Stephen Standifird’s June 2 statement to students, which was titled “Bradley University statement regarding racial tensions and violence” was 264 words long, excluding the introduction and signature. The follow-up apology to the statement, issued three days later after students and alumni took to social media to criticize the letter, was 762 words, excluding the introduction and signature.
In the June 5 email, Standifird outlines steps to “creating a more inclusive environment” on Bradley’s campus, namely, a scholarship for Peoria Public School students, the establishment of a Racial Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group and cosmetic upgrades to the Garrett Center, home to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
It strikes us at The Scout ironic how, even in a time in Bradley’s history where the institution is not financially stable due to the COVID-19 pandemic and faced pivotal program prioritization earlier in the year, the university finally put the money where its mouth is and will take monetary steps toward a more inclusive environment.
Did it really take a poorly worded and sparse statement on the state of race in the United States for these steps to finally take place?
Standifird’s tenure as president is young, taking the position as the sole university president on June 1. But to those under him and those who have been in his position before: why couldn’t these steps have been taken sooner? If it was a swift and simple action even during a financial disaster, why wasn’t it done before?
It’s clear the university’s priorities weren’t focused on an inclusive environment in the past as it needed to be, an example of inaction. It’s no secret that the Garrett Center is in need of updates. The second floor of the Garrett Center is inaccessible to anyone who cannot use stairs due to the lack of elevator or wheelchair lift. It needs a larger renovation to truly reflect an ideology of inclusiveness.
Creating an advisory group is also a sufficient step to involve students and alumni, but why wasn’t a group put into place sooner? Will it even affect the administration’s decision making?
If done over, it may have been smart to include these steps toward inclusivity in the original statement and switch the word counts of each letter. Though Standifird vows these are only the first steps, they are small in comparison to the work that needs to be done to obtain a strong state of inclusivity on Bradley’s campus.
It’s progression nonetheless, but at university founded by someone who made leaps and bounds as a female pioneer of business and education–someone president Standifird certainly recognizes as an “icon”–shouldn’t the standard of progressivism be higher here on the Hilltop than most universities?
Either we’re overrating Lydia’s legacy or lacking the effort to reach the level she set.
Whether the statement of President Standifird’s will be followed up with the said promise of action with follow-up, it is clear that students of the present, past and future are watching and will hold officials accountable for their words.
To the leaders of this university: the ball is in your court. Listen for suggestions and deliver impactful and pioneering action.