Black Lives Matter protests have occurred nationwide, and the effect has not failed to reach Bradley’s campus. Many students are calling out for change.
Students and alumni have shared stories on Twitter and Facebook using #BlackAtBradleyU to describe some of their experiences with racism at the school. Now, leaders of student organizations are voicing their ideas for change.
University president Stephen Standifird sent out an email on June 2 entitled “Bradley University statement regarding racial tensions and violence” and it was followed by criticism from students, alumni and parents.
Jamiah Glover, co-president of Bradley’s chapter of the NAACP, said Standifird’s initial statement was written in a way that could be misinterpreted and poorly phrased considering the sensitivity of the topic.
“The way he worded it, all together, was just completely insensitive to the facts and to the history that’s going on,” Glover, a rising junior secondary education and history major, said.
After the June 2 statement, the leaders of the NAACP, Black Student Alliance and National Pan-Hellenic Council came together to write a letter addressed to Bradley University students, staff and faculty describing their reaction to the president’s statement and what needs to happen at Bradley.
According to Nailah Brown, president of BSA and co-president of NAACP, the letter came about a few days after Standifird’s initial statement because the organizations realized that his email was not what students needed during this time.
“They needed to be understood and be heard, so we wanted to make sure that the students understood that we were behind them and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement,” Brown, a rising junior political science major, said.
Norris Chase, executive director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, said he was proud of how students responded to the statement.
“[T]hey were sharing their truths, using their voices, and challenging not only the sentiments of the statement, but the university overall to improve,” Chase said in a written statement to The Scout. “I say it all of the time, and I’ll reiterate here: the students know what they want better than any of us administrators.”
Chase added that he has spoken with Standifird and said the president has been open to feedback and has a “propensity for action.”
On June 5, Standifird sent a second email to students apologizing for the initial statement. This email also detailed steps Bradley will take to make the university more diverse and inclusive.
“We thought it was a step in the right direction, as long as he keeps his word on the promises that he made in the email,” Glover said.
On July 1, Standifird sent an email out regarding an update to initiatives for improving diversity and inclusion on Bradley’s campus. Read more about it here.
Glover also mentioned that there are other issues at Bradley that Standifird’s email did not discuss.
“A lot of people have problems when it comes to living in dorms and having cultural differences with others,” Glover said. “A lot of people have problems when it comes to being in a classroom and you’re the only Black person in there, and someone says ‘not to be racist, but’ and they continue with their statement which you know is going to be racist afterward.”
Brown said there have been emailed exchanges between the organizations, ODI and the university that list goals for the campus including having a larger impact on the Peoria community.
“Bradley University is surrounded by a predominantly Black neighborhood, so it is important to sew into that neighborhood because we do interact,” Brown said. “Many think that Bradley is a bubble and it’s not.”
Diversity training for residential advisers and hall directors also mentioned as an area for improvement. This would allow for a better handling of situations that occur in the dorms, some of which are talked about in students’ posts on social media with #BlackAtBradleyU.
Glover also said that many comments toward Black students were swept “under the rug” because professors or RAs were unsure of how to handle the situation and neglected to address it. She said she has had to take matters into her own hands and tell people that what they said was wrong.
According to Glover, there should be a genuine zero-tolerance policy in place for acts of racism. She also mentioned how Greek Life is an area of improvement because she knows people uncomfortable going to Greek events, such as rush, where they feel singled out due to their race.
“No one is saying anything about it because they’re the only Black person and they don’t think they’re going to be heard,” Glover said.
Students in these organizations are also looking for support from the university itself, not only ODI.
De’Jah Donahue, NAACP secretary and rising sophomore psychology major, said that social media posts from organizations like NAACP could also be posted by the university, so more people know about what the groups are doing.
“It needs to be in all these newsletters, these emails, that every student receives, and then we’ll start to see some changes,” Donahue said.
Both Glover and Donahue said all students can attend events hosted by organizations like NAACP and learn what they can do to be a part of the change.
Glover encourages her peers to start a conversation without the intent of having it turn into a debate and to have it go in a positive direction. She said she doesn’t want to change others’ beliefs or push her own beliefs on them, but she does want to say that what is happening today is wrong.
“I would rather you speak up and tell me ‘yeah, I’m racist,’ than for you to sit in the back of the classroom and say, ‘yeah, I’m not racist, but,’ and then say something racist behind it,” Glover said.
Donahue said that many people are unwilling to enact change when something does not affect them directly but compliancy is part of the issue.
“If you are silent, you are a part of the problem,” Donahue said. “You have to speak up because if you were in this situation, I promise you, 10 times out of 10, you would want someone to speak up for you.”
This story is part two of a series regarding students speaking out about racial issues at Bradley.