Following Chancellor Mark Pagano’s latest response to their demands, the BSU has decided to move forward in pursuit of their demands themselves.
On Feb. 1, the Black Student Union brought an updated list of demands to Chancellor Pagano’s attention, to which they requested a written response addressing these concerns by Spring quarter. After a little over a month went by, the BSU received the document on March 15.
The Ledger was able to speak with President Lakymbria Jones, Secretary LaKeisha Morris, Jessica Curry and their advisor, Dr. Gillian Marshall, to elaborate on their thoughts regarding said response.
“The BSU received a ‘response’ to our demands that merely acknowledged them, but it failed to comprehend the work we were demanding of leadership and was devoid of commitment to the fulfillment of our demands,” they said. “This, coupled with the strange things Mark Pagano said at the end of the most recent chancellor’s hall livestream, has prompted us to move on from trying to work with Pagano.”
As one of the first demands addressed in the list, the university’s improvement plans toward visibility and representation on campus — from Black student and faculty population to one-year retention rates — remains vague.
While the document addressed a 2.2% increase in the Black student population and a current standing of 5.7% for Black faculty due to recruitment and outreach efforts since 2015, they don’t report numbers of those who have left and failed to outline future plans.
This lack of representation extends beyond the time spent in college or on campus. Morris went on to note that instead of pointing to numbers and statistics, they had hoped to see university leadership delve deeper into the actions they’re taking to progress further change and ensure this paradoxical experience comes to an end.
“When it comes to being Black in college, there’s sort of a paradox going on … When you’re surrounded by a majority of white students, you may not see many of your peers in the clubs you’re joining, especially in faculty or a particular major and the courses you choose,” said Morris. “It can discourage students not being able to see other black faces on their campus. And when it comes to graduating and moving on, that can affect the way they engage with their community as well.”
These statistics, moreover, are linked to racist attitudes and biases encountered by faculty and staff on campus. The demands highlight that complaints surrounding these issues on campus need to be addressed and taken seriously.
However, Pagano noted that they have established opportunities for faculty and encouraged the administration to attend. Still, when it comes to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training, these courses have yet to be implemented as a requirement and are instead waiting on pending legislation at a state level.
This, coupled with the brief announcement nearing the end of the latest town hall, Pagano addressed concerns raised by faculty and students toward not meeting these demands since 2016.
“While the response has never been to highlight the amount of progress that we have at all hoped for, I want to assure you that we did respond in a detailed, comprehensive and continuing manner over time since I first arrived,” said Pagano.
Noting he had worked closely with officers of the club in 2016 and beyond, he pointed out that considering the demands were not attainable over night, they “ … couldn’t immediately ever achieve the demands as they were written, we could only report on progress.”
Moreover, he mentioned that prior to moving operations online, they would meet frequently in-person to discuss issues they could tackle immediately and have since continued to do so virtually.
After obtaining the newly completed and comprehensive list of demands on Feb. 1, Pagano stated “We were hopeful that we could sit down with students and work on the long-range demands but also some of the short-range demands as well. They asked for a written response before the beginning of the next quarter and we’ve done that.”
However, in response to this, Curry stated that, “It seemed like that document was more of a list of excuses rather than actual responses. I felt like [his announcement] was a response to the article as well as to the fact that we refused to further meet with him, especially because it was within the last few minutes.”
As far as their demands go, aside from what had been stated in the town hall, such as funding — apart from that allocated toward the MLK breakfast — a designated meeting space and the inclusion of African American and Black art on campus, within their documented response, Pagano swiftly ushered the club to interact with disparate committees or teams to meet those needs.
And despite attending multiple meetings in the past, as Pagano mentioned during the town hall, regarding these exact demands, Dr. Marshall stated that Pagano hadn’t previously mentioned outside engagement.
“There was no discussion with the Chancellor about engaging with anyone else. He came to a meeting, he asked ‘What do you want?’ He specifically asked ‘What [does] the BSU want?’ And that’s how we ended up laying out that document,” said Dr. Marshall.
As Dr. Marshall pointed out, this was the ultimate factor resulting in the BSU no longer attempting to work with Pagano.
“When you continue to meet with somebody, and they continue to give you the runaround, and they continue to lie, and you’re not seeing any action made towards the things that you asked for, you’re less apt to want to meet with them again. And that’s really the place that the students are coming from,” she said.
Moving forward, the Union will continue to pursue these needs despite disappointment in the university’s lack of comprehension of the demands and work that needs to be done. However, they noted they would do so on their own with other students, faculty and staff to begin drafting an action plan.
“First, we can prioritize force in our demands because this doesn’t feel like something that we can wait on,” said Morris. “I don’t see any reason to deliberate over what is or isn’t, you know, too easy or too hard. I don’t think any of them need to wait. But if waiting for the next chancellor’s what we have to do, then we can always bring our demands to the newest Chancellor.”