Campus-Wide Walkout Sparks New Diversity Plan at SIU

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Southern Illinois University (SIU) announced it will be developing a new diversity plan in response to a campus-wide walkout Monday. Organized by student group Strike Committee, the demonstration was aimed at allowing students to voice their frustrations over Illinois’ budget impasse and the rising cost of tuition, along with concerns over the institution’s diversity efforts. More than 200 students, faculty, and staff participated.

SIU Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell responded to the event the next day with a letter addressing students’ concerns. It included 17 points, which focused on three specific areas for improvement: SIU’s campus climate, support for students, and faculty and staff diversity.

“Clearly, we have much work to do to build understanding and respect, and it will take the entire community — administrators, students, faculty and staff — to move forward,” Colwell wrote. “We have all heard the calls for change, and we must respond in partnership.”

The letter also mentioned the implementation of a campus-wide diversity council in the fall 2016 semester, which will draw its members from various campus constituencies.

Colwell also stated that SIU will host several forums and workshops that will focus on “understanding, valuing, and respecting diversity.” In addition, the university will incorporate cultural awareness into its fall orientation for all incoming freshmen.

Many of the points in Colwell’s letter touched on Strike Committee concerns. However, he also addressed SIU administration, saying that the hiring process for administrators will be re-evaluated.

“When hiring for dean and upper administrative positions, we will include demonstrated knowledge, skills, and abilities in diversity and cultural competency among the preferred requirements,” he wrote. “The associate chancellor for institutional diversity will include these requirements for all newly advertised senior positions effective immediately.”