Looking to avoid more racial hatred on campus, a Gonzaga University task force outlined Tuesday a plan to combat the problem.
The task force report follows repeated harassment against black law students over the past 16 months.
Key recommendations include:
Establishing an Institute for Human Diversity and Social Justice on campus.
Increasing anti-discrimination training for faculty and staff.
Requiring students to study race and cultural issues in order to earn their degrees, and participate in awareness training as freshmen.
“We are moving in a positive direction,” said Brian Spraggins, a member of the task force and a senior in sociology from Great Falls, Mont.
Spraggins said it’s unfortunate it took harassment against minority students to spark the task force.
“It gets people talking about issues that might not have been talked about in this fashion,” said Spraggins, who is black.
The 27-member task force was appointed shortly after four black law students received threatening racist letters in April 1995. Two of those four students received similar threats last spring, and one of them had racist graffiti scrawled on her apartment door and window.
Of the four law students originally targeted in the 1995 incidents, only Coleen Stoudmire remains at the school. Efforts to reach her for comment on the task force recommendations were unsuccessful.
The group issued its final report in May, sending it to university President Bernard Coughlin, who made it public Tuesday prior to a meeting with university regents.
“I think people have to be realistic about what we can accomplish, but I think there are some good recommendations,” Coughlin said.
He said racial hatred keeps cropping up around the country, the latest being the wave of arsons at black churches.
“It’s astonishing to all of us that there’s so much hatred that’s coming from a lot of sources,” he said.
Coughlin said most university officials hoped Americans had made more progress at solving the national pathos of racism. “This shows how far we have to go,” he said.
Some of the task force recommendations, he cautioned, require more university spending and that money isn’t immediately available.
For example, the task force calls for creating an endowed professorship or visiting scholar position to study and promote racial understanding.
The university needs to find a wealthy benefactor willing to pay for such a post, Coughlin said.
The visiting scholar or professor could be hired for the proposed Institute for Human Diversity and Social Justice, which would study and combat racism as an arm of Gonzaga.
Institute proponents said it could be modeled after the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose director, Morris Dees, is scheduled to appear at an anti-harassment conference at GU in October.
The task force said a diversity institute should work arm-in-arm with other colleges and universities in the region, as well as the broader Spokane community.
In their report, task force members said, “We are not passive in our response to the presence of racism in our society or racial harassment in our university. We intend our response to be both forceful and effective.”
They called for a “zero tolerance” campaign against racism that would be carried out with buttons, T-shirts and posters distributed by campus organizations. Sanctions should be brought against violators of the new policy, the task force said.
Task force members also recommended faculty, staff and students undergo diversity and cultural-awareness training, possibly through a “Diversity Day,” or a semester-long awareness program for all new students.
The college’s curriculum was examined, too.
The panel suggested including the study of diversity and cultural differences in core classes required for graduation.
Recruitment and employment of minority students and staff members should be increased, said the task force, which offered some recruitment strategies.
One of the task force’s final recommendations is to continue its work as a permanent committee.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: RACE FORUM A community forum on improving race relations will be held today at Cavanaugh’s Inn at the Park. Spokane Mayor Jack Geraghty, Superintendent Gary Livingston of Spokane School District 81, and Gonzaga University President Bernard Coughlin are among those leading the forum. The public is invited to attend the two-hour sesssion, starting at 9 a.m. in Ballroom C.
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