MSU Texas announcement

A Message from the President

On June 3, Vice President for Student Affairs Keith Lamb, Interim Director of MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center Mr. Marcus Jones and I met with MSU student leaders from the Black Student Union, the MSU Chapter of the  NAACP, the Men of Color Alliance, the Caribbean Student Organization, and the Black STAND Council in a virtual setting. Our students reiterated the points made in their response to my own June 1 statement, which they found vague and safe. Instead of admitting honestly that our very diverse student body can be both a point of pride and a potential source of tension, miscommunication and conflict, my message avoided such topics. Their comments reaffirmed my belief that institutions of higher education can play a leading role in either perpetuating or changing systemic problems in society. I share some of their very personal reflections below and then illustrate the actions that we as a campus will take to work alongside these student leaders, our faculty and staff for racial equality.

Our Black student leaders asked that I as president be more direct in condemning hate speech that singles out marginalized groups at MSU. They described the emotional toll that the unjust killing of so many Black Americans is exacting on their lives. They asked if I had watched videos of Black victims being killed and suggested how to find the courage to do so. They spoke of the fear of the COVID pandemic now being magnified by their fear of going out in public as young Black Americans. They asked whether we at MSU would “have their backs” when they returned, whether they could ever feel safe again, here on this campus or elsewhere. They asked that the MSU community replace our feelings of sympathy with empathy and action in order to stand with them and for racial equality.

Today I am sharing with the MSU campus the following action steps we will take beginning now. Some are included in their statements, others are an expansion of actions already identified as necessary if we are to address the miscommunication, conflict and tension that results from living and working in a beautifully diverse environment. It is my hope that these actions will contribute to our personal and institutional foundation for change.

• First and foremost our Black students want more Black faculty and staff at MSU. More people of color in positions to reflect the community in which difficult situations arise could better address concerns and redress inequities. This week I will begin to assemble a working group made up of Black students, faculty, staff, and regents of color to, as a first step, create new goals to be added to our current Strategic Plan to steadily increase percentages of employees of color in a range of employment categories.

• While our Black student leaders do not believe that the MOSIAC Cross-Cultural Center should be expected to handle every grievance or sensitive topic of students of color, they do find its current location in the Bea Wood building problematic. I agree that the center should have, as our students return to the fall semester, a more visible and easily accessed location. I have asked Dr. Keith Lamb to work with this student leadership group to consider preferences and bring a proposal forward by August 1, 2020.

• A reorganization and expansion of our staffing of offices supporting equity and inclusion in various campus iterations are underway to accompany the consideration of a new location of MOSAIC. Dr. Lamb will address this reorganization and expansion in his review of the location. 

• Education around diversity and its challenges to a campus community will be expanded step by step during the fall 2020 semester. Especially as we aim to accommodate not only a diverse student body but also a more diverse faculty and staff, training modules such as are currently available through Student Affairs can contribute to better supporting our students of color and increasing empathy between members of the MSU community.

I greatly appreciated the thoughtfulness with which our Black student leaders presented their opinions and statements, especially at a time of incredible stress, exhaustion, and grief for our entire Black community. We do indeed stand with our students. If change is our choice at MSU Texas, then our actions in the coming weeks and years must reflect that commitment.

 

Suzanne Shipley

President