Sit-in staged on behalf of UI African American Studies adviser

Sit-in staged on behalf of UI African American Studies adviser

URBANA — Students protesting the elimination of the sole academic adviser in the Department of African American Studies have staged a sit-in that entered its second day Thursday.

Students gathered at the department's offices in a house at 1201 W. Nevada St. on Wednesday afternoon following a related rally on the Quad. They want the university to reinstate the position held by Lou Turner, who has been the adviser there since 2006.

The Black United Front, which helped organize the protest, is also pushing the UI to increase black enrollment through a "Project 1000" campaign to admit 1,000 black freshmen a year by fall 2020. The campus had 548 black freshmen last fall, fewer than the 565 in 1968, the first year of the Project 500 initiative.

About 25 students camped out peacefully in the department's living room overnight, and organizers said they plan to continue the sit-in until the position is reinstated.

Removing an academic adviser from an ethnic studies department affects students in significant ways, said UI senior Ines Nava of the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan), which is supporting the sit-in.

"This is a person that encouraged students to remain in school, that became a mentor for these students. So removing him seems like an attack on the students," she said.

Turner said he was informed last August that his position would be eliminated in September 2017, a standard one-year termination notice for academic professionals.

The department head, Professor Ron Bailey, said it was a budgetary decision, part of a reorganization of his small department prompted by steep cuts in the UI's state funding over the past two years.

Turner, who has criticized Bailey's leadership, believes there's more to it.

"That's not the reason. The reason is that the head has been wanting to get rid of me for some time," he said Thursday.

Turner said he works with about 72 students, graduate and undergraduate, who are majoring or minoring in African-American studies, helping them select courses, writing recommendation letters and offering career counseling.

Turner and others argued the university could find money for his position; he said he earns about $46,000 a year.

Bailey said he couldn't respond to specific questions on a personnel matter but supports increasing black enrollment.

In a prepared statement, Bailey said the department is reducing the number of staff positions from four to two. Two will be eliminated in September, and a previously vacant position, an administrative assistant, was filled in March.

Faculty members will absorb advising duties, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will provide human resources and financial support, he said.

"Two factors contributed to the need for these changes. First, African American Studies has seen a decrease in majors, minors, and course-teaching load in the last decade, and our staff reduction is in response to these declines. Second, the ongoing lack of a state budget means the department has been asked to operate on decreased funding in the past two years and as we move forward. The department's only way to absorb funding reductions is to reduce the cost of its staff," Bailey wrote.

He said he hopes to improve the department's offerings to serve more students across campus.

Nava and UI senior Evan Sosin said they want Bailey to join them in demanding more support for the department from campus.

The department has had internal strife for some time, according to students and a letter written by four senior faculty members to their colleagues. The faculty blamed Turner and a former department head for involving students in "departmental disagreements" and instigating the student protests.

In a written response, the students strongly objected to that characterization.

Turner, who is married to another faculty member in the department, Ruby Mendenhall, said he had no role in the protests and said the student support has been "very moving."

UI junior Karen Olowu, a member of the Black United Front, said students heard rumors about the position being eliminated last fall but didn't get the official word until recently.

"Why a sit-in now? It's the 150th anniversary (of the UI). We have a black chancellor. Donald Trump is president. And black and brown students are tired of seeing our academic futures devalued," Olowu said.

The Black United Front wants the UI to adopt an aggressive recruitment campaign for black students, including $2 million in scholarships next fall and $8 million by fall 2020.

It also wants a 125 percent budget increase for the Department of African American Studies by 2020.

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BruckJr wrote on April 21, 2017 at 12:04 pm

Per the Daily Illini there are 33 majors in this department and they will have a graduating class of 12:

http://dailyillini.com/news/2017/04/18/black-united-front-petitions-prof...

ACD wrote on April 22, 2017 at 10:04 am

Greetings from the Offices of the Chancellor and Provost at the University of Illinois.

We write to clarify the data concerning freshman class enrollment in 1968. Please see the work of Joy Anne Williamson (1998 and 2003) for more details.

According to Joy Ann Williamson (2003: 64), "By early 1968, the university was in the process of implementing a program to allow approximately two hundred Black high school seniors to enroll for the 1968-69 academic year, more than doubling the average number of Black freshmen in recent classes”.

"In its statements to the public in 1968, the university focused on rectifying current discrimination and the worth of a diverse student body for the entire campus. Further, the university carefully explained that SEOP (the official name of Project 500) was predicated on economic disadvantage rather than race and that African Americans would dominate the program only because their economic situation was worse than any other group’s. However, public perception was the SEOP was for Black students only – a misperception that would plague the program from its outset" (2003: 66).

“At the end of registration, approximately 1,300 students had applied to participate in SEOP. Predicting that only two-thirds of high school seniors to whom it extended offers would actually register, the university approved 768 students for admission. However, the university misjudged. Almost three-quarters of those admitted, 565 students, registered. SEOP students constituted approximately 10 percent of the incoming freshman class – a goal the university had not planned to reach until four years later” (2003: 68).

“True to the university’s definition of disadvantaged, not all SEOP students were Black. A small number of white and Puerto Rican students enrolled through the program and constituted approximately 5 percent of SEOP” (2003: 68-69).

To summarize: According to official University of Illinois records, the Division of Management Information’s frozen Fall 1968 student data yields the following:

·“New freshmen” only:  446 African American, 36 Latina/Latino (482 total).

·“New freshmen” and “new transfers”:  557 African American, 64 Latino (621 total).

·Freshmen only (not necessarily new):  508 African American, 48 Latino (556 total). 

·A multiracial category was not included in 1968.

By contrast, 646 members of the 2016 freshman class identified as Black or African American (548 who identified solely as Black or African American, and 98 who identified as multiracial or Latina/Latino and Black or African American). And 932 of the 2016 freshman class identified as Latina/Latino/Latinx.

We recognize the need to increase our proportion of students from underrepresented groups. We plan to partner with stakeholders to tackle this important issue, and notably, to enhance inclusion on our campus.

Sources: 

Division of Management Information

Williamson, Joy (1998) Affirmative Action at the University of Illinois: The Special Educational Opportunities Program. Midwest History of Education Journal 25(1): 49-54.

Williamson, Joy (2003) Black Power on Campus: The University of Illinois, 1965-75. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Contact: chancellor@illinois.edu

ACD wrote on April 22, 2017 at 10:04 am

Greetings from the Offices of the Chancellor and Provost at the University of Illinois.

We write to clarify the data concerning freshman class enrollment in 1968. Please see the work of Joy Anne Williamson (1998 and 2003) for more details.

According to Joy Ann Williamson (2003: 64), "By early 1968, the university was in the process of implementing a program to allow approximately two hundred Black high school seniors to enroll for the 1968-69 academic year, more than doubling the average number of Black freshmen in recent classes”.

"In its statements to the public in 1968, the university focused on rectifying current discrimination and the worth of a diverse student body for the entire campus. Further, the university carefully explained that SEOP (the official name of Project 500) was predicated on economic disadvantage rather than race and that African Americans would dominate the program only because their economic situation was worse than any other group’s. However, public perception was the SEOP was for Black students only – a misperception that would plague the program from its outset" (2003: 66).

“At the end of registration, approximately 1,300 students had applied to participate in SEOP. Predicting that only two-thirds of high school seniors to whom it extended offers would actually register, the university approved 768 students for admission. However, the university misjudged. Almost three-quarters of those admitted, 565 students, registered. SEOP students constituted approximately 10 percent of the incoming freshman class – a goal the university had not planned to reach until four years later” (2003: 68).

“True to the university’s definition of disadvantaged, not all SEOP students were Black. A small number of white and Puerto Rican students enrolled through the program and constituted approximately 5 percent of SEOP” (2003: 68-69).

To summarize: According to official University of Illinois records, the Division of Management Information’s frozen Fall 1968 student data yields the following:

·“New freshmen” only:  446 African American, 36 Latina/Latino (482 total).

·“New freshmen” and “new transfers”:  557 African American, 64 Latino (621 total).

·Freshmen only (not necessarily new):  508 African American, 48 Latino (556 total). 

·A multiracial category was not included in 1968.

By contrast, 646 members of the 2016 freshman class identified as Black or African American (548 who identified solely as Black or African American, and 98 who identified as multiracial or Latina/Latino and Black or African American). And 932 of the 2016 freshman class identified as Latina/Latino/Latinx.

We recognize the need to increase our proportion of students from underrepresented groups. We plan to partner with stakeholders to tackle this important issue, and notably, to enhance inclusion on our campus.

Sources: 

Division of Management Information

Williamson, Joy (1998) Affirmative Action at the University of Illinois: The Special Educational Opportunities Program. Midwest History of Education Journal 25(1): 49-54.

Williamson, Joy (2003) Black Power on Campus: The University of Illinois, 1965-75. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Contact: chancellor@illinois.edu