The two incidents of hate speech in late September the occurred on Eastern Michigan University campus have revealed issues in communication between faculty, students and members of EMU’s executive team. EMU faculty, student leaders and members of EMU’s executive team have been vocal about a need to address the breakdown in communication as members of each group work toward developing resolutions.
In a step toward forming resolutions, Faculty Senate has proposed a teach-in to address issues of race, diversity and inclusion. The event will be held all day on Nov. 2. Faculty Senate has reached out to student government and other student organizations to bring in student speakers. There are plans to also invite professional speakers to engage in dialogue that leads to a greater understanding of racial issues. It will be an all day event and many of the EMU Student Center spaces will be used.
“There are huge communication problems here. Those are institutional problems, they are not individual problems," said Judith Kullberg, Faculty Senate President. "If communications are so poor that they are interfering with interpersonal communication and causing this much misunderstanding then they are not serving our needs as a University,” she continued.
The Faculty Senate is a deliberative body that represents EMU full time and tenured faculty. The Senate meets biweekly. Their first meeting was held the day after the initial incident, Sept. 28. During this meeting is where the Senate deliberated and decided to propose a teach-in.
During the second meeting following the incidents Student Body President Tanasia Morton delivered a letter and statement to everyone present. The letter addressed to the Faculty Senate demanded that they adhere to the Black Student 10 Point Plan due to their lack of a statement or any other visual response following the incidents. During an interview following the letter Judith Kullberg, Faculty Senate President, expressed an apology on behalf of the Faculty Senate for the lack of a display of unity given to the student body.
According to Geoffrey Larcom, EMU Director of Media Relations, administration has been actively doing their part to keep students and faculty informed. Faculty Senate members do not have direct access to distribute mass messages to the student body so in response to Morton’s letter faculty senate president sent a statement to the executive team for approval and the message was distributed by Geoffrey Larcom, Oct. 13.
“We are trying to build a new positive working relationship with administration, and in order to accomplish addressing these issues we need a strategic plan that creates an institutional commitment,” Kullberg. She believes in strengthening the faculty voice and also strengthening the student voice so that they both play a role in shared governance of the decision making on campus.
Over the course of the time since the incidents students at events such as the candlelight vigil held Sep. 21, the University Christian Fellowship unity rally held Sep. 22, and the Black Student Union Town Hall Forum held Oct. 4 have consistently expressed how they feel overwhelmed by the tasks of putting forth effort to their daily duties while also having to facilitate a space that influences change.
“Communication is a working relationship, and we get a better exchange when the students are at the table with us because they have a better gage of what their peers want, and the working relationship also gives the students involved experience with putting together events and programs,” said Calvin Phillips, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs.
He has put together a committee of representatives from student government, Black Student Union, and NAACP that meets once a month to discuss concerns and progress. He also expressed that the executive team has made progress on the Black Student 10 Point Plan. By winter semester 2017 EMU plans to hire a Campus Life employee tasked with developing and implementing diverse campus outreach, in addition to the efforts already being made by Diversity and Community Involvement (DCI).
“As a whole we are much further along in the process of creating resolutions than we were. The Black Student 10 Point Plan was a draft last year, and now we are in the process of actually pushing it and getting it done,” said Morton.