Texas A&M announces efforts to address racism on campus
President Michael K. Young shared his 10-point action plan on Monday
BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Texas A&M President Michael K. Young says the university is taking action to address issues with racism and underrepresentation on campus.
In a letter posted on the Office of the President’s website, Young said Texas A&M would take ten immediate actions to begin the conversation about improving race relations on campus.
Young began by pledging to review current diversity and inclusion working groups to make sure that leaders from diverse backgrounds meet regularly with campus leadership. He said the goal of those groups would be to develop new strategies to combat racism while working to promote inclusive values.
The letter also pledged to expand recruiting of underrepresented student groups and to grow the Department of Multicultural Services and the University’s Accountability, Climate, Equity and Scholarship (ACES) Fellows Program in an effort to recruit, retain and represent diverse voices in the school’s student body and faculty.
Most prominently, Young pledged to Honor Senator Matthew Gaines on Texas A&M’s campus. Gaines, the first African-American state senator from Washington County, helped establish Texas A&M University (then the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas).
For years, a group has worked to build a statue in his honor on campus. In his letter, Young said the funding gap to make the Gaines statue a reality would be closed soon and the artist bids would be accepted.
Texas A&M has been at the center of local conversations surrounding race in recent days following protests centered around the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross, known as “Sully”, that sits in the University’s Academic Plaza. On Saturday, hundreds attended competing protests on campus focused around the statue’s place on campus.
While Ross, who later served as Texas A&M’s president, was instrumental in the legislation that created Texas A&M, critics point to his service as a Confederate general as an overwhelming problem in Sully’s iconography.
Well-known Aggies and student-athletes have also been outspoken about their concerns on Twitter.
Last week, the University also announced anti-discrimination bystander intervention training would be offered beginning in the fall of 2020. The training was developed by the University’s Office of Diversity and will be required for first-year students. Current staff and student leaders will also be required to take the course for employment or leadership positions.
Young also said cultural discourse classes announced in fall 2019 would be audited and updated regularly.
Texas A&M says it will update these and other actions beginning in fall 2020 and will make future updates available on the university’s home page.
President Young’s Full Letter:
June 15, 2020
I, along with my leadership team, have worked hard over the past few years to address so many of the challenges our campus and our community have experienced with regard to racism. But we know it is not enough and never has that been more clear than at this moment.
Effective immediately, I am announcing the following actions. These 10 actions are certainly not exhaustive. In fact, through continued communication with our campus community, our action plan will expand. For now, I want to share with you some vital efforts in this regard:
- Invite discussion for action with a diverse group of leaders and voices to meet regularly with senior leadership and myself. Provost Fierke; Dr. Danny Pugh, Vice President for Student Affairs; Dr. Robin R. Means Coleman, Vice President and Associate Provost for Diversity; and Dr. Jeff Risinger, Vice President of Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness, will review current diversity and inclusion student, faculty and staff working groups and make recommendations for working with my senior leadership team and myself to meet with them. We will establish new strategies to combat hate and exclusion while fostering more inclusive values for our campuses.
- Honor Senator Matthew Gaines on our campus. Senator Matthew Gaines, the first African-American state senator from Washington County, was an important part of the establishment of the 12th Texas Legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 276, which created our university. The Matthew Gaines Initiative, led by students, has proposed to erect a statue to honor Matthew Gaines. Nearly two years ago, my office contributed $50,000 and recently another $50,000 to this effort. Chancellor Sharp provided $25,000 previously, and just recently announced yet another $100,000. As we soon close the gap for funding and accept artist bids, I look forward to working with students and Dr. Pugh, who has been working with them, on this important representation on our campus.
- Increase our efforts, with faculty input, on key programs such as the Accountability, Climate, Equity and Scholarship (ACES) Fellows Program. The ACES Fellows program promotes the research, teaching and scholarship of early career scholars, PhDs, bringing them to Texas A&M with the goal of maintaining a campus that affirms equity and fosters inclusion and belonging. We will ask faculty and staff to help us design additional programs that can help in recruitment and, importantly, retention of faculty through enhanced climate.
- Expand the footprint of the Department of Multicultural Services in support of underrepresented students. Supporting black and other underrepresented students with additional meeting space and support services is one of the largest needs in our growing campus community to ensure we help advocate for meaningful change. The department has rapidly outgrown its space. Since the MSC building remodel, the division of student affairs reports that the number of programs has grown by 65 percent, and the number of student organizations supported by more than 400 percent. To that end, I have authorized work to commence on expanding the space – currently at approximately 4,800 square feet, to add more than 8,500 in additional square feet. To improve campus climate means to have a meaningful, physical representation for meetings, support and facilitation of dialogs and action.
- Advance President’s Council on Climate and Diversity (PCCD) reports to open for input, timed accountability. The PCCD cross-university reports are part of a robust, data-driven, peer-informed exercise annually during my tenure. These detailed summary reports will be made available during the fall in one place on a link from the home page. Working for a better climate and against racism is a total-university responsibility and this action will help us measure progress in a united way, and continue to reward creative impactful solutions with grants and support while holding us all accountable to progressing toward our goals.
- Recruit more underrepresented students. In addition to the necessity of creating a welcoming climate, we must reach out to more black and other underrepresented minority populations to communicate that we want them here. Earlier this summer, we allocated an additional $5 million in scholarships for this purpose and we are continuing to develop additional resources to recruit the brightest and most diverse class of students to Texas A&M. We want to match our state demographics.
- Launch anti-discrimination bystander intervention training (as announced last week) for the fall to educate and train our campus community to step in to stand up against racism and to foster a positive climate. This evidence-based module has been in development by the Office of Diversity and is being updated to launch in time for the return to classes in the fall. All sections of the first-year experience class, Hullabaloo U, will require the module’s completion. Additionally, current student staff and student leaders will be asked to complete the module as a requirement of employment or leadership position.
- Increase funding and visibility of the Race and Ethnic Studies Institute to connect research and scholarship to community action.
- Pilot assessments of TAMU required courses. Texas A&M introduced a Cultural Discourse (CD) requirement for first year students beginning in Fall 2019 in addition to International and Cultural Diversity (ICD) courses in place. We will evaluate and update these courses accordingly.
- Support student groups on voter registration on campus and in our communities. It is every Texan’s right and privilege to vote. It is our civic duty to vote and to help others lend their voices, regardless of political affiliation. Student Government Association and Residential Housing Association advised me that they are coordinating a campaign around civic duty and voter registration. The Student Athlete Advisory Committee included the importance of voting in their demonstration last week about racial inequality. I support these efforts and look forward to working with these groups.
I will provide updates regarding these and other actions beginning in the fall. In addition, a link on the Texas A&M home page will be added to enable access to the latest information. With these and other actions and collaboration across our campuses and sites, we can affect change in a positive way that strives toward excellence at our university and throughout our lives.
Michael K. Young
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