This summer, a coalition of Black LMU students, known as #BlackatLMU, drafted a list of demands to the University calling for racial justice on campus. On Sept. 4, University President Timothy Law Synder and the Vice President of Intercultural Affairs Jennifer Abe released a response to the demands from #BlackatLMU and a similar set of demands written by the Black Faculty and Staff Association.
The response outlined the demands into actions that can be taken immediately, “intermediate actions” that may require more time, and actions that require “further processes.” Not all of the demands listed by #BlackatLMU were explicitly addressed.
Many members of #BlackatLMU feel that the University's response is inadequate.
“Frankly, I’m very offended by the University’s response,” said Yolanda Nosakhare, a senior international relations major, former vice president of the Black Student Union and member of #BlackatLMU. “[The response] came off as offensive because it was very short, it didn’t really provide a timeline … they didn’t take the time to address each and every demand that the 220 members of the #BlackatLMU group poured their sweat, tears, grief and frustration into drafting,” said Nosakhare.
"It's like the bare minimum of what they could have done to address the issues," echoed Neelu Namboodiri, a junior economics major. "It's a lot of empty words."
The demands the University promised to take immediate action toward include creating a new position in the Center for Service and Action to work with Black community-based organizations, beginning to form a Black Faculty and Staff Hall of Fame, and implementing anti-racism modules for first-year and transfer student orientations.
Many demands were not addressed. These include allocation of any amount of money from the next Capital Campaign to Black initiatives, establishment of a Black admissions team or an increase in scholarship money for Black students.
“A lot of African American students on campus rely on financial aid. So if you limit that to a certain number than you basically put a cap on the amount of Black students you can support and have at LMU,” said Namboodiri.
Nosakhare said that even the demands that were addressed in the response fail to be sufficient. She worked on drafting a section of the demands that focused on updating LMU’s diversity core in order to implement anti-racist curriculum. The response to this from the University outlined a workshop series to “delve further into anti-racism and decolonization in the curriculum.”
“What exactly does it mean to ‘decolonize education?’ And if [the University is] so adamant about decolonizing education, then why didn’t they make a direct response to what I had said about creating a task force to help the core committee develop an anti-racism core?” said Nosakhare.
Ismael Diara, a junior political science major, also felt dissatisfied with the University's response. "The major demands that would impact the most change were ignored for the most part," he said. Diara does feel that the University response is better than previous years, as demands from Black students were met with "indifference and inaction" in the past.
Nosakhare also expressed frustration at the University's plan to "examine experiences of anti-Black racism and discrimination" as part of LMU's Climate Survey in 2021-2022. "For you to tell me you’re going to need to take a survey for you to gauge just how bad things are before you take any further action in reevaluating your program, is a slap in the face," she said.
University administrators did not meet with Black student leaders before sending out their response, according to Nosakhare.
“Us as Black students wanted the University to have an ongoing correspondence with us,” said Namboodiri. “I guess we feel like our presence isn’t really heard on campus at all.”
#BlackatLMU plans to respond to the University’s address, according to Nosakhare. They want their full list of demands to be addressed and met.
“We’re definitely going to keep fighting for what we believe that we deserve, for what we believe the future of LMU needs to look like. We’re going to do that by any means necessary,” said Nosakhare.