Band-Aids on bullet holes


NICK FISHER, Executive Editor

“Sweep it under the rug.”

For the executive board of the Ethnic Student Promoters (ESP), the multicultural student arm of the Admissions office, this is a fair assessment of the university’s pattern of dealing with instances of discrimination.

“It’s not fair to say that every administrator wants to Band-Aid everything,” said Hansen Breitling, senior philosophy major, ESP pride and Northern Iowa Student Government director of diversity. “But, on the whole, the administration has a history of putting Band-Aids on bullet holes.”

This sentiment towards the university primarily led to the group boycotting an open house held to recruit prospective students on Oct. 31 — an open house with a multicultural emphasis.

The executive board’s boycott of university recruitment events is ongoing.

Groups such as Black Student Union (BSU), Hispanic Latino Student Union (HLSU) and the LGBT center issued letters pledging their solidarity with ESP.

Last Thursday, dozens of faculty, staff and students stood in solidarity outside the Maucker Union around noon.

“The lack of administrative support and effective action regarding specific acts of discrimination have created a culture of neglect for the welfare of its students of color and their well being on this campus,” ESP stated in a letter address to President Ruud and Board of Regents President Rastetter. “The continued silence and inadequate response by the university’s leadership forces the Ethnic Student Promoters to remove our support of the recruitment of students who could potentially be blindsided by this hostile environment.”

President Bill Ruud said he is taking the situation “very seriously.”

ESP, along with other groups, organized an open student forum last Thursday to share stories of discrimination and offer up possible solutions — the Northern Iowan published a story on this forum in Monday’s paper.

“I would apologize to every one of the students in that article,” Ruud said. “I would take full responsibility for it and say that’s not going to happen again.

Following the announcement of the open house boycott on Oct. 30, students received an email from President Ruud and Provost Jim Wohlpart later that afternoon discussing new initiatives involving the Center for Multicultural Education (CME).

Though the email did not mention the boycott directly, ESP officers felt the email was an “ill-timed” response to their letter.

Ruud said the email was a “knee-jerk reaction” that he takes responsibility for, and insisted that it was not a response to the boycott.

“No, no. It was not a response,” Ruud said. “I think it was a timing error. It was a stupid thing to do, and we shouldn’t have sent it out then. We should’ve waited, coagulated our thoughts and then moved ahead. It’s something I take responsibility for.”

Racial tensions at universities have been spotlighted in national news.

The University of Missouri’s administration recently came under fire due to its lack of addressing racial injustices and discrimination on campus. Mizzou’s President recently stepped down after the football team refused to play until after his resignation.

When asked if instances like this pressured him to responsd to the ESP boycott, Ruud said he thinks it’s important to respond, but not because of these happenings at other universities.

“I think it’s important that we [respond] because we think it’s the right thing to do,” Ruud said. “I never want to be putting ourselves in a position, ‘Oh, they did it because they had to.’ No. We do these things because it’s the right thing to do.”

Ruud said the university is working on extending various initiatives, such as student ambassadors to the CME, and has also proposed some new ideas, which include hiring a chief diversity officer and a new program director for the CME.

According to ESP’s executive board, they have, as a group, been subjected to unequal treatment by the Admissions office.

Breitling said certain procedures allow another student recruitment arm of the Admissions office, Student Admissions Ambassadors (SAA), priority for participation within recruitment affairs.

For example, Breitling said, SAA is allowed to sign up for  university panels and luncheons geared toward recruitment, months in advance. As early as the beginning of the school year, Breitling said, SAA could sign up for events in December. But ESP cannot sign up more than two weeks in advance.

“So, for the entire semester, we were put at a disadvantage and not given equal opportunity to volunteer,” Breitling said.

Additionally, with the multicultural open house, Breitling said ESP was originally allotted much less time than organizations such as SAA to participate in the day’s activities.

He said the Admissions office divvies up the day into time slots, and they originally received fewer than the other organizations that participated, in addition to specifications about how many members of their organization could attend.

“Then [when the event grew closer] they started saying, ‘Oh, no, as many people can come as you want.’ But it was way too late at that point.” Breitling said.

Matt Krueger, vice president of enrollment management and interim director of admissions, issued a brief statement to the NI.

“We have been in touch with members of ESP’s executive council […] We value ESP and the important work that they do for Admissions and the entire campus community,” Krueger said. “We are committed to addressing their concerns and working to ensure they have the opportunities and support they need.”

Anthony Perez, a member of ESP, isn’t participating in the boycott.

“I have not felt discriminated against [by] Admissions,” Perez said. “Rather, I feel that Admissions has been welcoming and appreciative of our [ESP’s] effort to provide assistance at open houses, on visit days, and being part of student panels.”

He said he understands why ESP could be seen as being discriminated against with the allotment of volunteer opportunities. He said it is also “understandable that the [SAA] would be given the majority of the responsibility involving interactions with prospective students, since their establishment in 1987.”

ESP was founded in 2005, according to their website.

Breitling said the university has reached out in various capacities but ESP wanted a chance to meet with other student organizations to dialogue about discrimination.

“The problem needs to be spotlighted before you can just go on to fixing it and saying everything’s good,” he said.

“We stand ready to join arm-in-arm with faculty, staff and students,” he said. “We’re not going to force things down. We’re going to do this stuff together and we’re going to do it to the advantage of everybody and we’re excited about that.”

ESP is planning another forum for this Thursday. Additional details were not available at press time.