The University of Connecticut Board of Trustees discussed the creation of a Presidential Student Diversity Advisory Council and other potential steps to address the Oct. 11 racist incident at Charter Oak Apartments during its meeting Wednesday morning.
At around midnight on Oct. 11, two white students were filmed saying the N-word and laughing while walking through the Charter Oak Apartments parking lot. In his address to the board, UConn President Thomas Katsouleas called the incident “an insult to all of us and our core values.”
“Bigotry and racism exist at UConn as they do in society,” Katsouleas said. “I listened to the students on Monday, in their march in the center of campus, and I could see and hear and feel their pain. And my heart breaks for them and for our entire community.”
In response to the incident, Katsouleas said he will be meeting with students at the African American Cultural Center on Friday and is in the process of forming a Presidential Student Diversity Advisory Council.
After opening up the council to self-nominations, 97 people have applied for about 16 spots, Katsouleas said.
Additionally, Katsouleas said diversity strategic planning will be one of four agenda items at the dean’s planned retreat on Nov. 15 and said UConn has begun its search for a Chief Diversity Officer.
“In doing so, I met with the Senate diversity committee, the university diversity committee, directors of cultural centers, a number of students, and gained their perspectives on the structures, position and the attributes we will be looking for in the next leader of this position,” Katsouleas said.
Former Chief Diversity Officer Joelle Murchison stepped down from her position before the fall 2018 semester began. Dana Wilder currently serves as the interim associate vice president and chief diversity officer.
Katsouleas said UConn students’ commitment to diversity, inclusion and human rights is what surprised him the most when he came to the university.
“We cannot say there is not an implicit bias, microaggression and remnants of structural racism … at our institution,” Katsouleas said. “But we can say we have a community, an administration and a board committed to visual progress to achieving the environment, culture we value.”
Board of Trustees chairman Dan Toscano joined Katsouleas in condemning the incident.
“[The racist behavior] has no place at UConn or anywhere else,” Toscano said. “We as a university and community are so much better than that.”
Toscano said all university students and employees are entitled to feeling welcome, respected and safe.
“On behalf of my fellow board members, I want to emphasize those points and underscore our commitment to a UConn nation that fosters inclusivity and one that fosters our collective strengths,” Toscano said.
Gabriella DeBenedictis is the news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.