Bradley University is moving forward with a plan meant to improve diversity and inclusion on campus in response to national conversations about racism and social injustice.
Among the measures is creation of a Racial Equity Advisory Group composed of Bradley alumni and current students. Nailah Brown, president of Bradley's Black Student Alliance, is one of the group members tasked with recommending reforms.
Brown said Bradley President Stephen Standifird asked group members to create long-term goals, as well as actionable steps for the fall semester.
"It is a start. It's something that we haven't seen seen before at the university, especially having a direct line to the president," she said. "We're very excited for that."
Brown said there's long been a need to improve the experience for Black students at Bradley. She said those calls have only grown stronger.
"It's been ignored for quite some time," she said. "Students have been trying to speak their minds about it, but it seems to be brushed under the rug. But of course, with this past summer, we can't really do that anymore."
That's in part because of the "Black at Bradley U" hashtag that emerged in the fallout of demonstrations over the murder of George Floyd. Black students described a litany of incidents in which professors accused them of cheating, dorm mates left racist notes, and members of the campus community suggested they were "lucky" to be there.
Students also ridiculed an earlier statement from the university condemning violence in the wake of Floyd's death, calling the statement tone deaf. President Standifird apologized and pivoted to the most recent diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Brown said she's happy with the current plan, but there's still a ways to go.
"One thing that we did want to see from the university, which is going to take a few years, is hiring more Black faculty members—especially counselors in the mental health department," she said. "Seeing diversity training at all levels—administration, faculty, staff, and students—and then also putting in place policies encompassing racial issues on campus."
Brown said those efforts should also intersect with quality-of-life improvements for Peoria's Black residents.
"We're surrounded by a predominantly Black neighborhood. It's important to serve the community, because we are using their resources, as well," Brown said. "Many think Bradley has like a little bubble and we don't interact with the public outside of the university, and that's just not true."
Brown said one way the university already is doing that is the creation of six scholarships for Peoria Public Schools students.
But she said the Black Student Alliance will continue to develop its own list of demands as conversations continue.
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