SIU unveils plans to tackle racism, students split

Campus initiatives announced by Southern Illinois University aim to be the first step in fighting racism by supporting students and implementing a diversity plan.

That comes after multiple racist threats were made on the Carbondale campus, including a video posted online that threatened black students with lynchings and beatings.

Some students say they’re interested in hearing the plan out, but many others say the school isn’t doing enough.

The climate on campus at SIU is shifting. Senior Briana Fullilove says what once was welcoming is now hostile, divided over recent bouts of racism, and the timing couldn’t be worse.

"I am very appalled to see some of these issues going down a week before finals," said Fullilove, a third-generation SIU student.

She says the racist videos and threats have made it hard to focus.

"Finals is really all about studying and prepping for what you have to go through. But how can you study and how can you prep when you’re being called the N-word on the campus you go to?" Fullilove said.

Working to change that, SIU Chancellor Brad Colwell has released a plan to eliminate racism through new campus initiatives, including implementing a cultural awareness component for new students and adding a diversity council for students.

One of the changes coming from these new campus-wide initiatives includes implementing a new, stronger diversity plan that includes hiring more diverse faculty on campus. For weeks, students have stressed the need for more diverse teachers in the classrooms.

“A lot of the initiatives will require input from constituencies on campus including our own students. They need to be part of the conversation as we go forward," said Rae Goldsmith, a spokesperson for SIU.

Goldsmith says this is a first step toward solving the problem, and some students agree. But Fullilove says she and others want to see more action.

"They are not doing enough. I feel that they are doing something just to say that they are moving and trying when in reality nothing is being done," Fullilove said. She says until something changes the campus will stay divided.

With only one week of class left before finals, SIU says they plan to use the summer to finalize these initiatives so they can implement the majority of the plans by the fall semester. 

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