President announces plan to target racism on campus

Marshall University President Jerome A. Gilbert today announced the beginning stages of a long-term plan to address racism, bias and discrimination on campus, including creation of the “Coalition for Anti-Racism,” a nascent group which will advise the president and other Marshall organizations.

Gilbert convened the first meeting last Thursday with the goal of opening dialogue across constituencies.

“The recent events across our country have made me even more aware of the systemic racism and discrimination that is evident nearly everywhere, including here at Marshall,” Gilbert said. “Our university is not perfect, but like many other organizations, we are working to better understand and learn from each other every day. We will not stand for racism or injustice in our community and are ready for change.”

In discussion with the coalition, Gilbert expressed his desire to develop items for both short-term and longer-term consideration. Among the first initiatives to be launched include the following:

  • Implement mandatory human resources training on anti-racism and anti-bias for every employee to foster a more inclusive environment. Options for training for students will also be explored.
  • Expand the diversity of staff and faculty by asking every hiring unit to develop a meaningful plan to recruit Black and other non-majority employees. It is expected these discussions will occur this fall.
  • A planned Town Hall with the Marshall University Police Department and other campus units to inspire forthright communication about community social justice and security and safety measures on campus.
  • With the assistance of Marshall’s Student Government Association, the President’s Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Black United Students, schedule listening sessions with students in the fall to discuss racism and barriers to Black student success and the success of other non-majority groups at Marshall.

Additionally, Gilbert is asking students and employees alike to join him in reading  “Just Mercy,” a 2014 publication recently adapted to a movie, that chronicles the story of Walter McMillian who was convicted of the murder of a white woman in Alabama. McMillian’s attorney, Bryan Stevenson, penned the narrative on injustice and racism in the American criminal justice system.

“I’m going to start an informal book club of sorts this fall to discuss the book and possibly others,” Gilbert said. “I am committed to Marshall University making positive change. I think our Alma Mater says it best, ‘honor right and conquer wrong.’”

The coalition’s first meeting was attended by faculty, staff and student representatives of Student Affairs, Student Government, Black United Students, the Black Alumni Association, the Center for African American Students, Marshall University Office of Public Safety, the Marshall University Board of Governors and the President’s Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, but is expected to expand to include others across campus.

“President Gilbert and I are encouraged by the feedback and brainstorming that occurred during our meeting,” said Maurice Cooley, vice president for intercultural and student affairs. “In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to solicit input from others to aid in eliminating social injustice.”