It’s not often that students get to shape university policy, but that’s just what happened today at a meeting of the University of Illinois' Board of Trustees. Thanks to a change in the university’s strategic plan proposed by a student member of the U-I Board of Trustees, University of Illinois officials are being encouraged to think about race in a new way.
Each campus in the University of Illinois system has a student representative on the Board of Trustees. And this year, for the first time ever, all three of those representatives are black men. But Jauwan Hall, who represents the Chicago campus, told board members that he and the other two students are there in spite of school policies that discourage minorities. As the board prepared to adopt a strategic framework that has been in the works for more than a year, Hall proposed amending the goal of “enhancing diversity” and replacing it with the concept of "normalization."
“I really don’t like the word diversity, and I don’t think we need to diversify the university. I’m a borrower from Shonda Rhimes, and I really think that we need to move toward normalizing our institution, because that’s really what it’s about,” Hall said. “Having more African American students, having more Latino students, that’s a normalization of our institution, because historically, we haven’t been, we haven’t given access to those students.”
Hall told the board that the U of I has been complicit in policies that effectively discourage black and Latino enrollment. After a brief discussion, the board adopted Hall’s amendment.