Chancellor and Cabinet respond to #BlackAtAppState, ‘Concerned Mountaineers’ release statement

Photos+Courtesy+of+the+Office+of+the+Chancellor

Photos Courtesy of the Office of the Chancellor

Xanayra Marin-Lopez, Multimedia Editor

Earlier this week, Black students and alumni created a petition and list of demands and  the hashtag #BlackAtAppState. Their demands pertain to scholarship, curriculum, health, campus culture and more.

The group called for a response from Chancellor Sheri Everts by Friday at 5 p.m., and was met with a message from The Chancellor’s Cabinet before the deadline. 

#BlackAtAppState is an Instagram account on which current and past students share their experiences of injustice at App State. 

In one post, an anonymous person shared that “Being #BlackAtAppState is seeing my first Halloween party, students in blackface as Bill Cosby with an Afro wig.” 

Everts responded to the group on Monday after #BlackAtAppState’s initial message, extending an invitation to meet and discuss in a face-to-face setting such as Zoom. The email was signed by Everts, Chief Diversity Officer Willie Fleming, Interim Provost Heather Norris and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs J.J. Brown. 

“We are dedicated to facing hard truths and working together, community-wide, to take meaningful actions that will make our university a stronger, more diverse campus that is inclusive and welcoming to all of our students,” Everts wrote in the email. 

Fleming wrote in an email Friday linked to an additional response from the Cabinet, which says the group is working to create access to more diverse mental health providers through telehealth services, one of the demands the group listed. 

The Cabinet message also mentioned the creation of an accountability group. This group will tackle problems the cabinet has collectively identified alongside #BlackAtAppState, as well the demands mentioned in the letter. 

“The Chancellor’s Cabinet welcomes the opportunity to work collaboratively with you to make our university a stronger, more diverse campus that is inclusive and equitable,” the Cabinet wrote. 

“Because of the intersectionality found in this work, faculty, staff, students and alumni will have critical roles in developing and implementing solutions,” Fleming wrote.

At the end of his email, Fleming addressed #BlackAtAppState. He said that many of the demands the group shared are “key university priorities currently underway.” The demands will be addressed in the fall Strategic Diversity Plan from the CDO Advisory Board.

Fleming said “we have every expectation” that some of the demands will be met within one semester. 

Current efforts for a more diverse faculty and their retention are ongoing. Fleming provided updates on the Faculty Recruitment Working Group in the same email. 

The group is researching other institutions work with faculty diversity to apply their practices at App State. They’re also creating support materials, such as the Diversity Hiring Toolkit designed with resources for search committees and examples from other organizations. 

The “Concerned Black Mountaineers” write that all demands must be fully implemented within the next 36 months, without any changes.

In summary, the #BlackAtAppState demands cover:

Xanayra Marin- Lopez
Xanayra Marin- Lopez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The petition, which is close to its 5,000 signature goal, supports and links to #BlackAtAppState’s list of demands.

#BlackAtAppState released a statement in response to the chancellor’s message. 

In the statement, the group announced that it will be meeting with administration in the upcoming week. They will discuss implementation of the demands, the Faculty Recruitment Working Group, the Chief Diversity Officer Advising Board and the chancellor’s accountability group. 

Korbin Cummings, director of diversity and inclusion for App State SGA, said that though there is more work to do, Fleming’s statement was a step in the right direction. She said the group is hoping that the chancellor can better address the issues most marginalized students face.

Cummings said the group wonders why the Board of Trustees gave Everts a “vote of confidence” after #BlackAtAppState shared its statement. The board met July 6.

“We now fully expect the chancellor to have the support needed behind her to help implement these demands,” Cummings said.

The Black Student Association also shared its support for the movement on its Instagram by posting ways to help and encouraging followers to sign the petition. Their first post on the matter received support of over 2,000 likes and 200 comments. 

In #BlackAtAppState’s response statement, the group said they have received varied reactions, including hate speech.  

“This rhetoric seeks to further dehumanize, threaten and alienate Black folks,” the statement read.

“Our end goal is to ensure that Black students are safe on campus and feel comfortable being there,” Cummings said. “We stand behind our demands and hope to see all of them implemented within the timeline proposed by our statement and demands.” 

Cummings said the group plans to work with other students and alumni to “apply pressure” until all demands are fulfilled.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed names of faculty and staff associated with the Faculty Recruitment Working Group. The mistake has been corrected.