FIU Town Hall: A Discussion about Diversity, Unity and Action addressed persistent racial prejudice.
Changing the world begins with making changes at home.
That was the message of FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg on Friday afternoon during an open conversation about racism and ways to empower black students and employees. More than 1,000 members of the FIU community attended the virtual gathering, which was held in response to nationwide civil unrest sparked by the May 25 police killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis, the latest in a string of such disturbing episodes.
Joined on a panel by university administrators and student leaders, Rosenberg began by acknowledging the pain and suffering of the African American community and vowed to undertake steps that will make FIU a leader in addressing systemic inequality.
“There is no more urgent question that we confront than enduring racism and social injustice,” Rosenberg said. “I see us leading by example. I think that’s very important. I think the community expects that and wants that from us.”
The president unveiled a draft document that listed initiatives designed to bring greater diversity to faculty hiring, increase access to higher education, promote university contracts with minority-owned small businesses and expand PELL grant support for students in need, among others.
In emphasizing “a sense of urgency,” Provost and Executive Vice President Kenneth G. Furton mentioned that such initiatives would be part of the university’s new strategic plan and have measurable goals attached to them.
El pagnier Hudson, vice president for Human Resources, spoke of the need to offer cultural sensititivy training to employees and to support anyone who needed mental health assistance during a time of great social upheaval. To the latter, she spoke of her own experience during what have been trying days.
“I sit here with mental exhaustion, with internal conflict as a black woman,” Hudson said. Hurt over the decades by the many instances of disregard for the lives of black Americans, she nonetheless is heartened at the country’s acceptance that work must now be done and the willingness of FIU to be part of the solution.
“This time is different,” she said. “This time the curtains have been drawn back and the world has been able to see what a person like me has had to navigate every day.”
Vice President of Academic & Student Affairs Elizabeth Bejar said she had received countless messages from members of the FIU community eager to be part of the productive change that Rosenberg and the others are seeking. “People saying, 'What can I do? How can I help? What can be done?'" she explained. "The will of our university community is so special, and people are so dedicated to that premise.
“If we are going to make an impact, if we are going to improve, if we believe that black lives matter, we need to change what we are doing.”