ONSR activists call for inclusion, renamed buildings at university system meeting

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By: Sam Shelton, Senior Editor

Members of Towson’s Organized Network of Student Resistance campaigned for greater diversity measures and urged administrators to diversify insensitively-named University buildings this morning during a University System of Maryland regents meeting held on campus.

 “From College Park to Towson University, our universities have chosen to pridefully advertise slave owners and white supremacists with statues, memorials and buildings,” student activist Bilphena Yahwon said. “This is an act of violence against black students.”

 Paca House and the newly-built Carroll Hall are named after slave-owners and Declaration of Independence signatories William Paca and Charles Carroll, respectively.

In today’s T3 electronic newsletter, a statement from USM Chancellor and former Towson University President Bob Caret described the establishment of a USM Diversity and Inclusion Council, which resulted from input gathered from all 12 USM institutions by a regent workgroup.

 “This new council, with all USM institutions and constituencies represented, will carry this important work forward while maintaining open communication,” Caret said in the statement. “Using a data-driven approach, the council will develop and administer a “campus climate survey,” inventory current campus activities, measure the actual impact of diversity and inclusion efforts relative to goals set, and establish accountability metrics.”

 At TU, a committee of students, faculty and administrators are currently working toward naming the University’s first  vice president of inclusion and institutional equity. According to a timeline projected by the University, the vice presidency will be announced in early January, pending unforeseen challenges. The University has also posted a diversity initiatives progress report, which details the measures taken thus far toward fulfilling the demands negotiated during November’s #OccupyTowson protest.

The members of ONSR, which formed in December in connection with the #OccupyTowson sit-in at the President’s Office, were invited to speak about their concerns at the meeting, according to USM Board of Regents Chair James Brady.

 “We feel very strongly about it, and we will continue to work in that direction,” Brady said.

 “On December 11, 2015, our Chancellor, Robert Caret, said, and I quote, ‘The USM reaffirms its long-standing commitment to supporting and nurturing a culture of diversity, inclusion and fairness on every one of our campuses,’” Yahwon said. “We propose that your keep your comments and your word.”

 The Dec. 11 statement cited by Yahwon is available online through the USM’s website.

 — Sarah Rowan contributed to this story

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