President Michael Crow announced a series of actions to support Black students, faculty and staff in a newsletter sent to the ASU community on Wednesday in response to recent calls for the University to step up its efforts to address systemic racism.
In the statement, ASU commits to 25 courses of action to improve racial diversity and education on campus.
These actions include boosting efforts to hire faculty of color, creating an advisory council on African American affairs, plans to build a multicultural facility on campus and requiring ASU police officers to have a bachelor's degree.
The announcement comes three months after Crow announced his intent to address social injustice and explore solutions to the problem with deans, faculty and students.
"I wrote on June 1 my thinking about George Floyd’s murder, the inappropriate behavior of the police, the systemic, endemic injustice and racism built into our society,” Crow said during a University Senate meeting on Monday. "I received a lot of comments for that, a lot of criticisms for that letter, which I took to heart.”
According to Crow, his office received hundreds of suggestions in response to his call-to-action. These suggestions helped establish the 25 key initiatives, the announcement said, also stating that "each and every one of them will be launched this year."
"This is the moment to do everything that we can to take the next step forward," Crow said to the University Senate. "To have this University serve as an exemplar of what social justice means and an exemplar of what diversity means and how it works."
The announcement said the University will provide regular updates on the implementation of these actions, pledging to "work harder, invest more and do more" to provide a "welcoming, supportive and empowering" educational, work and living environment for the Black students, faculty and staff at ASU.
The Black African Coalition sent a statement to administration shortly after the release of Crow's action plan. The letter asks that representation from the BAC or the President's Council within its 29 member organizations be involved in all meetings discussing the University's plan to support the Black community.
"The BAC is very happy with (Crow) committing to a lot of the things that we have been fighting for and advocating for this summer," Aniyah Braveboy, president of BAC, said. "It made it seem like our efforts are finally being seen and that he has been reading all of the BAC’s wonderful letters we have sent to the ASU administration."
Through many student-lead clubs and charters, members of the Black community at ASU have been calling on the University to support its demand to address systemic racism within the institution for years.
"We really thank ASU for finally hearing us, and we’re sorry that it took so long," Braveboy, a senior majoring in public service and public policy, said.
The demand for social justice at ASU accumulated in a protest led by the Multicultural Solidarity Coalition on Aug. 31, which garnered hundreds of protesters calling on ASU to defund the police and build a Multicultural Center on campus.
The MSC, a student-run organization not registered within the University, along with the BAC have been dedicated to establishing a Multicultural Center at ASU for years.
Members of both organizations, along with other students, began meeting with University officials over the summer, until talks of building a Multicultural facility on campus eventually fizzled, members of the BAC and MSC told The State Press.
In its letter to the administration, the BAC asks that the Council of Coalitions, in partnership with the MSC, play a key role in bringing their vision of the Multicultural Center into fruition.
Now that Crow has pledged ASU’s commitment to "establishing a multicultural space on campus," Nazhoona Betsuie, facilitator of membership for the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples, said some community members are looking to work closely with the University to create a space that meets the standards they’re advocating for.
"It’s more than just having a space on campus that has a place that's designated for you," said Betsuie, a senior majoring in public service and public policy. "It’s really about furthering the goal of (student) retention, academic success and fostering a sense of community — especially at a primarily white institution like ASU."
Despite many seeing the action items as a step in the right direction, students still hope to see more from the University, especially when it comes to the ASU Police Department.
The University’s action items are absent of the MSC’s and BAC’s demands to defund ASU police in the plan to tackle systemic racism, something Kelly Baur, a second year Ph.D. student in linguistics and member of the MSC, says is critical for including a Multicultural Center on campus.
"We have a lot of suggestions to make the University a safer space for students beyond the Multicultural Center," Baur said. "It's very important that the demand to disarm and defund the police is in there, because the police do not protect students of color — they put them in harm's way."
Braveboy said she is not aware of any instances in which ASU police have physically harmed students, but "it’s all been verbal." BIPOC students have reported being randomly stopped and questioned while "simply walking home."
"We are still wanting to disarm ASU PD," Braveboy said. "After having multiple conversations with Police Chief Michael Thompson, we came to realize that whether or not we have an active shooter on campus, they’re still going to have to call out Tempe PD or Phoenix PD. There really is no need for ASU PD to have armed weapons."
To student organizations who support measures to defund ASU police, it's more than taking away their weapons but to also redistribute those resources to help students.
"Defunding ASU police doesn't just mean kicking away their resources," Betsuie said, adding that recent proposals call on the University to redirect the police budget to student services like sexual health and domestic violence response and prevention.
Crow asserted the University is open to furthering the conversation of racial injustice within the ASU community.
"One thing that I hope 2019 and 2020 has taught people is that we live in a very racist society," Braveboy said. "If you don’t see me as a Black woman, then you don’t see me. Because I’m going to deal with different oppressions and different types of discrimination.”