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College professor writes paper about improving the lives of African Americans on college campuses

10 Concrete Policy Changes
Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 8:02 AM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT)

By now people are aware of the tragic and horrific events surrounding George Floyd ,Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many other African Americans whose lives were ended way too early.

Floyd’s death started not just nationwide but international movement for racial and social injustice. Some Black Lives Matter protesters have even called for defunding the police.

“So this is not something new. This is something that we have seen over time, that America does not move unless they see blood in the streets or death,” said Dr. Sydney Freeman, jr., an associate professor at the University of Idaho

Now Dr. Freeman wants to start shifting the focus and attention to higher education. He recently wrote an opinion paper for Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, in which he listed “10 Concrete Policy Changes” colleges should adopt to improve the lives of African Americans on college campuses.

“I think this can be a model and other communities (minorities) can use it as a template,” said Freeman.

One thing the professor has suggested is that college campuses should be more proactive in hiring and promoting black faculty and staff. He feels the move would promote “black excellence”, not just for African American students but for other students as well. In Idaho the population is predominantly white and less than 1 percent of the population is African American according to the U.S Census Bureau.

“Because a for lot of people their only interaction prior to coming to college with a black person has been watching something on tv,” said Freeman.

He also thinks universities often make the mistake of putting all minorities under one umbrella targeted toward diversity and inclusion, instead of focusing on each group's individual needs.

“That has caused us to be in the position we are in right now, because we have not targeted particular communities because they have different needs,” said Freeman.

Professor Freeman said one of the issues African Americans deal with on predominantly white campuses is that they feel “hyper visible when an issue of race comes up”, but " feel almost invisible any other time”.

He also said over the last several weeks institutions of higher education have written statements of support in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, but “we have not seen much change in policies and initiatives targeted at black populations,” and that is one of the reasons he wrote his opinion essay.

Angel Montes De Oca, the student body president at the College of Southern Idaho, said his college does a great job at getting students from different backgrounds involved on campus through clubs, councils, and committees, but he feels some of the work is up to the students themselves.

“Because most of the groups are student led, so if any student from an African American background wants to start a group on campus they are more than welcome to do that,” said Montes De Oca.

Freeman said since he published his paper in late June has received both push-back and support on it, He said his employer, the University of Idaho, is already discussing hiring more black professors, faculty and staff. He said they are also talking about creating an African American studies center/ space for students.

Freeman said he hopes to see more colleges in Idaho and across the nation to start make changes as well, or at least start the conversation.

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