Batten School hosts talk on racial inequality at U.Va.

Student leaders discuss proposed policy changes to create a more inclusive University community

batten

The Batten School hosted a discussion on racial equality at U.Va. in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Nick Zugris | Cavalier Daily

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day last week, the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy hosted a “Batten Hour” talk Monday afternoon on racial inequality at the University in which Latinx and black student leaders discussed their proposals on how to make the University a more inclusive place for multicultural students.

To begin the event, Brian Zuluaga, third-year Batten student and president of the Batten Latinx Network, and Ryan Alexander, third-year College and Batten student and co-president of Courageous Conversations in Policy, discussed how to improve the experience of minority students in the Batten school.

“Using Batten to have more allies, more representation is important — I would say it’s essential,” Alexander said.

Created this year, BLN aims to help Latinx applicants to the Batten school feel comfortable with the process and collaborates with the Latinx Student Alliance to create programs such as professional development events for Latinx Batten students. CCP hopes to promote and sustain dialogue on the issues facing minority students in Batten.

Kayla Dunn, third-year College student and president of the Latinx Student Alliance, and Keiara Price, third-year College student and president of the Black Student Alliance, also spoke at the event about what steps the University needs to take towards addressing racial inequality — including translating financial aid documents and hiring more diverse faculty. Both the LSA and BSA have released proposals for how the University should address racial inequality, which include calls for increased support, resources and representation for minority students. 

“To say that some of our demands are unrealistic is a kind of stop on any of the progress that can be made,” Price said in response to criticisms of BSA’s demands, which were released in the aftermath of the Aug. 11, 2017 white supremacist march on the Lawn. Some of BSA’s demands included increasing enrollment of African American undergraduate students to better reflect state demographics and improving diversity and inclusion for faculty, staff and students of color.

Dunn encouraged all members of the University community to offer support to members of the BSA and LSA communities.

“Reach out to these organizations or even your friends who do identify as a multicultural identity,” Dunn said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily. “Knowing that you support what they are passionate about and supporting them as people and individuals in this community because often times it’s really easy for multicultural students to feel isolated.”

Both Dunn and Price have met with University officials to discuss promoting racial equality. Dunn lauded the Office of Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights’ efforts to promote inclusion.

Price noted that she hopes the University will make more of an effort to admit a diverse student body in the future. “If you only recruit in high-income areas, that’s what your demographic is going to be,” Price said.

During the coming semester, Dunn intends to ask the University to translate their official documents in different languages — particularly financial aid forms — and to begin the process of departmentalizing the American Studies program in collaboration with the Asian Leaders Council.

Price and Dunn also emphasized the importance of student activism, and the necessity of continuing work towards a more equal University community. 

“All I hope is that they stay committed to addressing these concerns, not just during my time here as a student, but for generations to come,” Dunn said.

This article previously referred to the Asian Leaders Council as the Asian Leadership Council. It has since been updated.

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