‘We’ve done some damage as an institution’ – SIUE faculty on school’s new Anti-Racism Task Force

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EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has created an Anti-Racism Task Force to help dismantle racism on campus and the surrounding community.

“We are at a point where people are tired of talk, people are tired of committees, ” said Jessica Harris, Interim Assistant Provost for Academic Equity and Inclusive Excellence.

Harris, also a history professor, proposed the task force in a meeting with the chancellor and senior leaders.

The group’s goals are to have working groups that look at racism and bias in the school’s policies and practices on the campus. The group will also think about what the school’s institutional roles should be in the community as well.

“We are venturing to make connections in communities where we’ve done some damage as an institution, we have to be honest about that,” said Harris.

She explained that SIUE was founded in 1957 in East St. Louis and then moved to Edwardsville about a decade later.

“Our movement to Edwardsville is really a microcosm of a larger flight from that city and an overall divestment within that city that we’ve seen the fruits of over time. Over decades, a part of our responsibility as a university is to reckon with that and be honest with that,” said Harris.

Harris says one way to do that is to reinvest in the community and reinvest in the people in East St. Louis.

She said about 14% of the campus population is historically underrepresented ethnic and racial minority. She hopes the Task Force can help grow the campus’ diversity and also work at retaining and recruiting minority staff.

Harris says she is encouraged by the work that the school is doing and she acknowledges it’s not just the faculty.

“Our students are stepping up and I’m not surprised,” said Harris.

In addition to the new Task Force, SIUE already has a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Team that has been working to promote equity on the campus and beyond.

She mentioned that the movement and awareness she’s seeing on the Edwardsville campus is not only in our region but nationally.

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