Issues of race and diversity continued to seize the University of Cincinnati Friday as students, alumni and faculty voiced displeasure with top administrators in the wake of Arts & Sciences Dean Ronald Jackson’s resignation.
A crowd of more than 50 people gathered between Tangeman University Center and McMicken Commons around 11 a.m. with signs and a message: UC needs to do more to further diversity and be inclusive to all.
“I think a lot of students are scared to act because they really don’t know what might happen in terms of their being able to continue with this institution,” said Samuel Burbank, a doctoral student studying education. “There’s a spirit of fear at the university for students to get involved and be active. We want to push forward and talk about these issues.”
As groups of prospective students touring campus walked by, Burbank shouted, “Please do not send your children to the racist University of Cincinnati.”
Others held signs with messages like “Stop apartheid at the University of Cincinnati” and “Another brotha bites the dust.”
Earlier Friday, UC President Santa Ono issued a statement in which he said the university has made great strides in improving diversity on campus, but everyone could do better to improve equality of underrepresented students and faculty.
“I do believe that UC has made significant progress toward becoming a more just community in recent years and I am proud of the work of many members of the university in moving forward our Diversity Plan,” Ono said in his statement. “I acknowledge that there have been events over the past months that are at odds with what it means to be a just community. However, this does not negate the progress that has been made and does not change the fact that the vast majority of our university remains committed to the principles of a just community.”
Of the 41,970 total students enrolled at UC, 30,403 students are white, 6,518 are minorities and 5,049 are labeled as unknown, according to the latest UC Office of Institutional Research data on student enrollment. Similar data shows that of the 1,710 total faculty members, 1,244 are white, 289 are minorities and 92 are unknown.
Friday’s rally wrapped up a racially charged week that started Tuesday when Jackson resigned effective immediately. His year-and-a-half tenure as dean of UC’s largest college — with 8,028 students and more than 390 tenured or tenure-track faculty members — was riddled with controversy.
Jackson was awarded an initial bonus many faculty members thought he shouldn’t have received and sparked complaints from other leaders of the college who didn’t think he was the right choice for the position.
In early September, a racist cartoon derogatorily depicting Jackson and Carol Tonge Mack, A&S Recruitment and Retention Initiatives assistant dean, circulated around campus and through faculty via email.
And though the university made efforts to combat racism on campus through diversity speaker engagements and open dialogues after the cartoon was posted, some students are not satisfied with the actions taken.
“I just want them to understand what I’m going through, not necessarily say ‘I experience the same thing,’ but just hear my voice,” said Anja Macedo, third-year business student. “I don’t expect you to understand what I’m going through as a black female in college.”
Jackson declined to comment Sunday and said he was not at liberty to comment at the moment. Administrators have said Jackson will likely continue to work in the Communications Department where he is a tenured faculty member, but he has not confirmed his future plans.
In an email to A&S faculty and staff members regarding his resignation, Jackson pointed to the “bitterness” of his resignation as “all that came with being the college’s first and the university’s only African American dean.”
“While I stood proudly as dean, I along with the UC community endured racist cartoons and public mischaracterizations aimed at me,” Jackson said in the email.
In his email, Jackson also pointed to his accomplishments as dean, including the implementation of the college’s first Maymester, staff bonus incentive plan and STEM fee to support STEM education and research, as well as the hiring of the first assistant dean of Recruitment and Retention.
Burbank said Jackson’s resignation was especially unfortunate because he wasn’t the only underrepresented UC leader to recently leave the university.
“There’s another black male they drove out of the university,” Burbank said. “First, starting with the President [Gregory Williams] who left last year and the police chief who I think left early this year. Now it is Dean Jackson.”
UC student body president Joe Blizzard plans to combat the community’s diversity dissatisfaction with a new bill student government will present at Wednesday’s meeting.
He said the bill will enable student government to play a more pivotal role in the things that are happening around campus, achieve goals around the diversity plan and reach out to more students to help recruit better and brighter students to the university.
While Blizzard plans on starting new initiatives, A&S interim dean Kristi Nelson said she plans on reaching out to the university community as soon as possible.
“I plan on reaching out and just talking to some of the college leadership staff and we are going to organize a forum for students next week,” she said.
Not only are students raising speaking out about recent racial tension, but alumni came back to campus to support black students who might be feeling inequality and hardships at the university.
“It is quite evident in Cincinnati that the act of racism is prevalent in this city and we are not going to tolerate it anymore,” said Marjorie Moseley, a former African American studies student and 1982 A&S graduate. “We fought when we were in this school, not just to stay in school and be students, but we had to fight to be here. The behavior that was depicted upon us was unimaginable.”
Mosley said she attended the demonstration because she knows what underrepresented students have to endure.
“This is it,” Moseley said. “It’s got to be stopped.”