University News

Interim President Martin Abraham: A Better WIU

June 23, 2020


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Dear Black Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni & Allies,

Last week, I, along with WIU Trustee Doug Shaw, met virtually with Black Student Association Executive Board Members Shakyria Bailey, Danielle Hughes and Briana Cross. I'd like to thank Shakyria, Danielle and Briana for having a frank and open discussion with us and for putting forth a lot of questions and suggestions. We discussed the comments that have been posted on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I thank you for speaking up and sharing your painful experiences. We developed some immediate action items, and will continue to work with BSA leadership and other student organizations on longer term activities and to ensure we stay focused on working to make WIU better and a place in which you will be proud.

At the June Board of Trustees meeting, and at last Monday's Macomb City Council meeting, I presented remarks about the challenges our Black students, faculty, staff, alumni and guests face on campus and in the community. I shared some of your tweets, comments, and emails to illustrate the anti-Black sentiments you have felt, heard and experienced. I will continue to speak out. I will not be complicit. I will not be silent. You deserve better.

While there are some who will deny that systemic racism exists in our community and at WIU, there are many more who are committed to righting the wrongs and working hard to educate others and address systemic racism. I will not sit back and allow racism to exist in the shadows. I will continue to put students' interests first.

One of my initial goals was to put programs into place for our diverse campus population and to further diversify our University. I appointed an Assistant to the President for Diversity, Dr. Sterling Saddler. We modified our hiring practices last year to enhance inclusivity and to increase diversity among applicants. We organized training activities for our faculty and staff in January, and brought them together again to discuss Ibram Kendi's book, "How to be an Antiracist." We have begun the process, but we have a long way to go.

Some of our immediate next orders of business will be to put into place enhanced training programs for our faculty and staff, including student employees and resident assistants, change the funding structure for our student organizations to ensure equitable distributions, and improve our reporting system for incidents of harassment, discrimination and other policy violations. I have initiated conversations with our Office of Public Safety to discuss our practices and determine how our police actions are impacted by anti-Black racism. These actions are still not enough. Our work is ongoing and evolving. WIU will do better; I will do better.

I welcome your ideas, your thoughts, your issues and your concerns. I want to do the best I can for our students. You can always email me at President@wiu.edu.

Thank you again for sharing your experiences. I look forward to working with our students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members as we work to make WIU and Macomb a place where our students feel welcomed and safe.

Sincerely,
Martin Abraham
Interim President

Posted By: WIU News (U-Relations@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations