Virginia Tech Task Force to Study Race
Survey finds Whites, Blacks perceive campus racial climate differently
A Virginia Tech task force will examine racial tensions on campus in response to concerns from students and faculty.
The 20-member group, composed of faculty and students, will study how to improve communication within the university community and encourage more civility on campus. The group will present its recommendations to President Charles Steger by January.
Benjamin Dixon, vice president for multicultural affairs at Tech, will head the task force when it meets in late summer. “Some of the students may not be around yet, but we really need to get going,” Dixon said earlier this month. In a letter to the university, Dixon said recent events on campus and university surveys suggest an urgent need for such a task force.
In March, a classroom-scheduling dispute between two professors sparked protests about racism on campus. A Black instructor was using the classroom without permission when a White professor, who had reserved the space, told the instructor to move his class. Neither man budged and Virginia Tech police eventually arrested the Black professor for disorderly conduct. University officials insist that race was not an issue in the spat. But in an April letter to the university, Steger said Tech should seize the opportunity to continue trying to improve the racial climate on campus.
Two university-led surveys in 1998 found alarming disparities between how minorities and Whites perceive the racial climate on campus. Fifty-four percent of the Black faculty and 40 percent of Black students rated the university as relatively racist, compared with 8 percent of White faculty and 14 percent of White students.
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