Auburn University Steps up Minority Programs
Auburn University will expand its minority studies and continue racial tolerance and diversity training next year for its faculty, staff and students in the face of the Nov. 5 fraternity blackface party that reaped scorn (see Black Issues, Dec. 6).
Auburn interim president William F. Walker announced a stepped-up focus on diversity last month, saying the school is moving to attack, “through whatever effective means we can, the apparent lack of sensitivity and understanding” that led to the fraternity incident.
The White fraternity members were temporarily suspended from the university, but reinstated by a Lee County circuit judge. Some of the members have filed a lawsuit against the university (see Black Issues, Dec. 20).
Auburn’s new programs and policies were being prepared by the provost and the vice president for student affairs. But besides policy statements, Walker said he planned public convocations and forums for discussions on tolerance and diversity.
He has directed provost John Pritchett to expand course offerings in minority studies. During the spring semester, Auburn will offer a sociology course dealing with race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.
“We’re going to redouble our efforts to diversify,” Walker says.
Walker also has appointed a task force to consider creating a multicultural center on campus, where 7.2 percent of the overall enrollment of 22,469 is Black. Over the past five years, the number of Blacks in Auburn’s faculty has increased by 29 to 47 out of a total of 1,100 faculty members. This year’s freshman class included 337 Blacks — a 24 percent increase over the previous year’s total of 273.
The Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center’s Tolerance.Org will assist Auburn officials in carrying out its diversity plans.
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