RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - VCU's president is speaking out after tempers flare at a campus forum on diversity.
During a standing-room-only discussion Wednesday, both students and faculty members challenged administrators claiming they're not doing enough to recruit and maintain minorities. "When we talk about Black Lives Matter, we're not just referring to police brutality, but also that it matters in academia," a student addressed the group.
It was a packed house on VCU's campus Wednesday. Many were upset over a lack of diversity they say they see on campus everyday. "As a student, learn as much as you possibly can from a diverse staff that have different perspectives," student Pascaline Ezouah said. "One person's experience might be different from another's. That is why we are pushing for this."
It comes days after students with the Black Lives Matter movement stormed into the president's office, citing a need for immediate action. Of the university's nearly 30,000 students, only 15 percent are African American, and just 7 percent are Hispanic or Latino. Then there are concerns about the professors teaching those students.
"The black student to black teacher ratio is 45 black students to one black teacher. All students to a black professor is 300 to one, while all students to a white professor is 17 to 1," a student leader told the group.
So what does president Michael Rao have to say? "Are we doing all of the right things in all of the right areas? I'm not so sure," he admitted. He said VCU will create an action plan on how to better address diversity issues moving forward. "There are a lot of things that we can do, and some things that we can't do. We do have the prerogative to become a more diverse faculty," Rao added.
Students in attendance spoke out following the discussion. "I'm pleased. Only time will tell what will really happen," Richard Flowers said. "It was good to kind of clear the air a little bit. What I would have liked to see is The Board of Visitors who were in the front row. They were very quiet. They are in control of where the money goes when it comes down to it," Sarah King added.
The racial turmoil at the University of Missouri earlier in the month set the stage for VCU students to take a closer look at their own campus and voice their concerns before tensions escalate.
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