Arkansas State University leaders hold virtual town hall for African American students

Arkansas State University leaders hold virtual town hall for African American students

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Traditionally, when Arkansas State University has town halls, it invites students to the auditorium and gives them the floor to express their concerns and needs.

While the university says they will address many other important issues, Thursday’s meeting was focused on the members of the African American community.

“Even though, I can’t know what you are going through. I want you to know in spite of that I want to do everything I can to help you and that I stand beside you," Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said.

A-State faculty and staff say they want to listen to learn, listen to improve and give a voice to those who are unheard.

In a first step to show that, university leaders opened up at the Thursday evening meeting to hear from their African American students, assuring them that “Every Red Wolf Counts."

“We know that if we give them a platform, it may take them a while for them to warm up to asking and talking about what they want to talk about, but we will eventually hear what are some of the issues that unfortunately as administrators we don’t get to hear every day," Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement Dr. Maurice Gipson said.

During the town hall, students anonymously brought up concerns about the lack of diversity of faculty and staff on campus, university police relationships with students and the unfair treatment of black organizations.

“We know these issues are so systemic. We know these issues are affecting our students in very direct ways. Why do we even think it’s acceptable to do surface-level work," Gipson said.

As the panel listened, clarified and noted concerns, they say it’s time to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

“It’s one thing to listen. It’s another thing to make sure people understand you’re hearing them. The way they understand you are hearing them is if you act on the things you are hearing,” Damphousse said.

Officials say this is only the beginning, with more town halls scheduled.

And with them, action will follow.

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