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Supporting the Black community at the U

Announcing the Black Advisory Council at the University of Utah.

This article was originally published in the People & Places blog.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) at the University of Utah can always be found in a state of growth as we endeavor to reflect and best support the campus community we serve. As part of this ongoing expansion, we’re excited to witness the formation of a brand new group on our campus. The Black Advisory Council (BAC) will advise the vice president for EDI in the recruitment and retention of Black students, faculty and staff while supporting their continued growth and addressing the ongoing climate of the Black community at the University of Utah.

Created in response to point 14 of a joint resolution presented by the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU) in July 2020, the BAC will “discuss issues the Utah Black community faces as a collective consisting of members from the Black community on campus and in the greater Salt Lake community (ASUU, BSU, TASA, BSFA, Black student-athletes and coaches, NPHC Graduate chapters, respectable faith leaders in community, campus police, SLC police department, President’s office, etc.).”

Given their vital role in the campus community, students will be valuable and active participants in the BAC to ensure their thoughts and experiences are centered within the Council’s recommendations. Emma E. Houston, special assistant to the vice president for EDI, knows how critical it is for students to have this level of access to leadership development, explaining that “students who are successful in college, have a sense of belonging and are supported by mentors and peers are better prepared to accomplish their personal and professional goals.”

Houston further emphasized that the BAC’s commitment to student success will include acting intentionally to help Black students “navigate real and perceived barriers they may experience on campus and in the classrooms.”

As part of that vision, one of the BAC’s charges will be reviewing and selecting applicants for the Black Cultural Center’s (BCC) program, “Operation S.U.C.C.E.S.S.” The program, which is powered by the university’s George Floyd Memorial Fund, will offer students the unique experience of creating programming as BCC ambassadors, developing their leadership and social portfolios through tailored skill building and many other benefits. Meligha Garfield, director of the Black Cultural Center, envisions the BAC as playing a “much-needed role in ensuring the selection process of fellows in the leadership program.”

Committee members include two co-chairs (one to represent staff and faculty, the other to be selected from the student body), a secretary and a historian, all of whom will be elected by the BAC’s members. The ten-person collection of representatives that make up the bulk of the BAC will hail from student organizations, staff, faculty, alumni and even the greater Utah community.

Shavauna Munster, advisor to the University of Utah’s Black Student Union and future member of the BAC, is hopeful that bringing individuals from this range of spaces will provide “a better understanding of issues, initiatives, accomplishments, and potential collaborations while creating accountability for continued change.” Munster also envisions the BAC as a pivotal way to facilitate “continual dialogue, transparency, communication and collaboration,” at the university and beyond.

As we aspire to make our campus a space where everyone has the ability to achieve success, the BAC (and other councils to be formed in the 2021-22 academic year) will provide a crucial, real-time perspective which, according to Garfield, “can galvanize a much larger pulse of the Black community around campus.” EDI is ready to put that information to use as we continue down the path to a greater, more inclusive campus for all.

Learn more about the Black Advisory Council here and stay tuned to the BCC’s communication outlets for announcements when student positions are open for nomination in the fall and updates on Operation S.U.C.C.E.S.S.