In the wake of an incident at the University of Washington in which black protesters were subjected to racist slurs, allegedly by members of a fraternity, students talked about concerns that too few blacks are being admitted or hired to teach.
Even as University of Washington officials began looking into allegations that fraternity members called out racist slurs during a protest march last month, the students who organized the march met with university administrators over concerns that few blacks are being admitted or hired to teach classes.
Black students say members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) called protesters “apes” as they marched past the fraternity during a Black Lives Matter protest Feb. 25. Fraternity members say they heard the taunts as well, but that their members were not responsible. The university is looking into the matter.
On Friday afternoon, Black Student Union (BSU) members met with interim president Ana Mari Cauce to talk about the 13-page list of demands students delivered at the end of the march.
A key demand, said BSU president Maggie Negussie, is that the university work to repeal Initiative 200, which had the effect of doing away with race-based admission policies at the UW.
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She described that as a long-term goal — “not something that’s going to happen in a day.”
Initiative 200, which prohibits racial and gender preferences by state government, passed with 58 percent of the vote in November 1998.
After its passage, the number of black students admitted plummeted but has since grown slightly. Last fall, there were about 1,000 black undergraduates on the Seattle campus, out of an undergraduate enrollment of nearly 30,000 — or a little over 3 percent of all students.
The state’s black population is 4 percent, according to the U.S. Census. The city of Seattle’s black population is nearly 8 percent.
In a letter to students released earlier this week, and signed by Cauce and four other senior members of the UW leadership team, the university promised to work with students on many of the issues.
Administrators said the UW “would be a more excellent and diverse community if we did not have to work under I-200’s restrictions, which not only limit the tools we have at our disposal when reviewing applications, but also sends the wrong message about access to higher education for all.” However, the letter stopped short of saying that the university would work on its repeal.
Students are also calling for the university to hire a more diverse faculty, and say that only 70 of the UW’s 4,115 faculty members are black — about 1.7 percent.
And a letter to the law school asks for an alternative-admissions program to create greater diversity there, noting that in 2014, only two law degrees were awarded to African Americans.
Negussie said students were pleased by the meeting. “The university was very compliant and very open to our ideas — they were definitely very understanding of our issues,” she said.