RAVE Alerts show administrators lack racial sensitivity Thursday, Sep 24 2020 

By Zachary Baker-

Over the past couple weeks, the University of Louisville’s administration has made several mistakes when it comes to racial sensitivity on campus.

From the conflicting language when it came to the Black Lives Matter protests around campus on Aug 25., to the dangerous and irresponsible vague RAVE alert, the university has been failing its students of color. 

On Sept. 10, a RAVE alert went out at 2:20 a.m. warning students about “A Black Male wearing a red hoodie” on the run from the police and possibly on campus. 

In a time where the danger of a Black student to possibly be killed in a misunderstanding by police is high, it seems downright reckless to send out a vague text early in the morning to a student body that is made up of 11% Black students

There are thousands of Black students on campus at a university where the schools colors are red, black and white. Sending out a text which only includes vague descriptors was either completely ignorant of current events or dangerously negligent of the consequences that could come from doing so. 

This is no new issue from the university, problematic RAVE alerts have been around for a while. 

Student Body President Sabrina Collins commented on the incident and who should be held accountable.

“The Sept. 10 RAVE alert is only the most recent incident in a longer history of problematic RAVE communications that put people of color on our campus at risk,” Collins said. “Having served on Top 4 for multiple years, I know this is not the first time SGA has advocated for substantial change in the way safety concerns are communicated with campus.”

Collins said that the university “must back their words up with anti-racist action if we ever hope to come close to the ideal of a ‘premier metropolitan anti-racist university.'”

“The University is correct that we must do better; however, students must keep pushing our administrators and police department to follow through on that promise,” she said.  

It is painfully obvious to the student body that the university can do better to protect them. The danger is not limited to the student body either. People across Louisville have talked about how it seems better to avoid U of L than risk arrest or injury due to the negligent behavior of the administration. Is that the university we want to be? 

Do we want that same message to go to potential incoming students seeking a better life through higher education? 

Dangerous and reckless behavior by the administration in how it communicates is correctable only by the administration itself. U of L needs to do better in both protecting its students of color and by promoting true change and accountability within the system.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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University of Louisville student government against return to campus Sunday, Aug 16 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

The University of Louisville Student Government Association sent a letter to the U of L administration expressing their concerns with the return to campus for the fall 2020 semester.

The letter was signed by the SGA ‘top four’ Student Body President Sabrina Collins, Executive Vice President Lexi Raikes, Academic Vice President Ben Barberie and Services Vice President Henrietta Ransdell.

“The original plan to return to campus in the fall was founded in optimism. In the early planning stages, our committees planned in the hopes that the COVID-19 situation would improve by August; however it is clear that the pandemic has only worsened,” the letter said.

“With this in mind, it is essential to reevaluate our original plan with student, faculty and staff safety as the top priority.”

The letter went on to detail the concerns that SGA has heard from students. They claim that many students are untrustworthy of U of L and some worry that U of L is waiting for the billing period to pass before changing the in-person instruction plan.

Other concerns include the cancellation of the IBM Watson Health Project, that residents will not be informed of positive cases in their buildings and the inability of the university to fully put a stop to parties.

The SGA ‘top four’ then explained that re-opening campus would put certain minority groups who are already more vulnerable to COVID-19 at further risk.

The letter also acknowledged that another mid-semester shift to online-only courses isn’t fair, as many students struggled with the transition last year.

“We hear from students daily who view another mid-semester shift as a ‘worst-case scenario.’ Our constituents constantly ask us to ‘rip the bandaid off’ and tell them if we think classes will be online. Unfortunately, we have no answers to give,” they said in the letter.

The letter concluded by reiterating that SGA is no longer in favor of in-person classes for the fall semester.

 

University Response

Several members of the U of L administration responded to SGA’s letter, including Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Boehm, Executive Vice President for Research and Innovation Kevin Gardner, Executive Director of Campus Health Services Phil Bressoud and Chief Operating Officer Mark Watkins.

“We know this is an extremely difficult time for students, faculty and staff at U of L and higher education institutions across the country,” they said in the letter. “In this letter we want to respond to the concerns you have expressed.”

They recognized that the original plan was made in a different time as far as COVID-19 cases in Kentucky but said that they were constantly working to update the plan as new information came out.

The university’s letter went on to remind students that they had the option to take all of their classes online if they were uncomfortable with returning to campus.  Administration said that while U of L has a plan for mass testing and contact tracing, they are not in favor of mandatory testing because it can lead to students becoming complacent and engaging in high-risk behaviors.

They addressed the concerns with the cancellation of the IBM Watson Health Project by saying that the product was not necessary and they have used the money they would have spent on it to hire more contact tracers and buy a product that would help students check their symptoms daily.

The letter also addressed the concern of not notifying students of infected people in their dorms, citing that HIPAA constraints keep them from publicly sharing health information of students.

They went on to list several precautions that will reduce COVID-19 risk on campus such as devoting $150,000 monthly to campus-wide disinfection, limiting the amount of in-person classes and providing rooms for quarantine both through campus housing and hotels if necessary.

“We have a critical mission to serve. Whether through in-person, online or hybrid courses, we are committed to providing the best education possible despite the obstacles presented by COVID,” the university said. “We are committed to offering that outstanding educational experience while creating and maintaining the best possible environment for our students, faculty and staff.”

They concluded the letter ensuring SGA that they discussed all of the concerns within their letter, but that their discussions led them to believe that they were prepared for a return to campus for fall semester.

Collins, a senior, told the Cardinal that SGA appreciated that the administration took the time to respond to their letter and address their concerns. She said that she also believed the meetings that she had with administration during the days following the letter response were helpful even though she still has concerns.

The biggest concerns Collins has heard from students were related to being unsure of what this semester would look like.

“A lot of the concern stems from the uncertainty of the moment and if we are going to switch online mid-semester,” she said.

Collins also wanted to tell students to check their emails regularly for COVID-19 updates and remind them that they can reach out to general@uoflsga.org if they need a template for requesting to take a hybrid-course online or any further help with that process.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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Students are a light to follow in the pursuit for racial and social justice Friday, Jun 5 2020 

By Brandon Cooper–

As University of Louisville administration addresses the racial and social justice issues making headlines, it is critical that they do not forget their greatest resource: students. The administration should focus energy on giving the power to mend injustices to those already in the streets protesting for such.

Student Government Association President Sabrina Collins said “the path forward has to come from students.”

“Our generation has the solutions, it is now up to U of L and universities across the nation to really listen,” Collins said.

As the university moves forward, they must base their actions off of those that are organized, focused and led by students. U of L professor Jason Gainous spoke passionately about the need to emphasize students during conversations relating to racial and social justice issues.

“Our students are the future of our community,” Gainous said. He has attended local protests with his 14-year-old daughter – who was pepper-sprayed and shot at with rubber bullets by police. He said he has seen first-hand the kind of passion and energy young people have and has faith in their ability to lead us through this pursuit for equality.

As a professor of digital politics, Gainous encourages students to continue using social media and other online platforms to organize, seek assistance and share their stories.

Gainous described university actions as a ‘balancing act’ – given the university’s extensive community ties that could be hindered by abrupt action that is not given extensive thought and planning.

At the onset of protests in Louisville over a week ago, actions and voices were faint from the U of L’s administration.

In recent days, Dr. Bendapudi has joined other administrators from the community to speak out against racial injustices. In addition to the administration’s recent statements and public appearances in the community, U of L Health has just announced a nursing scholarship fund in honor of Breonna Taylor. Though both great starting points, real action, policies and innovation must be implemented to enhance equality at the University of Louisville.

Bendapudi’s commitment to a student-centered ‘revolution’ starting right here at U of L is very apparent in her rather consistent communication with university stakeholders. The intricacies of university actions concerning social justice issues further highlight the need for extraordinary student engagement and leadership. When the future leaders of our community and nation speak, it is the responsibility of those currently in such positions to listen and act.

Anthony Taylor, a senior communications major, said he wants to see U of L become much more proactive about social justice going forward, rather than consistently reactive. Taylor believes that U of L has the resources to be on the frontlines of prominent social justice issues that directly impact our communities.

Hanah Jo Thurmond, a recent U of L graduate and attendee of local Black Lives Matter protests, said that the university should reinforce and expand the platforms for people of color to speak out on campus.

How will we, as a Cardinal family, respond to the impacts of these long-endured inequalities?

A critical step moving forward for the university is the implementation of required courses about white privilege and racial diversity for both students and faculty. Such courses could easily be added to the Cardinal Core requirements or implemented as curriculum in the Cardinal Orientation program. For employees, such courses should be added to the current employee orientation practices for all staff and faculty.

We should acknowledge the progress we’ve made thus far while continuing to call for action to implement the changes needed for racial equality and social justice.

U of L’s strength as a research and higher education institute lies in our diversity. With a spotlight on our students, U of L can be a national leader for higher education institutes to follow when addressing issues of inequality.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal 

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Student government hosts candidate forum ahead of ongoing election Monday, Feb 24 2020 

–By Madelin Shelton

The Student Government Association hosted a forum for the “Top 4” candidates Feb. 19 ahead of SGA elections.

Candidates introduced themselves, answered questions from current Top 4 officers and the audience, and gave closing statements.

The Top 4 positions are: Student Body President, Executive Vice President, Executive Services Vice President and Academic Vice President.

Student Body President

This office deals with university-wide issues and administration.

The first candidate, Brandon McClain, is the current director of outreach for SGA and founded the fourth branch of SGA, the Student Organization Advisory Board.

McClain advocated for altering the meal plan system at the university to better accommodate students at affiliated properties and to better serve students by creating a housing cheat sheet for affiliated and unaffiliated properties.

This cheat sheet would allow students to comparatively look at information about rent and amenities for the various properties on and close to campus.

McClain also would like to have recognized student organizations become official members of SGA, wherein they would be required to attend one senate meeting every year or two.

Academic Vice President Sabrina Collins is also running for president. Collins wants to create more transparency in SGA. She also wants to implement an SGA Cares hotline, where students could submit questions or request advice for navigating university life.

Collins said she would also allocate more funds to the PEACC Center due to increasing demand and advocate against hidden student fees.

Executive Vice President

The person elected to this office will be president of the student senate, promote diversity initiatives and work closely with the athletics department.

Candidate Joenima Wani said she was qualified for the position through her experience holding meetings for service committees and serving as Assistant Services Vice President.

Wani said she will make more funding available to the PEACC Center and the Counseling Center. She also wants to provide more support to The Ville’ns, a registered student organization on campus that seeks to create, reinforce and enhance the fan experience of Cardinal Athletics.

Lexi Raikes is the other executive vice president candidate. She said her work as appropriations committee chair for SGA Senate and her diversity initiatives qualify her for the job.

Raikes said she helped add a diversity committee to SGA  and is getting a more diverse group of people involved in SGA.

She said she would create more avenues of involvement in SGA, including creating a mentorship program for people from diverse backgrounds and elevating student voices that often get left out.

Service Vice President

This position focuses on working with student services, including housing, safety, dining and construction.

Candidate Henny Ransdell, executive director of the Engage Lead Serve Board, described herself in that role as working towards the principles of “sustainability, affordability and inclusivity.”

Ransdell said she would seek to accomplish these goals through elevating student voices. She has advocated designating the bathrooms in new residence halls safe for transgender students, encouraged university administration to not increase tuition as a first resort and prioritized student voices in the construction of the new Cultural Center.

Savannah Fairfield is on the ballot for services vice president but was not at the forum.

Academic Vice President

This officer works directly with deans and faculty.

Lone candidate Ben Barberie currently serves as the deputy chief of staff for the SGA Executive Cabinet. Barberie emphasized retention of students and proposed adding intervention points between students’ first and second years, as well as between their second and third years.

 He said the university could use this point to “provide resources to students who most need them.” He also highlighted the need for leveraging more community partnerships, like with the UPS. He also advocates for making college more affordable, specifically through lowering the cost of online classes for full-time students.

Ballots for the SGA candidates were sent to students through their UofL emails, and voting ends Feb. 26.

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Ekstrom Library gets new all-gender bathroom on second floor Wednesday, Jan 29 2020 

By Matthew Keck —

The University of Louisville Student Government Association (SGA) announced Jan. 15 a new all-gender bathroom on campus. The bathroom is located on the 24-hour side of the second floor of Ekstrom Library.

“The possibility of a gender neutral bathroom in the library first came to our attention in May of 2019,” said SGA president Jasper Noble. “We [Noble and Sabrina Collins] both met with the Dean of the Library to discuss the possible project, and emphasize our desire for it to be placed in the 24-hour wing.”

Ekstrom isn’t the only place on U of L’s campus to have a bathroom like this. Noble said that newer buildings on campus are being built with this need in mind.

With Ekstrom being a central hub on campus, and one that sees a lot of student traffic, this made it an ideal spot. “For a lot of folks, Ekstrom is the most visited place on campus besides housing,” said Noble. “This is a space where students spend hours at a time, and often end up staying there late. Ensuring that every student feels comfortable in the Library is critical to their success, and going to the bathroom shouldn’t stand in the way of that.”

This new bathroom came to fruition because SGA felt the library needed a more accessible space. Dean of the Libraries, Bob Fox, and Dean of Ekstrom Library, Bruce Keisling, also helped make this project a reality.

“Many groups were advocating on behalf of this renovation, but we worked primarily with Dean Fox, and Dean Keisling,” said Noble. “They both supported the project and were able to provide the funding to make it happen. We are thankful for their support on this important project.”

This bathroom won’t be the last one of its kind either. “If other spaces on campus demonstrate that same need, we would try to make the same progress there,” he said.

Noble also said that SGA is happy to use their position to advocate for a space like this on U of L’s campus.

Photo By Matthew Keck // The Louisville Cardinal

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