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After students point out racism in public health, department holds a forum

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Following a hostile interaction between a black academic adviser and the UW Police Department (UWPD) in March and the subsequent student demands and calls for racial equity, the department of global health met Friday to call for leadership and discuss making change a reality.

“[At] today’s forum, we are at the table,” said Anu Taranath, faculty member in the English department and mediator for the meeting. “The last forum was a call for the table.”

Attendance was so high at the second forum that approximately 20 people sat on the wooden floor in the South Campus Center room. The audience was composed mostly of students and faculty, and only a handful of UW administrators were present.

“There’s a lot I don’t know,” said Howard Frumkin, dean of the School of Public Health, urging audience members to be humble, challenge assumptions, and get uncomfortable. 

A compiled list of demands was handed out, but only a few were focused on during the forum. The points of focus included increasing student diversity, increasing staff and faculty diversity, and creating a comprehensive and ongoing racism training for students, staff, and faculty. 

When attendees asked the administrators if they would take action on the demands, administrators responded with firm confirmation.

After brainstorming, everyone agreed that the UW needs to hire an external entity, a task force of a sort, to gather and present data to UW leadership with subsequent solutions. 

“Is the task force another way to say we put it out in the world, say ‘OK we’re done, we’ve taken care of it?’” asked student organizer Alejandra Cabral.

Some audience members called out those same administrators in attendance, asking if they would take up that leadership and be willing to make a statement to ensure accountability. 

The room remained silent when none of them answered. After the pause, Frumkin suggested there were already task forces in the department for diversity and racial equity.

Multiple audience members said those task forces were restricted because they were part of the UW and the department of global health and fear retaliation as a result. Students wanted written statements from UW leadership saying they would adhere to implementing all that was discussed.

After further brainstorming by the entire audience, everyone agreed that creating an external task force requires significant financial investment. 

Taranath urged everyone present to participate further by emailing her and forming substantial, task-directed groups to follow through beyond the forum.

“Some of us have done a lot of work around racial literacy,” Taranath said. “Others of us are realizing we have a lot more to do.”


Reach reporter Kelsey Hamlin at news@dailyuw.comTwitter: @ItsKelseyHamlin

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(1) comment

Only minorities are upset about racial disparities that endure notwithstanding civil rights gains. The situation in School of Public Health is just unacceptable. Just check this or any other incidents at different schools and you will never encounter the same problems. I guess, creating ongoing racism training for students and staff is effective.

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