University of Cincinnati senior Kish Richardson helped produce a list of demands for the UC Black Roundtable. Richardson and other students have presented the list to president Pinto.
by Nailah Edwards
CINCINNATI – Two University of Cincinnati groups who sent lists of Demands for Change are still awaiting comments from the university’s administration. The two lists of 20 demands are a call to action for enacting change, calling for racial equity, and diversity and inclusion on campus.
“The University of Cincinnati has failed to act in the interests of the Black community and has neglected to create and sustain an environment where Black scholars can lead a dynamic and edifying collegiate experience. No longer can the University ignore the plights of its most vulnerable students; it must take action and create a more racially equitable environment for its entire student body,” UC Student Government stated. They believe that Black students at UC are not able to call 2600 Clifton Ave “home”, and they are calling on the university to protect and defend Black students by enacting comprehensive change.
The Black Round Table and UC Student Government recently sent the lists to the university in reaction to the nationwide violence against the Black community, and sought to address pertinent issues amongst the Black and underrepresented population at UC. The Black Round Table (BRT) and UC Student Government (UCSG) argue that there is still a lot that needs to be done considering the university’s history of inequality and current issues.
According to UC’s 2019-2020 current funds budget plan, students of color represent 22.1% of the 45,949 total student body.
Janice Rotich, a sophomore at UC, and the Director of African American Student Affairs said, “the university has an ugly history, unequivocally, it hasn’t been there for its Black students, we will always know that this school was never meant for us, however, although we can’t erase history, we need to learn from history, and be better than history.”
Raphael Hicks, a junior at UC, and Senator At-Large said that he still feels that there is an overall disconnect when it comes to inclusion at the university.
“The Black Round Table functions as the central forum for organizations and individuals within the Black community at UC to discuss actionable steps to enact change at an institutional level.” Kish Richardson, a senior at UC, and the president of United Black Student Association leads this forum. Richardson believes that the administration should be held accountable, and that meeting the demands of the students is very important. The BRT delivered the first list of demands to UC’s President, Neville G. Pinto on July 9th.
Included in the letter presented to administration, they stated that, “As the University of Cincinnati continues to espouse its commitment to equity and inclusion, it is necessary that we develop on those commitments rather than merely speak to these issues. To this day, the University of Cincinnati Police Department (hereinafter referred to as UCPD) continues to employ both Phillip Kidd and David Lindenschmidt- two officers complicit in the death of Samuel DuBose in 2015.”
In 2015, former UC police officer Raymond Tensing killed unarmed Dubose several blocks south of UC’s campus during a traffic stop. Kidd and Lindenschmidt lied in court testimony about Tensing’s claim.
The BRT also stated, “This is the same department responsible for the death of Kelly Brinson in 2010 and Everette Howard in 2011. The same department that considers its “Best Practices” to be established within the residence halls on campus despite opposition from a multitude of students. As this institution attempted to facilitate a “Community Policing Initiative” under the façade of building community relations, it became apparent that student input was necessary.”
UCSG delivered the second list of demands to Pinto on July 10th.
Some of the demands that each group included were to recruit and hire more black faculty, drastically reallocate UCPD’s budget to better serve the student body and make their budget public, recognize Election Day and Juneteenth on their academic calendar as well as suspend classes, and remove slave owner Charles McMicken’s name across campus.
The students overall want to create a better environment for the Black students at the university and the future generation of leaders. They believe that the university owes it to its students that pay money to attend the institution to make sure that they are able to call it home and feel included.
Some of these demands have been around for years. A Black student activist group by the name of Irate 8 made a list of 10 demands in 2015 after the shooting death of Dubose.
“The university did not listen, the university barely tapped into the demands,” Rotich said.
When WCPO reporter Courtney Francisco (collaborated on this story with The Cincinnati Herald) reached out to Pinto to find out what changes have already happened and what could be next, there was no response. A university spokesperson responded back to her by saying:
“We have received the students’ demands. As a premier public institution, we realize that the university holds an important trust with our students, campus and wider community to listen and discuss institutional issues.”
Both groups want to hear from Pinto and his Cabinet, they want public meetings to develop a timeline for change.
Camryn Morrow, a junior at UC, and the Equity and Inclusion Committee Co-Chair said that at the end of their letter the group called for the university to issue a response within 48 business hours to address the issues that their Black community faces on campus. Morrow said that they have yet to see a public statement, however, they have been in contact with Vice Provost of Academic Affairs as well as Equity Inclusion and Community Impact Vice President, Dr. Bleuzette Marshall.
Richardson said that he has had some conversations with administrators about these issues, but he believes that prior to the start of the semester, admins should make a commitment to participate in the university wide town hall meetings for transparent conversations with the student body.
“Silence will not be taken lightly,” Rotich said. Failure of the University of Cincinnati to commit its unwavering dedication to its Black students, faculty, and staff by these deadlines will result in any and all actions necessary for ineluctable change,” UCSG stated.
If the university administration continues to be silent, the BRT is prepared to talk to The Department of Education to decide if UC deserves the funding it receives considering that most of the demands that they submitted are tied to standards that UC has to meet to receive grants and funding.
UCSG is prepared to get the backing of city council and state representatives, as well as encourage prospective students to not attend the university. Both of the groups believe that “political pressure” is necessary and appropriate.
UCSG is currently seeking endorsements from university students, alumni, faculty, staff, departments, identity-based centers, and anyone else who wishes to see UC become a more racially equitable environment. For action items, visit this link: https://linktr.ee/callsforracialequity.
According to Morrow, UCSG has received overwhelming support from other students, alumni, faculty and staff at the university and over 70 other universities from across the nation and world on this matter.
The students ultimately love the university, but they feel that the university has historically failed them and the Black community. Rotich said that UCSG’s collective motto is to “Lift As We Climb” and they are working hard to revolutionize the campus to make it a more inclusive place for all. They acknowledge that UC has a very long way to go to adequately bring justice for Black and underrepresented students but they wrote their call to action to be the beginning of the change.
See the official Call to Action for UC Racial Equity here.
The Cincinnati Herald and WCPO worked together to produce this story. The two news organizations are deeply committed to covering what is happening in our African American community.