Hundreds attend 'Black Lives Matter' rally

Hundreds attend 'Black Lives Matter' rally

Students react during the Nov. 19 "Black Lives Matter" rally at UNL. The event featured student speakers talking about their experiences at UNL.
Craig Chandler | University Communications
Students react during the Nov. 19 "Black Lives Matter" rally at UNL. The event featured student speakers talking about their experiences at UNL.

A Nov. 19 student-organized "Black Lives Matter" rally outside the Nebraska Union drew hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community members.

Started by Trevor Obermueller, a sophomore advertising and public relations major, the event was spurred by recent national concerns on racism, particularly at the University of Missouri and Yale University. During the rally, organizers outlined measures to help curb racism at Nebraska, including the creation of a cultural sensitivity course for all freshmen.

"This is a call to action," said Carnetta Griffin, a graduate student in educational administration who served as the emcee for the event. "This ain't the end. This is only the beginning."

Chancellor Harvey Perlman said the rally was an important expression of the frustrations faced by students of color.

"They deserve to be listened to," Perlman said. "The administration will make every effort to respond appropriately to their requests. The reality however is that racial issues cannot be solved quickly or alone by administrative action but requires that all members of the community work hard to overcome the racial legacies of our past."

UNL administrators voiced support for the event in an email message issued Nov. 17. The message was signed by Chancellor Harvey Perlman; Ronnie Green, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs; and Juan Franco, vice chancellor for student affairs.

"Black lives do matter," the message said. "Those lives are often lived under circumstances others don't see.

"Collectively, we will continue to work hard to assure our university successfully supports equal opportunities and an inclusive environment for all students."

In 2013, the university committed to develop a framework for more open, honest dialogue to help shape how students, faculty and staff think about diversity issues on campus. The effort has launched several campuswide initiatives, including:

  • providing professional development for faculty and staff to build expertise for engaging in and facilitating discussions on diversity;

  • incorporating into new student enrollment programming messages on how speech and conduct can be regarded as insensitive or disrespectful by others;

  • adopting a TIPS reporting system that allows members of the campus community to report incidents of bias;

  • creation of a report about best practices for diversity and inclusion;

  • hiring an outside, independent consultant to conduct a diversity analysis of the university, which is expected to start in spring 2016;

  • re-establishing the Chancellor's Commission on the Status of People of Color;

  • appointing a special assistant to student affairs to support student diversity and inclusion; and

  • committing to hire chief diversity officers in human resources, academic affairs and student affairs.

For more information on diversity initiatives at Nebraska, including resources for students, faculty and staff, click here.

A student-organized "Black Lives Matter" rally was attended by hundreds of students, faculty, staff and the public on Nov. 19.
Checking notes on her phone, Maya Evans tears up after discussing her experiences on campus. The presentation was part of the Nov. 19 "Black Lives Matter" rally at UNL.
Participants react during the "Black Lives Matter" rally at UNL on Nov. 19. The event attracted hundreds of students, faculty, staff and the public.