Rally for accountability at the University of Texas at Arlington
Arlington, TX – On February 10, the Progressive Student Union held a rally for accountability at the University of Texas at Arlington. PSU held the rally to determine the current status of the commitments made by the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) administration over six months ago.
One of the commitments from UTA was scholarships for Black and brown students. Upon further inspection it is seen that the dispersal of the scholarships meant to benefit students doesn’t begin until the fall of 2021. Given the current economic crisis, working families would find it extremely difficult to continue with schoolwork while still providing themselves with the basic necessities of daily life. Students going to UTA require the funds immediately and do not have the luxury to wait one whole year for these scholarships to be dispersed. Many regular students did not re-register for classes during the pandemic because of economic hardships.
At the rally PSU demanded answers on the promises made by the UTA administration. They demanded that the university committees present the minutes of their meetings so that the student body would be aware of the exact developments taking place. Updates regarding the hiring of Black and brown faculty have not reached the students as well.
The members of PSU say that UTA has not dealt with the issue of police crimes effectively – simply training cops to not be racist will not go far enough to stop police terror. Issuing complaints regarding police crimes have to be effective as well, because simply going to the police to complain against the police will achieve very little. One of the suggestions by PSU was to have the newly formed Committee for Diversity and Inclusion independently review police crimes.
PSU’s final demand was for UTA to regularly provide email updates regarding any developments they made in terms of diversity and equity.
These demands from PSU were put forward over the course of 2019 and 2020. PSU had several actions primarily demanding the university build a DREAM center for undocumented DACA students at the university. The DREAM Center would assist undocumented students seeking assistance with legal or citizenship issues.
In 2020 DACA recipients were under attack by the Trump administration and PSU felt the need to address this situation at UTA. PSU wanted significant investment of up to $5 million in scholarships for traditionally underrepresented oppressed nationalities. Additionally, PSU wanted the hiring of more Black and brown faculty and a commitment to actively retain these new faculty members by not underpaying these desperately needed members of the community. PSU also demanded UTA officially and publicly declare that it will pursue and uphold a non-compliance policy with Immigration Customs Enforcement. This means that they should actively refuse any warrants by ICE that are not signed by a judge, and not allow any ICE agents on to campus.
Despite several meetings and conversations with university officials, the administration at UTA failed to address this situation.
In the wake of the George Floyd and Black lives matter protests as well as PSU’s call-in campaigns, UTA finally responded to the demands on July 9, 2020. UTA made eight commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion with the appointment of a vice president-level office; reconstituting a Diversity and Inclusion Committee; developing a university-wide plan to enhance the recruiting, retention and promotion of underrepresented faculty and staff; creating more scholarships for low-income, first-generation and first-time-in-college students; developing and implementing diversity and inclusion training for all faculty and staff; incorporating diversity content into a required course for all new students; engaging directly with the UTA Police Department to ensure its approaches to community policing and adding staff and programming in the Office of Multicultural Affairs to enhance the services provided to our students.
Even though these were positive developments from the side of the university, the student body has only received one update from the president as to how these promises and commitments will be fulfilled. On August 19, the UTA administration sent out an email saying that a committee to recruit a new vice president was formed; a Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion was formed and convened their first meeting; they enhanced the recruiting, retention, and promotion of underrepresented faculty and staff; designating an additional $25 million dollars to address student diversity and especially the financial concerns of first-generation college students as well as reviewing UTA Police Department’s policies.
The administration at UTA must fulfil the commitments they had promised. Bold words will do precious little to uplift the lives of the diverse students and faculty at UTA.