Concerned students, faculty and administrators filed into the Leavey Program Room Wednesday for a lecture and discussion titled “Racism in U.S. Colleges and Universities.” The lecture focused on questions of diversity and its effect on faculty and undergraduates.

William B. Harvey, Ph.D., vice president and director of the Center for Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Equality as part of the American Council on Education, lectured on the new efforts of the council to address racism in institutions of higher education.

“The issue of racism at universities is one of sensitivity and concern in a conscious attempt to make a national conversation about race,” Harvey said as he briefly discussed the main topics of the paper by Dr. Joe Feagin, graduate research professor at the University of Florida.

“We continue to have a race-muted environment, where we are still uncomfortable in talking about these issues,” he said, explaining that the council stresses both programs and research to move toward racial identity as it represents the interest of higher education.

In addition, Harvey noted that University President John J. DeGioia is taking an active role in participating in the activities and interests of the Council.

“It came to my attention at a young age that freedom, justice and equality were not available to all citizens in a system of higher education, which led me to research these issues more deeply,” Harvey said. “There is still that complicity today that higher education institutions have been part of problems based on race and ethnicity.”

Harvey discussed how Feagin’s essay addressed the concern about changes that face the nation today as it is constantly moving toward a more diverse status. “Empirical evidence proves how racism and prejudice are still alive today,” Harvey said.

“[Feagin] presents possible solutions to explore, analyze and discuss these issues,” Harvey said, “and he still asks this question: what do we do now to make sure that we can move closer to achieve the national ideals we want?”

Harvey opened the discussion to the audience in an open forum setting. One of the most important issues raised was the question of the ability of minority faculty members and administration to move toward universal inclusiveness.

Harvey also said that black faculty represents a small percentage of the total faculty population in America, stressing the importance of pluralism in the university.

It is also the responsibility of administration, which continues to be predominantly white, he said, to “understand that freedom applies to everybody” so that social problems that exist today will stop.

“People must say that `this can’t go on.’ We have to make it better for the next generations,” Harvey said.

The lecture was part of the continuing Brown Bag Lunch Series Lectures sponsored by the Office of Affirmative Action.

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