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University awarded grant to address racial inequity, advance justice

$30,000 award to go toward discussion groups for black students, Muslim women on campus

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, August 17, 2017

Reverend Janet Cooper Nelson, University chaplain, will lead the initiatives to develop discussion groups for black students and Muslim women on campus.

The University, alongside nine other American institutions, was selected by the Association of American Colleges and Universities to receive a $30,000 grant to address racial justice and equality. The announcement arrives on the heels of last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, VA, which has inflamed racial tensions.

As one of 10 Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation campus centers, Brown will be charged with “addressing the historic and contemporary effects of racism and leading transformative change,” according to a University press release. During its first year as a grant recipient, the University plans to develop student-focused programming, including a discussion group for female Muslim students on campus and the expansion of a spring 2017 pilot discussion group for black students.

Reverend Janet Cooper Nelson,chaplain of the University, will lead the initiatives, according to the press release.

The weekly dinner discussions for black students will allow participating students to “consider issues of identity, race, gender, colorism, classism, dynamics within communities of color and other topics in small, focused groups,” according to the University’s press release.

While the dinners initially occurred during Black History Month in February, Cooper Nelson said that students advocated for its continuation and valued the support structure that it provided, according to the University’s press release.

The University will also launch a similar “conversation group for Muslim women on campus,” according to the release.

The press release added that Cooper Nelson said she hoped that creating an intimate setting would provide these women with an opportunity to “talk through the complexities of their experiences and the dynamics of tradition and identity.”

“Our TRHT project will maintain the hospitality, healing, empathy and discourse that were effective in the pilot but augment these with academic counsel, mentoring and leadership development to heighten its impact,” she said.

The implementation of both projects will include periodic student assessments to evaluate “how students’ views of themselves change and whether they find the programs effective,” according to the University’s press release.

Over 125 campuses submitted applications for the grant earlier this summer. To be considered, the University had to submit proposals intended to “engage and empower campus and community stakeholders to uproot the conscious and unconscious biases and misbeliefs that have exacerbated racial violence and tension in American society,” according to a press release issued by the AAC&U.

Brown’s selection is a part of an initiative headed by the AAC&U, with the help of the W.K. Kellog Foundation and the Newman’s Own Foundation, to develop the campus centers and “educate, prepare and inspire the next generation of leaders to advance justice and build equitable communities,” according to a press release issued by the AAC&U.

The AAC&U will provide “strategic direction” in the implementation of these initiatives through the grant’s advisory board. The University will also send a delegation to participate in “a project kickoff in September 2017 and attend AAC&U’s inaugural Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Institute in January 2018 in Washington, D.C.”

In an Aug. 16 statement, AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella said that she hopes to establish 150 centers across the United States to ensure that “higher education is playing a leadership role in promoting racial and social justice.”

In addition to Brown, Duke University, Austin Community College, Hamline University, Millsaps College, Rutgers University-Newark, Spelman College, The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, The University of Hawaii at Manoa and The University of Maryland Baltimore County were also selected as Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation campus centers.

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