January 17, 2016

Where We Stand at IUPUI: Our Commitment to African-American Students

IUPUI Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Dinner
Indiana Roof Ballroom
Indianapolis, Indiana


Thank you for that introduction, Vice Chancellor Dace, and thank you all for being here this evening. I want to commend members of the Black Student Union who organized this 47th Annual IUPUI Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Dinner. Would you all join me in thanking them for all that they have done?

This wonderful IUPUI tradition reflects our deep commitment to carrying on Dr. King’s vision of equality and justice. Professor Davis, on behalf of IUPUI, thank you for being here and thank you for your remarks. It’s an honor to share the speaking platform with you. Your dedication to freedom and social justice comes at an important time for universities across the country and for IUPUI.

IUPUI Black Student Union and Communication

A little over a week ago, I received a thoughtful document from the IUPUI Black Student Union that represents their commitment to improving this campus. We have been working for many years to make IUPUI a welcoming and inclusive campus, and the items mentioned in the BSU’s note are in alignment with our campus’s strategic priorities.

This past Friday morning, I met with BSU leaders, advisors, and several members of my cabinet to review the goals the BSU put forward, and I look forward to working with the BSU to figure out the best way to advance the goals. This meeting was very important from my perspective because everything begins and ends with positive communication.

This past fall, in my first semester as chancellor of IUPUI, I met with 26 different student groups on campus, including leaders of IUPUI’s multicultural student organizations. Together, working with the BSU and other groups, we are looking at ways to improve communication with students on matters that affect them.

As an example, I will mention our upcoming Town Hall meetings on campus, which provide a space and platform for diverse, tolerant, and open dialogue. The first town hall meeting will be on February 15th, and students should watch the IUPUI website for more details.

These Town Hall meetings are just one among many initiatives that focus on fostering dialogue to create a positive, successful experience for IUPUI students. Let me touch on a few initiatives that specifically focus on African American student success.

From my perspective . . . everything begins and ends with positive communication.

Initiatives: Enrollment, Recruitment, and Retention

In my installation as chancellor, this past NovemberI pledged to increase the number of African American students at IUPUI by 50 percent over the next five years. In order to achieve that goal, I called for the formation of the Task Force on African American Student Recruitment and Retention.

We want to make sure that African American students enroll at IUPUI, succeed, and graduate. The taskforce is about to make its recommendations for achieving these important goals.

We will engage the BSU, members of the Black Faculty and Staff Council, and others on campus to review the recommendations of this task force and determine the best course of action.

With these activities and the work of our new director of undergraduate admissions, Yohlunda Mosley, the first African American admission director in the history of IUPUI, who joined us 2 weeks ago with stellar credentials from the University of Nebraska, we will refine our efforts to help African American students choose IUPUI and succeed here.

Initiatives: Financial Aid

A key element in our recruitment and retention strategies has been—and will continue to be—scholarships and financial aid. With this in mind, we are doubling the amount of need-based aid we offer by fall 2016. That’s $8 million in need-based aid alone for students who choose IUPUI.

Initiatives: Welcoming Campus

I also mentioned in my installation address my vision for IUPUI to become a more welcoming and inclusive campus:

  • A campus where everyone is treated with dignity, respect, and professionalism. . .
  • A safe space where individuality and ideas can be freely and openly expressed. . .
  • A culture where differences are sought, accepted, and valued. . . on a campus that inspires.

To achieve this goal, I will be forming five task forces this semester including one focused on cultural identity and competence. Representatives of the BSU will be among the task force members, and I look forward to their valuable contributions.

Communication and the Value of Diversity

This is only a glimpse at what we are doing for African-American students and ALL students at IUPUI. Diversity, broadly defined, is a vital part of IUPUI’s identity.

All elements of diversity are important to us, and we will continue to work to create and sustain an environment on our campus and in the community that is inclusive, equitable, and just.

Again, I want to thank the IUPUI Black Student Union on its leadership in planning of this program. And I also want to thank those students who were forward-thinking enough to share their perspectives. It confirms that we share common goals and are working toward the same ends.

As I said at the outset of my remarks, communication is key. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “People fail to get along with each other because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don't know each other. They don't know each other because they have not properly communicated with each other.”1

That will never be a problem for our campus because we value, encourage, and practice open dialogue.

Tonight, as we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we should remember that open and positive communication is one of the most productive pathways to social change.

Thank you very much.


1 King, Martin Luther, Jr. “Advice For Living.” Ebony. May, 1958: 112.