SIU leaders tackle systemic racism and hate speech in a virtual discussion

SIU hosts "Conversation of Understanding"

CARBONDALE, Mo. (KFVS) - Monday evening, Southern Illinois University System tackled the subject of hate speech, racism and discrimination with campus leaders, staff and students.

The system-wide virtual town hall discussion, titled “Conversation of Understanding”, comes after critical issues of race in the nation and issues within the university community.

More than 200 people within the SIU community engaged in the virtual conversation on the Board of Trustees YouTube channel.

Steve Gear and Madalynn McKenzie were the two students leaders on the panel.

SIU System President Dan Mahony and incoming SIU Carbondale Chancellor Austin Lane were also on the panel along side the SIU Edwardsville Chancellor.

“The racial tension has actually gotten a little worse,” Gear said in regards to racism on the campus.

In a statement after Gear, McKenzie said, “I believe that racial tension is a significant a part of SIUE as well - both on campus and online as well there have been some incidents of racial tension.”

Within the last month, SIUC’s community witnessed two old videos of university students making racist remarks online.

The system-wide conversation focused on just that - hurtful speech and ways to combat it.

McKenzie encouraged other students and school officials to take action. “I encourage them to look at the policies at university as well as in their clubs and organization - are they inclusive or are they discriminatory in nature,” McKenzie said.

Gear suggested, “Speak up. If you know there is an issue in regards to what race you are, speak up and let it be known that it’s an issue,” he said. “And also get involved with organizations that cater to the community.”

In his first month on the job, SIUC’s new chancellor Dr. Austin Land said he plans to address the issues of race head on.

”I think leaders who ignore race in higher education perpetuate racial injustice, my goal as a leader is to come in and make sure I don’t turn a blind eye to it,” Lane said.

President Mahony said this is just the start of the work for the SIU.

“This is not just words, not just conversations, but we are really looking to take action and make some change,” he said. ”I think that this is just a first step. The first step in having these conversations of understanding. which we continue to do them. We will do the next one in August.”

If you are interested in submitting a topic for the next discussion in August, click here to email the SIU system President.

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