UNC Charlotte students unhappy after alleged racial comments by administrators

UNC Charlotte students say they want to see something done, after some administrators were overheard saying racially insensitive things about some of the schools groups and their leaders. Students believe the comments were directed at African American leaders on campus.

"The comments were bad especially when we have minorities doing positive things around the UNC Charlotte community, I don’t understand, are we trying to turn into an HBCU? No, I just see a lot of people trying to do good things and trying to inspire the younger generation to do good things." UNC Charlotte Senior, Samuel Kipuni said.

The school says the administrators took responsibility for their actions.

"All of the individuals have had conversations with their supervisors and those are private but we are not taking this lightly. All of the individuals have been talked to and they have issued personal apologies.” Arthur Jackson, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, said.

UNC Charlotte hosted a forum on Wednesday, but many students say that's not enough. Those in student leadership roles say they are proud of their organizations and believe there should be repercussions.

"I was appalled because we trusted these administrators and for them to say things like that, we were hurt…students that are in these leadership positions are meant to be in these positions. They are working hard and I think that’s what needed to be talked about." Student leader, Angelica Beverly said.

UNC Charlotte Student Affairs, Dr. Arthur Jackson released the following statement:

"Over the past few days, UNC Charlotte has received expressions of concern from African-American students regarding remarks that were heard to have been made by Student Affairs staff members in a meeting conducted in our Student Activities office. We have worked carefully to understand the details of the situation in order to respond appropriately.

Two students became concerned when they heard parts of a conversation by three Student Activities staff in the Student Activities area of our Student Union.  The staff members (all Caucasian), who are  responsible for advising various student groups, were discussing the diversity of students in leadership positions at UNC Charlotte, particularly the Homecoming Committee and Homecoming Court. The staff expressed that this level of diverse representation was different than their experiences at other institutions, and that this diversity was part of what attracted them to work at UNC Charlotte.

Two aspects of the conversation, however, were of concern to the students. 

First, one staff member relayed a story from another UNC Charlotte colleague who had attended a conference with the Campus Activities Board (CAB) student leadership. In that experience, a staff member from another institution commented on the diversity of the UNC Charlotte’s CAB student leadership and indicated that they did not know that UNC Charlotte was an Historically Black College/University (HBCU).  The  colleague replied that UNC Charlotte is not an HBCU, but does have  a high level of African American students participating in leadership activities. 

Second, the staff members discussed the lack of white leadership in some student groups (such as the Homecoming Committee, Homecoming Court, and CAB) and wondered aloud why these groups were not more representative of the student body as a whole. While these statements were not intended to be disparaging, the students felt that the remarks devalued the leadership of African-American students.

The University first learned of the situation on the evening of Thursday, September 17, when our Dean of Students was notified of a social media post on the subject. The name of the poster was not identifiable. The Dean notified the Director of Student Activities.

On Friday, September 18, the Dean of Students received emails expressing concern about the incident from the two students who heard the conversation. The Dean offered to meet with the students at their earliest convenience, which was Tuesday, September 22.  During those meetings, the two students requested that the Dean coordinate a meeting between themselves and the Student Activities staff members involved to hear the full context of the conversation they heard. This meeting took place on Thursday, September 24.  In that meeting, the three staff members personally apologized for the insensitive nature of their remarks and the two students accepted the apology.

In addition to meetings with the two students, our Director of Student Activities and the three staff members met with the Homecoming Committee on Tuesday, September 22, at which time apologies were offered by the staff. Additional students shared their concerns and the Director offered to meet with any students who felt impacted by the incident.

In response to that offer and to further address concerns, the Student Activities staff have participated in meetings, answered questions, and apologized for this incident.

Throughout this timeframe, other students heard second- and third-hand accounts of what had occurred on September 17, and posted messages on social media.  Many of those accounts and messages contained factual inaccuracies. 

These conversations with students have led to the development of a program scheduled for Monday, September 28 at 8 p.m. in McKnight Hall. The intent of this program is to address the incident and to discuss diversity and inclusion across campus. It is our hope that this program will be a catalyst to help support current efforts and future collaborations between staff and students on the topic.

I was notified of the situation promptly by my staff, and appropriate action has been taken in regard to the personnel who were involved in this situation. I have conferred with the Chancellor, who has expressed his commitment to repairing the breach of trust and correcting misinformation that has occurred. Members of the Division of Student Affairs continue to interact with concerned students.

UNC Charlotte is dedicated to cultivating a campus community where all are welcome. That effort is never complete, and we continue to gain sensitivity through experience."