Ongoing Conversations with Our Students
At the University of Kentucky, we are engaging in important conversations. Passionate, committed students are raising serious and complex questions facing our campus and our country. We don’t always all agree on every aspect of how to address these issues. But while we may disagree in some of our specific approaches, we will never disrespect the concerns that have been raised or those who have raised them.
Our first steps will revolve around eight commitments we are making as a University, based on issues put forward by the Black Student Advisory Council and the Basic Needs Campaign. In summary, the challenges center on ensuring that basic needs, such as housing and food security, are met and that we are doing everything we can to create a community of belonging.
Concerns of our African-American Students
For most of the last several years, our campus has grown increasingly diverse, numbers that have enriched our community and made us stronger. But confronted by changing demographic trends in our state and our country – with potentially fewer children attending college – we must redouble our efforts to ensure that our campus reflects our diverse world. Moral and educational imperatives drive our fierce resolve to move forward. Moreover, we must be a place where everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, identity, faith, background, or perspective, feels an unshakeable sense of belonging.
A permanent seat for black students on search committees for administrative officials: UK will include a representative from the Black Student Advisory Council on all senior-level search committees (deans and high-level administrators). UK will work with the Black Student Advisory Council on the best process to ensure how that representation happens.
Revising the William C. Parker Scholarship: The Parker Scholarship – which historically has targeted underrepresented students and students with financial need – requires reform. UK will meet with the Black Student Advisory Council to review the available data relative to the Parker scholarship, with the goal of strengthening and continuing to grow the program for black students, without diminishing our commitment to diverse students across the campus. Our review will also include the Lyman T. Johnson Awards, which are awarded to graduate students.
Standardizing the role of Diversity and Inclusion Officers: UK will immediately move to ensure that Diversity Officers have the duties, training, time, and resources they need to mirror best practices in the country, and to confirm that we are meeting the University’s Strategic Plan goals relative to diversity and inclusivity. UK will develop a standardized process for evaluating Diversity Officers and measuring their effectiveness.
Releasing the findings from the 2016 Cook Ross Survey: UK will post the Cook Ross Survey online along with wellness and other campus climate surveys for public review. That survey and others have helped guide much of the progress we have made in recent years in improving our campus climate and making us an even better place to work.
Taking down the mural in Memorial Hall: UK will immediately cover the mural and re-engage with a new committee to determine a long-term plan. Although efforts over the past two years to create a more complete context for the mural have been earnest and thoughtful, the artwork in Memorial Hall remains a touchstone of pain and hurt for many students of color.
Concerns Related to Students' Basic Needs
President Capilouto recently communicated to the campus our efforts related to food insecurity – an important issue for our campus and our country. For several months, the President and members of his senior team have been meeting with a group of passionate, committed students about how we can eliminate hunger and address basic needs where they exist on this campus. We have services across campus available to address basic needs. The Community of Concern Team serves as a central hub for connecting students to the resources best aligned with their needs. But still, there is more work we can do. We are committed to undertaking that work, together.
Staffing for a Basic Needs Center: As a first step, a full-time, professional staff member will be hired and trained to coordinate and plan UK’s approach to basic needs, including food and housing insecurity. Additional resources for staffing and physical space will be added, if needed.
Establish a Basic Needs Fund: UK will consolidate its two emergency and assistance funds into a one-stop shop to better handle requests related to food and housing insecurity and questions around basic needs. The consolidated funds will be continually assessed and replenished to ensure needs are met. Donors will be able to contribute.
Students who have immediate needs can access support by:
Visiting the Dean of Student’s Office in 513 Patterson Office Tower
By calling 218-NEED. This number is staffed from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. every day.
Even as we acknowledge that there is more to do, it is important to underscore the significant work that already has been done to address these issues:
We are expanding the hours of the Big Blue Pantry from 20 hours a week to 48 hours a week (10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 10a.m.- 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday). Students can go to firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment if they need to access the pantry outside regular hours of operation.
In the past year, Student Government has provided approximately 4,000 meal swipes and also has distributed single meal vouchers that can be used at the two residential dining facilities —Champion's Kitchen and the 90. We plan to add more swipes and vouchers for the remainder of the semester. We will not run out; if there is need, it will be met.
In addition there are numerous resources – and ways to access those resources – throughout the community that can help address basic needs, from food to housing insecurity. The University of Kentucky, in fact, was involved in the development of the communications tools below:
- You can go to http://care-ky.org/ to learn about free/reduced cost resources in Kentucky. The website includes Fayette County resources, among 54 other counties in Eastern & Central Kentucky.
- Free mobile applications for iOS & Android with information regarding how to access these resources can be found below:
- Apple App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/care-ky/id1396668598?ls=1&mt=8
- Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=edu.chsr.careky
Food insecurity, often, is one piece of a larger continuum of issues that impact current and future security. We are working to develop a holistic plan to address all of those issues – food insecurity today, preparation for a job upon graduation, and financial planning to ensure long-term security going forward, among others.