The new group is hosting a forum Tuesday, April 14
Monday, April 13, 2015

The President’s Black Student Advisory Committee (BSAC) was formed in the wake of controversy, but its members are looking to the future and not the past.

The recently-formed University of Iowa student committee is charged with helping to create an environment that is aware and understanding of the cultural differences that are present in Iowa, specifically black culture.

Jasmine Mangrum
Jasmine Mangrum

“We want to ensure that black students can achieve greatness here at Iowa, and not be hindered because of their race and background,” says committee co-chair Jasmine Mangrum, a first-year UI College of Pharmacy student from Chicago. “I believe that there are issues present, and the best way to start resolving those issues is to hear people's concerns and to find effective ways to create an environment that is culturally competent.” 

The committee is hosting a forum for all UI students on Tuesday, April 14, from 7:30 – 9 p.m. in Carver-Hawkeye Arena’s Feller Club Room. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet committee members, network with other students, and contribute ideas for helping black students thrive at the UI.  Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, contact the Chief Diversity Office in advance at 319-335-3565.

The committee is meeting monthly during the academic year in order to meet three key objectives:

  • Advise the president and administrators of the university of the impact of policies and practices related to the climate for black students.
  • Solicit input from a broad range of students to inform the committee’s advice to university administration.
  • Monitor progress on university plans and commitments in the domain of diversity and inclusion.
Ashley Lee
Ashley Lee

“I love that this committee is present because we can be the mediator between black students, and the university and community,” says Ashley Lee, a third-year English major from Naperville, Illinois, and Mangrum’s committee co-chair.

Both say they’re invested in the work ahead and hope the campus community will respond to the call to recommit with energy and integrity.

“Increased attention to the issues of black existence in this country and events on our own campus have served as a catalyst and brought us together in some profound ways,” says Georgina Dodge, chief diversity officer and associate vice president. “But we know that every individual experiences campus and the community in a unique manner. So it’s vital that we have open channels of communication, and this committee will be instrumental in ensuring all are heard.”

Dodge adds the committee is not meant to replace or replicate any existing groups, but will provide a two-way conduit for information. The students’ advice and insights will be critical for decision makers to consider in all aspects of policy making.

“There continues to be work to be done to develop a climate where all feel truly welcome, and we sincerely appreciate the willingness of our students to engage with us in this work,” says Dodge. “We envision the BSAC as a group of liaisons helping us to understand how issues impact them and their peers, collaborators with other student groups, and a valuable and brilliant source of ideas as we move forward.”

Committee members include: 

Undergraduate members are JaMaya Austin, Kyah Bridges, Rachael Hale, Denzell Hayes, Ashley Lee, James Ottavi, Kyra Seay (also representing UI Student Government), Marcus Smith, Andrew John Turner, and Jaelyn Westfield. Graduate student members are Alexander Lodge, Jasmine Mangrum (also representing Graduate and Professional Student Government), Victoria Parker, and LaNeisha Waller.