First diversity committee meeting reveals only 8% of Black students feel like they belong at UNCW

Veronica Wernicke, News Editor

On Jan. 27, the UNC Wilmington (UNCW) board of trustees (BOT) began their several days of quarterly meetings. Their week kicked off with the Special Committee on Renewal and Accountability meeting on Wednesday. Members include Maurice Smith, Gidget Kidd, Hal Kitchin and Matt Talone. 

During Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli’s diversity and inclusion presentation, the chancellor mentioned a poll that was sent out to all students addressing inclusion concerns.

“I was very concerned recently, when I was looking at the surveys that we did and the question we [asked] the students [was] whether they felt that they belong to UNCW. We found that the percentage of white students saying that they did feel like yes, I belong here was in the 40, 50, 60%, whereas for Black students was 8%,” said Sartarelli. “That 8% has to change.”

Sartarelli also touched on the fact that the university is working on a second strategic plan to continue addressing the needs of Black and other persons of color at UNCW. Those include increasing the Black student population to 1,100 by 2025, increasing Black faculty to 50 by 2025, adding an Africana studies major and increasing scholarships for Black students by 50%, amongst other items.

Earlier in the meeting, Smith directed the review of the ad-hoc committee’s draft charter, which states the committee’s purpose—discussing diversity.

“The chancellor has created the Renewal and Change Accountability Committee to address systemic challenges and seek systemic solutions. Largely absent from the conversation is a dialog among the UNCW board of trustees,” as written in the charter. 

Following the presentation, members discussed a few grammatical errors and agreed upon the charter.

Other presentations included brief sub-presentations by James Winebrake, provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs; Brian Victor, interim vice chancellor for Student Affairs; John Scherer, General Council; Andrea Weaver, Office of University Relations and Miles Lackey, vice chancellor for Business Affairs. Their presentations touched on the progress of the action items, presented this summer by the Coalition of Black Students, in their offices. Their presentations can be read and found in full here.

Donyell Roseboro, interim chief diversity officer, who has a doctorate in curriculum & teaching/cultural studies, then gave a brief overview of the UNC System Racial Equity Task Force final report and fielded questions from the board regarding the above presentations. The final report breaks down recommendations for advancing racial equity across the UNC System schools. 

“I may give a shout out to Dr. Roseboro for her efforts in pulling this all together,” said Smith. “She and I have been working closely on this and also the change in accountability committee and Dr. Roseboro was an absolute delight to work with. She hasn’t said any of my ideas are dumb yet, the operative word is yet, I still have some dumb ideas to offer, but she has been very supportive and very professional and timely and getting information to me. She’s been quite a trooper.”

Other BOT committee meetings will be held on Jan. 28, with the whole board meeting on Jan. 29.