NewsLocal News


Protest during Marquette University's convocation calls for deeper conversations about inclusion on campus

University says it's actively working to fill four positions in the Office of Engagement and Inclusion
MU Protest
Posted at 4:48 PM, Aug 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-29 19:25:40-04

MILWAUKEE — Students at Marquette University started classes Monday, days after a student-led protest forced the university to postpone its convocation ceremony to welcome incoming students.

Several campus organizations interrupted the ceremony to call out the tension between student government, specifically students of color on Marquette's campus, and university leaders who are responsible for supporting those students.

Experts say the protest highlights the importance of inclusivity on campus, amid a record-breaking year for the university's recruitment of students of color.

"Our mission was to shake it up a little bit," said Bridgeman Flowers, President of Marquette University Student Government (MUSG).

Marquette University says 30% of this year's incoming class identify as students of color. That is a concern to some students of color who are already on campus.

"It's not acknowledged enough how uncomfortable students feel and how unsafe students feel," said Teresa Godinez, Legislative Vice President of MUSG.

Their concerns are not about recruitment. They're happy to see more students of color come to Marquette. The concern is on efforts to retain the students who have been recruited.

"Especially with first year, you always see an increase of students leaving because of this issue," said Samari Price, Executive Vice President of MUSG.

The students tell TMJ4 News that they're concerned about the lack of staff on campus who are dedicated to supporting students of color.

Most specifically, the students point to a number of open positions in the university's office of engagement and inclusion and say the Urban Scholars Program isn't getting the support it needs.

"It's like throwing people into an environment where they have no protection or no support," said Flowers. "I feel like the urgency of hiring is very slow."

In a statement to TMJ4 News, Marquette University responded to the concerns of these students:

"The Great Resignation has resulted in open positions at the university, similar to organizations across the country.  Marquette is currently in the process of refilling four positions in the Office of Engagement and Inclusion. Each of those positions support first generation and students of color on campus.

In addition to OEI, Marquette has a separate Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, several programs and faculty and staff throughout the university who support students of color, because the responsibility to be inclusive is on all of us," said Lynn Griffith, University spokesperson."

Valerie Wilson Reed graduated from Marquette in 1970 and edited the book "Black Marquette." She calls the protest heartbreaking and said she doesn't agree with the approach the students took.

"I think there's a way to do it in a more collaborative way and more respectful way to do it so that your point is accepted and returned," said Wilson Reed.

But beyond the protest, the conversation about a sense of belonging is important to Wilson Reed, who is a founding member of the Black Alumni Association. She said it is a unique experience going to a Catholic, Jesuit, predominately white institution as a student of color.

"If you're going to bring students in, right, you're going to have to have people there that also look like them that can identify with what they're going through," she said.

Wilson Reed is confident that Marquette is doing the work to fill positions and provide support.

Report a typo or error // Submit a news tip