Capilouto questioned on commitment to initiatives at Spring Forum

Lee Mengistu

President Eli Capilouto, interim Dean of Students Victor Hazard and Provost Tim Tracy were the main guests of the Student Government Associatiation’s Senate Spring Forum, which concluded in a debate between Capilouto and frustrated students.

The forum, which takes place each fall and spring semester, was held in a sparsely populated Kincaid Auditorium in the Gatton College of Business and Economics.

After introducing themselves, the administrators answered questions submitted via Google forms on topics ranging from construction to state budget allocations. Tracy and Hazard joined in occasionally, commending the university’s commitment to improving infrastructure, encouraging student collaboration and establishing a rich core curriculum.

When the floor opened for audience questions, history and geography junior Tyler Hill asked administration why it had yet to sign a comprehensive climate action plan like other comparable universities. Capilouto’s response that the university was taking steps of day-to-day sustainability was not enough for Hill.

“I don’t believe the answer was very substantial,” Hill said. “We’ve heard this answer before from them. We know they think they’re doing good, but we think they can be held to a higher standard.” 

The majority of remaining audience questions focused on race relations on campus, such as the existence of racism on campus, and advice to marginalized minority students.

Dissatisfied and concerned students and faculty confronted Capilouto after the forum to get substantial answers, particularly on if cultural competency courses can be mandatory for all students in order to prevent discriminatory incidents.

“Do I want that kind of course? Yes. Can we permeate that entire curriculum? I hope so,” Capilouto said. 

The group pressed further, imploring the president to take concrete action.

“I’ve met with several people … Why does it have to be me and us? We’ve told you our concerns. Why can’t you meet with them and say, ‘Hey, I’ve heard from the black students. Here are their concerns. Let’s make this happen?’” said MD-Ph.D candidate and Call to Action Town Hall organizer Eseosa Ighodaro.

Capilouto further explained the course development process at the university: it was up to faculty and departments to initiate new classes, but he stressed that he would advocate for it when the time comes.

The recent optional Climate of Inclusion Survey distributed to students via email will reveal what the rest of the student body thinks about such a course, among other topics concerning diversity.

The survey closes Friday.