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Community Relations Task Team makes initial recommendations

(June 29, 2020) JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — The Carson-Newman University Community Relations Task Team’s preliminary report details initiatives the institution will implement as first steps in creating sustainable improvements that align with the University’s biblical faith and Christian identity.

The University’s Executive Leadership Team affirmed the initiatives on June 17.

Carson-Newman’s executive leadership established the task team on June 3, charging members with making specific recommendations for improvements ahead of students’ return to campus.

The task team, led by Gloria Walker, acting vice president for Student Services, seeks to identify and eradicate any policies, procedures or cultural norms that promote racial division, affirm that Black lives do matter, and advance healing.

The initiatives include:

  • Forming an Office of Multicultural Services to promote a welcoming and supportive environment, offering programs, resources, and guidance for the campus community in support of those goals.
  • Implementing a bias reporting process, which will come under the review of the newly formed Office of Multicultural Services.
  • Establishing a Black Student Union that will function as a student organization and a safe space for Black students to gather and address issues involving race on campus and the surrounding community.
  • Writing a policy to prohibit displaying hate symbols on campus.
  • Holding a forum for faculty, staff, students, and administration to discuss racial unrest and discrimination.
  • Providing racial sensitivity training specific to law enforcement personnel for the University’s Office of Public Safety.
  • Scheduling “Conversations with the President,” moderated events during which students may ask President Charles A. Fowler questions about race relations or other topics, as needed.

“Addressing the many concerns surrounding race relations at Carson-Newman University is a top priority,” Walker said. “The seven initiatives represent the unwavering dedication of the Community Relations Task Team and the Executive Leadership Team to create a Christ-centered and loving environment for our students, faculty and staff.

The task team includes 13 members, who are primarily people of color. The team will continue meeting weekly to finalize these plans ahead of the fall semester. Their goals extend beyond the University community, with the hope of their work promoting awareness in the broader community in direct reflection of the responsibility of those of Christian faith to lead the way in healing racial divides.

“As a Christian University, we strive to live and love like Jesus, and we don’t always do that perfectly,” Fowler said. “It’s seasons like this that create awareness and cause us to pause, reflect and make changes so that we can grow and more faithfully express our Christ-centered mission.

“July 1 will mark my one-year anniversary as president of Carson-Newman, and I am so impressed with the sense of family and genuine hospitality that I have found,” Fowler added. “Our faith compels us to continue growing and changing until that is the experience that all of our students have on our campus.”

Founded in 1851, Carson-Newman is a Christian liberal arts-based university affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention. The University is located in Jefferson City, Tennessee, among the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and has over 2,700 students. Carson-Newman offers 50 undergraduate majors, as well as associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

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