University Task Force for Equality and Inclusion has begun making change

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Special to the Opelika Observer
Jay Gogue created the University Task Force for Equality and Inclusion one month ago, it has since looked into University practices.

By Hannah Lester
Associate Editor

Auburn University’s Task Force for Equality and Inclusion has been in effect for a month. So far, it has begun looking into the university’s recruitment policies and instituted an essay contest with the Equal Justice Initiative. 

Following the death of George Floyd on May 25, the country fell into a series of protests and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Auburn University listened to the complaints, pleas and protests of its students and city residents and spoke in June about how it will promote racial justice on campus. 

President Jay Gogue created a university task force comprised of community leaders and  university members on June 17, which will look at minority representation and advancement, he said. 

The group has now been working for a month and Gogue sent an update on Friday in a university press release. 

“In the last few weeks, task force members have discussed, among other topics, Auburn’s student recruitment practices and learned the status of recommendations from the 2016 climate survey,” Gogue said in the release. “They also heard from SGA President Ada Ruth Huntley about plans for an essay contest, conducted in partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative, with winners receiving scholarship support.”

The members of the university task force meet twice a week and Gogue encouraged anyone to reach out to task force members with questions, concerns or ideas. 

Although not a university task force decision, Gogue shared that the Board of Trustees approved the creation of The National Panhellenic Council Legacy Plaza on Auburn’s campus. 

The plaza will be a commemoration and recognition of Black greek organization at Auburn. 

“It follows a unanimous vote by the Auburn Student Government Association and widespread support from students across campus, including the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic, calling for its creation,” Gogue said. 

The plaza will be located in front of the Academic Classroom and Laboratory Complex. 

“We asked this [task force], comprised of student, faculty and staff leaders, to develop recommendations leading to meaningful change and which we can implement administratively,” Gogue said. “I am grateful to members of the Auburn Family who took the time to provide your thoughts and suggestions on effective next steps for the university.

“Your responses to our online survey were thoughtful and sincere and provided a baseline for the task force’s deliberations. Personally, I have also benefited from listening sessions with students and others.”

Members of the task force include individuals such as Lt. Gen. Ron Burgess, executive vice president; Taffye Benton Clayton, vice president for inclusion and diversity; SGA President Ada Ruth Huntley; Bill Hardgrave, provost and Bruce Pearl, men’s basketball coach, among others. 

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