UMD's presidential committee demands disparaging diversity on campus be adressed

The University of Maryland presidential search committee held two forums in Hoff Theater on Sept. 24 that gave students, staff, and faculty a chance to express what they want in the next university president. 

The majority of the comments made in the forums demanded that the search committee ensured the next president acknowledges and addresses disparaging diversity on campus. 

There was a wide range of speakers in attendance including associate Professor of Family Science in the School of Public Health Mia Smith-Bynum Ph.D, who spoke candidly about the safety concerns some people on campus have, including past issues of racially motivated violence that has taken place on campus in recent years.

“We had essentially a lynching on this campus,” said Smith-Bynum, in reference to the murder of 2nd Lt. Richard Collins on campus in 2017. 

Along with the comment regarding the death of 2nd Lt. Richard Collins, Smith-Bynum indicated race, socio-economic status, gender identity, and sexual identity are issues the new president needs to be willing to address, according to Smith-Bynum. 

Officer Christopher Fiora, president of the fraternal order of police at the university police department, didn’t agree with Smith-Bynum. He said that crime has decreased in the city of College Park by 38 percent, and the department is close to making 500 arrests this year. Fiora wanted to assure not only the search committee but the audience that the campus is safe. 

Additionally, Fiora asked the committee to find a president who would be willing to increase law enforcement, more officers of color to the force and asked for more resources to bring those officers on so students “feel that they are in a safe environment,” while on campus, Fiora added, but did not mention how he would like for that to transpire. 

A university staff member at the forum introduced an issue in the search for the next president that the committee overlooked. The problem is the position posting for the next president lacks any mention of affirmative action, even though affirmative action is evoked on all other position announcements at the university.

Manpreet Dayal, a public policy and sociology major, asked the committee to better advertise forums they are holding regards to the search for the next president. Dayal felt if the forums were shared more widely with the campus community, more of the student body would have known and would have attended. 

She noted that the times the forums were held are not accommodating to students who want to voice their opinions because they have classes at those times.

Everyone that spoke to the committee introduced various issues they felt would be necessary for the next university president to address. The multitude of requests to the committee for the next president raised concerns for some in attendance of the forum. 

Craig Slack, affiliate assistant professor and leadership studies director, asked the committee, “does this person exist” because he felt overwhelmed after listening to the concerns of the people in that room. 

Slack addressed the divide some people feel on campus when he said the campus was decentralized, and hopes the next president will be able to shift the campus from “a decentralized campus to something that is more community-based.”

Current president Wallace Loh will retire in June 2020 and from the looks of the opinions introduced in the forums on Tuesday, the search committee has a large basis to cover when selecting the next university president.