Perlman responds to advocates with plans to enhance diversity

Harvey Perlman



University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman responded this week to Black Lives Matter organizers' requests for diversity initiatives, following a rally held on campus in November.

About 400 people gathered Nov. 19 in front of the Nebraska Union to share stories of racism and to call for a change.

In a letter released Monday, Perlman addressed six recent demands from the group but also outlined seven steps that the administration had put in place a year ago to increase diversity. He acknowledged that "racism and racist acts" have occurred on campus and said he will take steps to combat racism, but he also said that the First Amendment protects hate speech.

Following the group's recommendations, diverse student advisory groups have been formed, and the university will explore requiring a multicultural sensitivity workshop for incoming freshmen, Perlman wrote.

An advisory group of students of color to the vice chancellor for student affairs is being formed, Perlman wrote.

Among the seven items Perlman said are already being done at the university are adopting a reporting system for racism, creating a chief diversity officer position, sponsoring workshops on diversity and racial issues for faculty, and scheduling an "audit" of diversity practices for spring 2017.

"My thanks and congratulations for your efforts to elevate these important issues," Perlman wrote. "I believe largely the university community is eager to address these critical issues head-on."

Mecca Slaughter, a UNL senior and member of the group that met with Perlman about two weeks ago, said he was respectful of the group's requests and explained how some ideas would take time to implement.

She cautioned, however, that because Perlman is leaving after this year, it's up to his successor to make lasting change.

"Whatever he says he's going to do, that's up to the new chancellor, who we don't know yet," said Slaughter, 21. "I just want it to be better for the students who are coming after me."

Perlman acknowledged that change would be slow, but he repeated his commitment to embracing diversity.

"I am under no illusions that change will be rapid or complete," he wrote. "Legacies so deeply rooted in our past are not easily overcome."

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