The BUPD review board is working to finalize their recommendations for the department. Collegian file photo.
SOPHIA ESTES | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
At the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic school year, President Danko outlined multiple initiatives he had planned for campus to combat racial prejudice and discrimination. One of these initiatives was the implementation of a BUPD advisory group, which has been meeting throughout the year to create recommendations for Danko.
This group was tasked with reviewing BUPD’s policies and procedures in regard to racial discrimination and then providing suggestions for areas in need of improvement.
Antwain Hunter, co-chair of the group and assistant professor of history, said that society is experiencing a pivotal moment right now, and the formation of this group is important in accompanying this moment.
“As a nation, we are in a moment where this is something where it would almost be irresponsible not to be part of the conversation that is taking place,” Hunter said.
Results from the group’s review of BUPD have been slightly delayed from their original projected end point, which was the end of first semester, but Hunter explained the reasoning behind the delay.
“We want to do a thorough job,” Hunter said. “Our original timeframe was much shorter, but as we progress on it we’ve been having very fruitful discussions with folks in the group and we’ve also been trying to engage the broader community. So the timeline has been stretched out a little bit, but I think that is a sign that we’re really trying to make sure we do this right.”
Michael Kaltenmark, the other co-chair of the group, also commented on the delay. He said that the administration originally had plans for the group to have results by the fall of 2020, but Kaltenmark and the rest of the group realized it was going to be a full-year process. He said he is grateful that everyone in the group has been so dedicated to the cause.
“We all just want to do it the right the way, and doing it the right way takes time… Everybody in this group, when we got together and we did our level setting exercise and determined what our focus and mission was going to be, a person said, ‘I don’t want to be part of another group where we get together and nothing comes of it,’” Kaltenmark said. “So I think that was a driving force for all of us.”
During the first semester, the advisory group brought in a third party, the Black Onyx Management group, to gather data on campus and help form focus groups. Black Onyx is a consultant group that specializes in diversity, equity and inclusion analysis. The advisory group wanted to bring in a neutral third party to help them gather data.
Now, with second semester coming to a close, the advisory board is working on producing a survey for campus to fill out to round out their data gathering process.
Hunter emphasized the hope he has for the work that the survey could do in gathering the voices of a large demographic of voices and opinions in the community.
“We’re really working hard on making sure that it reaches all these different corners of the Butler community, that it covers the full range of experiences people might have,” Hunter said. “But also being meticulous about the way we frame things. It’s a very careful and deliberate process to make sure that the survey gets us the best feedback we possibly can from the Butler community, because at the end of it, that’s what it’s for.”
Hunter said that the most important next step forward is this survey. He noted that the survey will not have any impact if students and those in the community don’t share their thoughts and experiences.
“Creating a buzz around taking it, getting people excited to take it, getting people to talk about it with their peers, that’s really what’s up next. The next big thing for us… We just want to make sure we get it done right.”
With the results of the survey in hand alongside the data that has been collected and discussions that have occurred over the past several months, the board hopes to be better equipped to provide the most comprehensive and appropriate suggestions for BUPD.
Kennedy Broadwell, a senior sports media major and student on the board, said the impact of the suggestions the group ends up making will ultimately lie with what administration decides to do.
“At the end of the day we’re just an advisory committee, and our job is to listen to the community and we can make recommendations… but at the end of the day it falls back on administration if they’re going to implement any of it,” Broadwell said. “So we’re trying our best and I think that President Danko is very open to change from what I’ve heard, but it’s kind of like ‘you know, we’ll see.’”
Broadwell noted that through her time working on the advisory group, she has learned more about many of the dynamics and factors that sometimes go on behind the scenes on campus. She said that this greater awareness is something she will take into her future.
“Being on the board has taught me to hear people out a little more,” Broadwell said. “As much as I’m not super pro-policing, I have a deeper understanding of why some of the things that upset me happen…I also have learned how important it is to just have these discussions anyways, because people aren’t going to know how you’re feeling if you don’t say something.”
In addition to this deeper understanding, the potential work and improvements that could be made based on the results of this group, excites all three of the members. Kaltenmark said that the opportunity Butler has here to be an example in academia, is significant.
“I believe, and I think our research partners believe… Butler really has an opportunity here as we see it to not just improve on some things but to become a benchmark as it relates to campus policing, safety and security, mental and health services offered to students,” Kaltenmark said. “So I feel like if we can do that, if we can fulfill our mission to do that, then I’ll be really happy.”
All three members of the group said the community can expect to see the survey in their email inboxes very soon. Until then, they will continue to meet each week and discuss next steps to eventually lead to their comprehensive list of suggestions for BUPD.