On Oct. 30, the Department of Global Studies and Modern Languages sponsored their first online Global Passport Series event led by political science professor Dr. Amelia Hoover Green, the new CoAs Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The event centered around the Black Lives Matter protests from the summer in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis as well as the reckoning many institutions like Drexel are facing in the wake of the protests.
Dr. Hoover Green first addresses the nationwide wave of protests in the summer as well as the renewed wave of protests in Philadelphia due to the killing of Walter Wallace Jr. The BLM protests have officially become the largest protest movement in the United States, with studies reporting nearly 6-10 percent of the country participating in the protests at one point during the summer. The movement has also garnered support internationally, with parallel movements and symbols of solidarity from everyday people in Germany and Syria.
However, as Dr. Hoover Green points out, the rise in social upheaval tends to lead to a negative response from the state. “That fits into a pattern that those in political science know really well. As social movements grow larger, they are met with increasing repression,” Green states. “And the interesting part is what happens after that. Is protest sustained or is it quashed?” A prime example of this state repression occurred in Philadelphia during the summer when police trapped and tear-gassed protesters on I-95.
Dr. Hoover Green believes that, in many ways, the BLM movement is increasingly fitting the qualifications for a successful movement, especially with the summer protests continuing into the fall. The four characteristics of a successful movement, according to political scientist Erica Chenoweth, are size and diversity, nonviolent discipline, innovative tech and loyalty shifts. As it stands, the BLM movement has already gained mass popularity from everyday Americans and has dramatically changed public opinion about police, though there are varying perspectives about how to deal with the issue.
“So what does all of this mean for Drexel?” Dr. Hoover Green asks. To put it short, Drexel has competing priorities as it is a tuition-driven university meant to satisfy a board of trustees and donors. Yet, as was mentioned during the event, A.J. Drexel’s original intentions for Drexel were progressive, with the university acting as an engine of social mobility for immigrants and people from lower social classes. In the wake of the BLM protests, the university has started initiatives to better understand whether students of color are feeling represented at Drexel. To investigate how students felt, Dr. Hoover Green led the CoAs Rapid Assessment in the summer, which was essentially a survey virtually sent to Drexel students to fill out.
There were over 700 respondents to the survey with around 417 of those responses coming from current or recent students. Out of these numbers, 161 students answered the open-ended questions. The results revealed that there were quantitative and qualitative differences between the experiences and thoughts of students of color and white students. Quantitatively, there were visible differences between Black students, white students and non-Black students of color when measuring satisfaction. “What you see there is that under half, like well under half of Black students at Drexel agree or strongly agree to feeling valued,” Dr. Hoover Green stated, “versus well over half of white students and just about half of non-Black students of color.” There were also various qualitative concerns brought up by students in the survey such as the importance of Black and other faculty of color; insufficient discussion of race; the daily toll of microaggressions on students of color; dismissiveness on the experiences of students of color.
Based on the survey, there were various findings that Dr. Hoover Green observed. Students want more diverse faculty, they want more productive conversations about race and racism and that minoritized students report less positive experiences at Drexel and are less likely to graduate. As a result of these findings, Dr. Hoover Green has created several initiatives to address the main concerns students expressed. Among these projects are advocacy for faculty of color, program development for Africana Studies and Women & Gender Studies as well as faculty training about acceptable behavior. Dr. Hoover Green also announced other opportunities for addressing this issue with an upcoming Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Town Hall as well as a CoAs Community Read in the winter quarter.
However, all of these proposals are dependent on Drexel’s upcoming budget priorities over the next few years. As Dr. Hoover Green acknowledges, “I can’t imagine us making truly significant progress, the kind of progress we really want, without growing Africana studies and other ethnic and gender studies programs and without improving faculty diversity.”
Racial justice is likely to remain a national priority for Americans and students at Drexel as the influence of the Black Lives Matter continues.