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Garrett Center Renovation Is Bradley's 1st Step Toward Greater Diversity and Inclusion on Campus

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Following the many protests around the world last year and the continuing fight for equality, Bradley students voiced their opinions on the racial inequality they’ve faced on campus.

Students took their concerns to Twitter, using the hashtag #BlackAtBradleyU. While expressing their concerns, students also shared their experiences of racism on campus, being isolated because of their race, and feeling uncomfortable at an university that claims to be diverse and inclusive, but has a low retention rate for African American students, and relatively few minority faculty and staff.

University President Stephen Standifird made several promises in response to those concerns from current students and alumni. One of those promises has now been fulfilled.

The Romeo B. Garrett Center is Bradley's multicultural center and a safe space for minority students to gather on campus. Before the current renovations, the building hadn’t been updated since it was purchased by the university in the 1970s. Today, the Garrett Center has reopened with a new look inside and out.

Norris Chase, the executive director of The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, said he is excited for the newly renovated Garrett Center, as well as the other action items Standifird has promised. Chase also expressed the importance of continuing to listen to any concerns the students may have.

“The promises made really could amplify what Bradley does and how the environment is for students if we keep the students' voice at the center of it," he said.

Chase is hopeful that Bradley will continue to make a more inclusive space for all students and hopefully there will be a significant rise in the retention rate for minority students.

“There’s a lot of positive steps being made towards that goal of creating racial equity on campus, but I think we have a lot of work to do. It’s not just going to happen in one year, but I do think the administration has the ear of the students and I hope they continue to move forward with the momentum that we’ve created, that the students created,” Chase said.

Standifird said he is on board with making a real impact on the Bradley community.

“We’re trying to be very thoughtful and not rush into conclusions that don’t lead to the type of fundamental change that we’re looking for,” he said., adding the goal is to ensure that whatever is done will have a real impact on the campus.

Chase said he believes Bradley is on the right track to becoming a more diverse and inclusive community. 

“It’s important to recognize that institutions are also a microcosm of society, and we have a lot of work to do in that space too,” said Chase.

Along with the Garrett Center renovation, Standifird also has promised to create a racial diversity and inclusion advisory group of internal and external partners, as well as partner with Peoria Public Schools to offer six need-based full tuition scholarships annually. 

Standifird said he hopes these action items will strengthen and enhance the diversity of Bradley’s student body and student experience. 

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