Update: June 16, 6:40 p.m.

After a day of tweets questioning why he had not yet made a statement on the #BlackAtUark campaign, Steinmetz tweeted a response Tuesday afternoon. He said he thinks the online conversation is an important step towards affecting change at the UofA.

Steinmetz also referenced the viral video and other recent incidents of racist social media posts by UA students, and said he has been meeting with Black students to hear their concerns.

Steinmetz has not yet issued an official statement via press release or disseminated his response to the UA community via email.

In an email, Manager of University Communications John Thomas echoed Steinmetz’s tweets, saying that Steinmetz and other campus officials have been following the Twitter campaign and that the chancellor is meeting weekly with Black students.

“We are working to grow that group to make sure all voices are heard as we work together to build a better campus and world,” Thomas said.

Breaking

As nationwide Black Lives Matter protests continue into their fourth week, Black UA community members are tweeting to share their experiences with racial discrimination and under-representation on campus.

Using #BlackAtUARK, hundreds of users posted public tweets Monday denouncing what they said is a university culture of subtle and overt racism, racial profiling and lack of resources and support for Black students. Of the more than 9,000 tagged tweets, many have garnered several hundred likes and dozens of retweets, and the hashtag trended in the U.S. Monday night.

The Twitter campaign comes two weeks after the UA chapter of Sigma Chi expelled two members of the fraternity in response to a Snapchat video appearing to show the students mocking George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. 

UA officials announced a Code of Student Life investigation into the two students June 2, but said the release of student disciplinary action is limited by federal student privacy laws. Representatives of two dozen student organizations signed an open letter June 1 calling for the students to be expelled from the UofA.

Many of Monday’s tagged tweets focused on negative experiences students said they had in UA classes, particularly when the subjects of race or racism came up in lessons and class discussions.

Some users said they thought their white professors and other white campus staff treated them differently than they did white students.

Other users posted about their feelings of being left out of the UA Greek Life community, even when they belonged to a Black fraternity or sorority on campus. Some said they thought that majority-white chapters appropriated elements of Black culture but didn’t respect Black people.

Still others said they had been racially profiled by members of the University of Arkansas Police Department and other campus officials who seemed to assume that they were criminals.

UAPD Capt. Gary Crain was not previously aware of the #BlackAtUARK campaign, but he said UAPD officers are expected to uphold state and international accreditation requirements and abide by a code of conduct.

“I can say that we have high standards and high expectations for any of our officers,” Crain said.

Crain said the UAPD has an internal process for investigating officers for conduct violations, and he encourages students who have had negative interactions with officers to report them. Instructions for submitting complaints are available on the UAPD website’s Commendations and Complaints page.

A common theme among the stories shared Monday was frustration with the UA administration. Many said they thought UA officials do not make serious efforts to protect, uplift or grow the campus’s small Black student population.

Of the 25,711 graduate and undergraduate students enrolled during the Spring 2020 semester, 4.3% were Black, according to the UA Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. In comparison, 15.7% of Arkansas residents are Black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

A Twitter account by the name BlackStudentCaucusUARK was launched Monday and represents “a group of students at The University of Arkansas who are reclaiming their voice in the face of adversity,” according to the account’s biography.

In a post on its accompanying Instagram account, members of the newly formed group described the organization as “a reactionary group established solely to address systemic racism issues on the University of Arkansas campus.” 

The Black Student Caucus retweeted many #BlackAtUArk tweets and posted a list of 15 demands for racial policy reforms at the UofA on Twitter and Instagram Monday. 

The demands include a statement from Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz regarding the viral Snapchat video, funding for the creation of a Black Student Life Center and the hiring of more Black staff, particularly in the Pat Walker Health Center and the Office of Student Standards and Conduct.

The Arkansas Traveler has reached out to representatives of the Black Student Caucus for comment, but had not received a response by time of publication.

This is an ongoing report. The Arkansas Traveler will update this article as information is made available.

Sarah Komar is the news editor for The Arkansas Traveler, where she previously worked as a staff reporter in 2019 and early 2020.

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