IUPUI wins $25,000 grant for programs to fight racism on campus

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - IUPUI has been awarded a $25,000 grant to disrupt racism on campus. The goal of the grant from The Lumina Foundation is to be intentional about building a welcoming campus environment.

The grant was announced after white nationalists and counter-protesters clashed in Charlottesville, Virginia last year.

"A lot of times it's like subtle comments that your hear in the library or you'll hear someone making fun of an accent of international students. I feel like that's really common," IU grad student Vandana Pawa said.

IUPUI Education Professor Lori Patton-Davis says it's those incidents that made her apply for the racial justice and equity grant. Now, that the money has been awarded she has a plan to shift the culture here.

"We had the idea to do something that brought white people into a conversation about race. And not in a way that is attacking them or to promote guilt but to really engage in genuine dialogue about racism on campus and helping them to identify their stake in improving the campus," Patton-Davis said.

It's called the White Racial Literacy Project. For white people, led by white people.

"I don't want a white person to feel like they can't express what they want to say because a black woman is in the room. I want them to be honest and candid and be able to engage in dialogues to disrupt some of the thinking I think is responsible for the racial climate on campus," Patton-Davis said.

Two years ago, fliers were posted on IUPUI's campus saying why white women shouldn't date black men and the downfalls of having bi-racial children.

According to the latest IUPUI division of diversity report, undergraduate enrollment is made up of 10% black students, 69% white students and 26% total of students of color.

"A lot of things that happen passively that you kind of just let happen until at some point you just kind of realize this is happening a lot and you don't really know what to do about it," Pawa said.

Patton-Davis says it's time to shift the focus of how racism is addressed.

"Most of the time it's about how do we support the students who are feeling uncomfortable or feeling attacked and targeted. Yes, that's important. We need to do that. But we also need to address the ideology and mindset that creates a space where these students don't feel comfortable."

The White Racial Literacy Project is set to launch this fall. Professor Patton-Davis says she knows this idea might be met with hesitation in the beginning but hopes it’s the beginning of building a welcoming campus. IUPUI is also adding additional funds to the grant.

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