UNI week in review: racial justice protests, campus return and tuition freezes

UNI week in review: racial justice protests, campus return and tuition freezes

Widespread protests over the death of George Floyd swept the nation for a second week, with tens of thousands of mostly peaceful protestors vowing that his death at the hands of Minneapolis police would at last spark change.

The protests that have occurred in hundreds of cities, including in the Cedar Valley, have placed a powerful spotlight on racist practices endemic in American society. The message was clear: institutions, including college campuses, must respond. 

In a message to the University of Northern Iowa’s campus this week, President Mark A. Nook pledged that would happen.

“Let us be clear: Our university values Black Lives,” Nook continued. “We stand firmly against the harm and injustice Black men, women, and children continue to face. And we are committed to addressing systemic racism through our work.”

Nook also said that he has spent time speaking with the campus community to understand their pain and recognize the challenges confronting minority communities.

“What happened to George Floyd, and continues happening to Black men, women and children across our nation, is horrifying and unacceptable,” Nook said in an email. “Following the death of Mr. Floyd, we must recognize that our Black students and colleagues are hurting, and many may be coming back to work or their studies feeling traumatized and unsafe after the events from this past week that continue today.”

The week also saw announcements on the work underway to prepare for a return to campus this fall. A UNI Forward Together steering committee is leading this effort to ensure teaching, campus events and residence life can resume safely, Nook said in a separate email. Updates will be posted on a new UNI Forward Together website.  

All offices and departments will be open by August 3, Nook said in an email, and the Department of Residence will release updated guidance for residence life by July 1. 

On Thursday, the Board of Regents approved UNI’s request to again keep its tuition flat in the coming academic year as part of an ongoing effort to provide students with an affordable, high-quality education.

The vote marked the second straight year UNI has kept its tuition flat amid rising concerns of the affordability of higher education, which have been punctuated by an economic downturn and rising unemployment rate fueled by the global pandemic.

“We are thrilled to once again be able to avoid tuition increases for our Panther family as we continue to provide the highest quality education available focused on the success of our students,” Nook said.