After being put on hold due to the pandemic, the Black Student Experience Committee — chaired by Tennille Haynes, the director of the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding — has reconvened this semester.
Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun first organized the committee as one of two working groups to study Black and LGBTQ+ students’ experiences at the University.
Calhoun deferred comment to Haynes.
According to Haynes, the committee was formed during the previous academic year to help “deepen our understanding of the experience of Black students at Princeton and to review intervention strategies that effectively address discovered concerns.”
In an email to residential colleges listservs, Haynes wrote that the University formed the groups in response to recent surveys, which indicated that students from these two groups “demonstrate a more negative overall experience at Princeton.”
Haynes wrote in an email to The Daily Princetonian that the Black Student Experience Committee is working with an external facilitator, LaKeisha Thorpe, to engage Black students this semester. According to Haynes, Thorpe “is passionate about social justice, cultural humility, and a transdisciplinary approach to transcultural spaces navigation.”
“Dr. Thorpe is dedicated to ideologies that celebrate differences and create intentional spaces for uncomfortable conversations,” Haynes told the ‘Prince.’ “She is a great partner in this process.”
The committee will begin by “reviewing the multi-year student survey data that has shed some light on how Black students demonstrate a more negative overall experience at Princeton.”
To understand Black students’ experiences, the committee has also organized several virtual student meetings with Thorpe. Haynes noted that the sessions will run for 90 minutes, and that each session will be limited to five to eight students, a size that will “maintain a more engaging atmosphere for all participants to be heard.”
According to Haynes, the University administration is “very engaged and invested in this process” and “care[s] deeply about all students’ student experience and want to be intentional in ensuring that our most vulnerable student populations are cared for.”
Once the “necessary qualitative data” is collected, the committee plans to “make, where appropriate, recommendations to address concerns.”
Jailany Thiaw ’22, an organizer from the Black Leadership Coalition, attended one of the committee’s student meetings, which included participants from “many diverse backgrounds, majors, and geographies.” He noted how “most people were quickly confronted with racism” upon arriving at the University.
Thiaw added that his experience at the meeting “proves the necessity for the University to ensure that all students feel welcome and accepted.”
With the student group meetings underway through October, the committee aims to produce a final report, along with corresponding recommendations, in the coming months.