Akron City Council members say they are reassured after meeting with University of Akron President Luis Proenza Wednesday about changes the university is making to its programming for minority students.
Council members requested the meeting after more than a dozen UA students, staff and community members spoke at a recent council meeting, urging the council to intervene on their behalf regarding the university’s decision to replace the Office of Multicultural Development (OMD) with a Student Success Center and Multicultural Center in the fall. The students and staff were concerned that programs for minority students would be diminished with the changes.
“They did say this would enhance the services and bring more resources to the multicultural department,” said Councilman Ken Jones. “It was really good for us to hear that. They assured us they would give more resources — more mentors, more counselors, more things that will help students get acquainted with college life.”
Attending the meeting, which lasted more than an hour, were Akron council members Garry Moneypenny, Jeff Fusco, Linda Omobien, Margo Sommerville and Mike Williams, and Summit County Councilwoman Tamela Lee. The university officials were Proenza, Lee Gill, the chief diversity officer, and Candace Campbell Jackson, a vice president and chief of staff.
Proenza gave an overview of UA’s plans, which include keeping the Office of Multicultural Development as the name of the academic programs that have been offered through that office, including learning communities and peer mentoring. The Office of Multicultural Development will be under the Student Success Center, while the other programs that formerly were part of OMD will now be handled by the Multicultural Center.
“I think everybody realized there was some miscommunication — misunderstanding — about what was really going to happen,” Jones said.
Gill agreed about the misunderstanding and the need for better communication between the university and its students and the community. He said future meetings will be held to foster these ties.
“We will probably meet in the next 45 days, dealing with a more open discussion so everyone understands what we’re doing overall at the university,” Gill said. “We all walked out of there feeling good about it.”
Gill said the meeting helped to reinforce the important relationship between the city and university and the need for the two to work together.
“We can’t help our student success in silos,” he said.