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University of Maryland president announces new programs to bolster diversity and support students

During his first hours as president of the University of Maryland’s flagship College Park campus, Darryll Pines laid out initiatives to respond to a national reckoning on race inspired by protests across the country this summer.

Immediately, Pines has called for the naming of new residence halls for groundbreaking Black and Asian alumni, creating a new orientation program for students and staff, reconsidering campus police tactics and equipment, and improving diversity among students and faculty.

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Pines said the university also will increase the number of staff providing mental health services, hire a coordinator for immigrant and undocumented student life, and seek more support for philanthropic funds to provide student aid.

In a statement released on the university’s website, Pines said he will create at program called TerrapinSTRONG that will include anti-racism training and instill in students a culture more tolerant and respectful of others. He said the orientation would be for entering undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff with a focus on unconscious bias, inclusion, diversity and equity.

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Pines already has begun working to increase the diversity of the campus.

“Over the past four months, I have worked closely with our Offices of Enrollment Management and Undergraduate Admissions to address the complex challenges of enrolling increasingly diverse incoming classes,” he said.

The university will enroll its most diverse class, Pines said, with minorities comprising 47.5% of the freshman class — up from 45.8% in the fall of 2019. The percentage of student who are Black, Latin and Asian are all increasing, as are the percentage of students who identify as two or more races.

The university will re-examine its curriculum and how issues of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation and other legally protected classes are discussed. And a school task force will examine policing, and whether to ban the use of choke holds and the use of pepper spray at peaceful protests.

He announced that beginning Wednesday, the University of Maryland Police Department will divest from a program that provides surplus military equipment to local police departments.

Taking steps to honor minority alumni, Pines has asked that residence halls be named after four alumni: Hiram Whittle, the first African American male to be admitted to the university in 1951; Elaine Johnson-Coates, the first African American female to graduate with a degree in education in 1959; Pyon Su, the first Korean student to receive a degree from any American college or university; and Chunjen Constant Chen, the first Chinese student to enroll at the Maryland Agricultural College.

Pines said each one exemplified the “determination to succeed against all odds.”

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