UAFS Hosts Public Forum To Talk About Race And Diversity

FORT SMITH, Ark. (KFSM) —  The University of Arkansas Fort Smith hosted a public forum Tuesday (Sept. 17) following an investigation into the University of Arkansas Fort Smith's men's head basketball coach.

An accusation of racial discrimination over comments coach Jim Boone made about one of his player's hair is what lead to the investigation.

At the public forum, titled "Safe Space, Let's Talk Race" the Black Student Association spoke on conquering bias and improving understanding.

"We talked about white privilege in there. That’s such a real thing, and I feel like we need to encourage more people not just white people but everyone to come to these events and be made aware. This story isn’t going away, our friends Ty isn’t going away," said UAFS student-athlete Anna Demmer.

The UAFS Chancellor Terisa Riley, Athletic Director, Fort Smith Mayor, City Directors, community members, professors and students packed the room tonight.

Several student-athletes were in attendance tonight to make sure their voices were heard.

"At no point did I see no sensitivity from his side that’s what irks me," Demmer said. "Not even an apology but showing that you miscommunicated, you messed up in some way, and you have to own up to that even if you didn’t intentionally try, be easily you have to own up to what you did, and I feel like tonight could have been his night where he would have told a whole room of his apology."

Coach Boone was not in attendance tonight, but some feel he should have made an appearance.

"If he truly didn’t mean anything by it he should have came here and defended himself and said 'I didn’t mean anything by it' and give his point across and say 'guys I didn’t mean to offend any type of community'," said UAFS student-athlete Rachel Williams.

One member of the Black Student Association says the forum went better than expected.

"I think it was amazing. There were so many people here so many more than I would imagine would be able to come. Even the city bus pulled up and dropped some people. I think it was a really great event, obviously, all the questions weren’t answered but it had to start with a discussion and that’s what we did," Karissa Cole said.

Chancellor Riley says a director of diversity and inclusion will be added to the UAFS leadership team to help with future planning and policies.

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