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“99% of the people in the room aren’t from the community.” ~Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein
by Donald W.R. Allen, II – Editor in Chief/IBNN NEWS and Black Politics in Minneapolis
Minneapolis, MN. (IBNN NEWS/Special Report/September 20, 2011)…University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler visited the Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center, affectionately known as UROC as a part of events throughout inauguration week.
“This is great; I look over here (UROC) a lot. Today I get a free meal,” says Gloria Hopkins, a north Minneapolis resident who stumbled onto the event because she saw all the cars in the UROC parking lot and wanted to see what was going on.
Community outreach to the “community” – BLACK PEOPLE, has been a juggernaut for UROC. Some programs are not designed for small minority/women owned businesses. In some cases, the options are very limited and exclusive on who can participate. When asked of UROC officials how come no community members are presenters for particular series are Blacks, the reply is “That’s not our demographics.”
One thing that impressed me with President Kaler is that he is a “data-driven” leader – which means he will act upon diversity and creating a fair playing field during his tenure at the U of M. He also spoke on diversity and serving the community which UROC is in.
It’s important for President Kaler to know there are many challenges within UROC. Sometimes these “challenges” marginalize, deny and obstruct community members from taking part in what should be a great learning experience via a partnership. But lately a partnership with UROC is defined 99% to 1% for some, with UROC walking away with the lions share.
Still today, there is a sigma about the research center. Community members within a five-block radius still don’t know what goes on inside the building, regardless of the hundreds-of-thousands of dollars spent in a no-bid contract that fell short on the promise to deliver UROC and its mission to the community. Repeat calls to UROC communications personnel have never been returned.
For the most part, President Kaler seems like a great person, who is ready for the challenge of his satellite operation in north Minneapolis. He might even dig up the community benefits agreement that was buried deep somewhere in the office of the Senior Vice President of Academics office that promised northside residents a healthier choice for buying food, hence the “Co-Op.” (Hint-Hint, if anyone’s listening.)