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October 3, 2007

More than 500 pack open forum at ULM

The majority of students attending an open forum Tuesday night at the University of Louisiana at Monroe's Brown Auditorium decided not to let the actions of a few define the entire student body.

Under the direction of ULM President James Cofer, Wayne Brumfield, Vice President of Student Affairs, conducted an open forum in response to a dramatization that was allegedly created by a student on Red River, near Alexandria, and later posted on YouTube and Facebook. The video was allegedly a parody of the Jena 6 situation. More than 500 students, and several faculty and staff, packed Brown Auditorium for the forum, which lasted more than an hour.

Brumfield told the students he felt confident they would rise above the actions of a few. "There's no words to express the dismay at what happened in that video, and I know most of you are here because you saw it ... We're here tonight because the action of one or two set our university in motion," he said. "Many of you know me. I eat with you every day in the cafeteria. You see me on campus and at a lot of events. And I know, and I have faith and trust in you, that this is not what the ULM student body is about," he said.

Brumfield's comments were met with thunderous applause, and stirred many students to talk about the importance of an open dialogue.

Ma'ya Blount, a junior English major from New Orleans, said, "... What we're doing here right now is a very important thing. Racism doesn't get resolved when people hush up about it and sweep it under the rug. It only gets resolved when we talk about it in an educated manner ... As long as we continue to do this, maybe 10, 20 years from now, race won't be so much of an issue. We need to talk about it in a positive manner. We can only learn from this."

One ULM student suggested that the university host a walk in support of racial unity. Many in the audience cheered at that suggestion.

Several students inquired about the ramifications facing students involved in the video. Brumfield reiterated that he and other administrators are currently reviewing the Code of Student Conduct through the Office of Judicial Affairs. ULM officials, based on the policies of YouTube and Facebook, which do not condone inappropriate postings, also asked the organizations to remove the video from their Web sites, he said.

Brumfield closed the forum, emphasizing the importance of having compassion for those involved in the alleged dramatization. He said, "Tolerance and sensitivity are very important issues for all students as you grow and learn."

He also talked about plans for future diversity programming, as recently directed by Cofer.

"We will continue to enhance academic programs and those programs that teach diversity, and we'll continue to teach those things that represent tolerance and understanding," Brumfield said.

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