LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — It's nearly one year since Breonna Taylor's death, and the University of Kentucky is reflecting on the whirlwind of racial tension sparked by the event and its mission to promote diversity and inclusion on its campus.
"As an institution, it's only been about 70 years that we've been integrated and we need to remind ourselves of that," said UK spokesperson Jay Blanton. "In that time though, we've made some really significant progress. We now enroll and graduate more students of color than any other institution in the state and that's something to be proud of, but there are still gaps. There are still needs."
Blanton says they continue to work on promoting diversity and inclusion, especially in the last year following Taylor's death and other similar cases. Some of these measures include establishing a Diversity Action Plan that includes funding for training and projects, forming the Commonwealth Institute of Black Studies to highlight research around race issues, and, most recently, announcing an effort to improve mental health resources for diverse employees. However, Blanton says it goes beyond what happens on campus."
"We've also hired our first-ever diversity supply manager. That's someone who works directly with businesses and vendors, minority-owned businesses, to try and increase that pipeline," said Blanton. "We need to be doing more business with minority-owned businesses because that will spur jobs, that will spur investment, that will spur opportunity for communities of color that have been underserved in that area."
Other plans include a diversity master plan to create a more accepting and accessible campus in terms of landscaping and structures and creating an art fund in which 1% of all capital projects that are $1 million or more will be designated for diverse art.
Blanton says as society progresses and new students bring their experiences and ideas to the university every year, there will always be room for improvement. He says the university is getting feedback from diverse groups on what more it can do.
"It's a lifelong project and one we've got to remain committed to," said Blanton.