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No charges for staff involved in controversial Wharton Center display

Posted at 1:56 PM, Feb 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-14 20:39:36-05

EAST LANSING, Mich. — No one will be fired over the controversial display of historical black figures hanging from a "tree" at Michigan State University's Wharton Center gift shop.

The incident happened at the start of Black History Month.

President Samuel Stanley said in Friday's board meeting, that while the display was hurtful and offensive, as of now, instead of disciplinary action, they will focus on diversity and racial-bias education.

"There are no charges that I'm aware of but again, we're working on education at this point in time," said Stanley.

Staff training began this week at the Wharton Center. The university says the center is reevaluating the roles and responsibilities of all its gift shop employees and volunteers and a final determination on those roles and responsibilities will be made after the center’s staff and volunteers have concluded the mandatory racial-bias education and development.

"I want you to know I'm monitoring progress at the Wharton very closely as management there institutes bias training and take steps to ensure awareness and accountability," said Stanley.

The training will include hidden bias and sensitivity training. Stanley says a broader diversity training program will be extended to the entire university by Fall 2020. It will be mandatory.

"I'm also aware that intentions and words are not sufficient in dealing with this issue, so I want to mention again action we're taking to bring this Spartan community to a point where we can all feel safe, respected and welcome. This incident only underscored the need for urgency in addressing our diversity equity and inclusion programs," said Stanley.

The university is also creating a multicultural center, and conducting a national search for a Chief Diversity Officer.

"I think it's clear that an important component of our efforts to address diversity equity and inclusion needs to be education. Education involving the entire campus," said Stanley.

Stanley said that doesn't solve all the university's diversity problems but is a start.

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