Letter to the editor in response to the “150 Strong” Commercial

Alex Brown, Writer

I believe the marketing at NEIU to prospective students and the general public is misleading. NEIU is promoted tirelessly as the “Most Diverse Institution in the Midwest,” based on a report from The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Ranking but once you arrive on campus, there is no evidence of that title.

From the programming to student support, to leadership, there is a vast lack of Black representation. Upon being notified that a new University Presidential search had begun, myself and my peers were excited as well as shocked to hear a black woman was a finalist.

I have been in two marketing commercials here at NEIU; one was online and one was Superbowl commercial. There is ZERO reason, that I should be the only black face seen. I am BY FAR not the only black person on campus. Why was there multiple representations of other cultures, but I’m the lone black face you see?

Students didn’t even know that auditions were being held for this commercial. I only knew about it because one of my professors stopped me and asked for my email. I heard stories of other students not being cast into the commercial due to their inability to speak Spanish, but I don’t speak it either, so that shouldn’t have been an excuse. Why is the University paying for a HUGE marketing campaign to reach prospective students when you are failing to reach the students you already have on campus?

This institution provides a great education for an exceptional price and is truly a hidden gem in the state of Illinois, but it’s overlooked because the experience is flawed.

In my opinion, a student’s full collegiate experience should be a combination of academics, social engagement, and campus involvement; all three go hand-in-hand. Whether it’s intentional or accidental what you see visually at NEIU discourages black students from feeling like there is a place for them here; hence why so many transfers out.

I understand NEIU is designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), and I understand the population that primarily occupies the neighborhood where the campus is located (Albany Park), but none of that justifies the lack of inclusion we see on campus. This is why the vast majority of Black students feel they don’t belong at NEIU, they don’t feel included and if you take a good look at the campus, you see why.

I believe NEIU uses the term “diversity” as a crutch because it’s trendy right now. I’ve seen various evaluation efforts attempted; including the task force report with Dr. Shaun Harper, Racial Equity Expert, but I am honestly just now really starting to see University Administration actively show they care about the well-being of black students here at NEIU. I look forward to seeing an implementation of a change here on campus.