News Local/State

U Of I Trustees Hear Call For Higher Black Enrollment

Members of the Black United Front unfurl a banner at Wednesday's University of Illinois trustees meeting.

Members of the Black United Front unfurl a banner at Wednesday's University of Illinois trustees meeting. Jim Meadows / Illinois Public Media

An African-American student group is launching a campaign to pressure administrators to take steps to increase black enrollment at the University of Illinois. That included a demonstration in the middle of a U of I Board of Trustees meeting on the Urbana campus Wednesday.

A presentation to trustees from University President Timothy Killeen was interrupted by about a dozen demonstrators from the Black United Front. They started by chanting “Mic check! Mic check! Mic check!”.

The demonstrators, clad in black, took exactly sixty seconds to unfurl a banner for their Project 1000 campaign, and call for more financial aid and academic support in order to admit and retain more African-American students at the university. 

Project 1000 is a name that references Project 500, the 1968 campaign at the University of Illinois to bring black enrollment to 500 or more. That campaign was a success, tripling black enrollment at the Urbana campus. But the Black United Front says African-American enrollment at UIUC has stalled since then.

Later in the meeting, African-American freshman and student senator-elect Kendall Brooks addressed the trustees during the public comment period. He expanded on the Black United Front’s demonstration, noting that the number of black students enrolled at the Urbana campus last fall in his own class of 2020 was 548, actually lower than the 568 who were enrolled in 1968, the year of Project 500.

“Our incoming class is less than a class that was in the sixties”, said Brooks. “That should really hit home"

The demonstrators interrupted Killeen just as he had mentioned administration goals for boosting overall enrollment past 93,000 for all three U of I campuses. When they were done he added, “and before you leave, friends, that will include a major commitment to underrepresented minority students at the University of Illinois.”