North Carolina women's college addresses student concerns

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) -- A North Carolina women's college is working to meet a series of demands made by students after protests that lasted for more than a week, the school's president said.

Salem College president Lorraine Sterritt told the Winston-Salem Journal (http://bit.ly/2pjuUsr) that the school is committed to the value of diversity, and that bias and intolerance must have no place on the campus.

Sterritt issued the statement shortly before student organizers ended a protest, which included occupying the first floor of the main hall for more than a week. That protest ended on Tuesday.

Sterritt said in her email that she and other college administrators met with student leaders to discuss their concerns.

"We acknowledge that this is a time of heartfelt emotion and pain for our community," Sterritt wrote in part. "As a learning community, Salem is committed to the value of diversity - diversity in ideas, experiences and opinions."

Some students at the school said Salem College, with an enrollment of around 1,100, fosters a culture of racism, sexism and elitism. Other students complained about poor living conditions and the lack of wireless internet connections.

Salem College was founded in 1772. Figures from the school show that, in the fall of 2015, 51 percent of its students were white, 20 percent were black and 15 percent were Hispanic. The remaining 14 percent include Asian-Americans, students who identify with two or more races and Native Americans.

Among the measures the college will continue or will implement include its commitment to increasing the diversity of faculty, staff and board members, Sterritt wrote, pointing to the February appointment of Patrice Black Mitchell, a 1989 graduate of Salem College, as an alumna trustee to the board of trustees of Salem Academy and College. Mitchell's appointment represented the fifth minority as a Salem trustee.

Sterritt said the school also opened its Office of Diversity and Inclusiveness last August 2016. She wrote that more than 1,100 students, employees, and board members of Salem College received diversity and inclusiveness training.

Salem junior Olivia Galeana said she hopes the school will implement the measures protesters called for by the time she graduates in May 2018.

"We had these concerns for quite some time," Galeana said. "I know that it will not happen overnight."

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Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, http://www.journalnow.com