Ann Weick, dean of Kansas University's School of Social Welfare, hopes the university community can work together to make the entire Lawrence community a better place.
Weick, who chairs the Community Task Force on Racism, Discrimination and Human Diversity, sponsored by KU, Haskell Indian Junior College and the city, spent last month listening to people's concerns about intolerance.
During November, the 16-member task force sponsored nine forums, as well as a call-in show, hoping to gauge discrimination in Lawrence.
In an interview in her Twente Hall office at KU, Weick said she believed the community forums, which addressed discrimination in employment, law enforcement and housing, were successful.
"I think they accomplished what we hoped to hear from the community," she said.
ALTHOUGH MOST people aired complaints about discrimination, Weick said some participants also shared suggestions about how the environment could be improved in the city and at the two colleges.
"There were some strategies that were very feasible," she said. "There was a sense of conviction that Lawrence has a lot of strengths to build on."
Weick hopes the community task force will be one of those strengths. The group is scheduled to make a report to the Lawrence City Commission in March. Weick and other members of the task force met Wednesday to review information gathered during last month's forums, and they plan to meet again this week.
When the group makes its report, it will outline what it believes should be done to help improve relations in Lawrence. She said the task force may choose to continue its work.
IN 1972, a similar group was appointed to look at problems of discrimination in Lawrence. Weick said 20 recommendations were handed over to the city. She said she hopes whatever recommendations the current group submits to city leaders next year will lead to improvements.
Russell Blackbird, assistant principal at South Junior High School, said he was concerned that the task force may not have reached everyone.
"We just want to cover as much of the community as we can," Blackbird said Friday. "I think the forums helped."
Blackbird, a Native American who has lived in Lawrence since 1963, said he personally wasn't surprised by the incidents of racism shared during the forums.
"But I've gotten some feedback from people who aren't from minority groups, and they were surprised that there were examples of racism in Lawrence," Blackbird said. "I think people were surprised, and that's good because it helps awareness. The feedback made me feel good."
Like Weick, Blackbird said he isn't yet sure how the community task force's findings will play out.
"My hope is that we can fix anything we need to fix in Lawrence," he said.