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The Black Student Union at Montana State University is asking university administrators sign a pledge to adopt and adhere to anti-racist policies and support students of color.

The MSU Freedom Pledge is similar to the Bozeman Freedom Pledge dozens of businesses signed around the time of a local protest for racial equality on June 5, which drew about 4,000 people into downtown Bozeman. The two pledges share four core tenants: adopting anti-racist policies, accepting feedback from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) citizens or students and responding to that feedback, ongoing institutional transformation and supporting BIPOC groups.

“We’ve had this verbal commitment from a lot of people, but we feel like it’s really important to have some kind of physical, very explicit evidence of, ‘I signed this pledge, I committed to these practices,’” said BSU treasurer Jessica Brito.

MSU faculty and administrators have so far not signed the pledge, Brito said, but the BSU has been contacted by several who say they do plan to sign.

MSU spokesperson Tracy Ellig said in an emailed statement that MSU has been and plans to continue working with the BSU and other BIPOC student groups on creating a campus that’s accepting to all students. Ellig said that anti-discrimination policies do already exist on campus and that lasting and sustainable change will take time, points that Brito also brought up.

The university has taken several actions to address diversity and inclusion in the past few years, Ellig said, including crafting a Diversity and Inclusion Framework Report, hiring a senior diversity and inclusion officer, conducting a campus climate survey and formalizing a university Diversity Council.

“The university and the Black Student Union want the same thing, which is durable, enduring actions that will benefit our communities,” Ellig said. “We recognize that to build changes that last and are effective, it will take ample consultation and time.”

Brito said that those anti-discrimination policies that already exist are good, but that there’s room to create policies that are even better. For example, MSU has an implicit bias form that students can fill out, but Brito said it can be hard to find and is too vague.

“We look at this as an improvement of the foundation that’s already there,” she said. “We understand these things take time ... We want to make sure there’s some active document that has been acknowledge by the administration that it might not be done tomorrow, but it will get done.”

Since police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May and the ensuing protests that are still continuing in many cities, Brito said MSU has become more responsive to the BSU when the group brings up issues. The pledge is one way to keep MSU accountable, Brito said, even if George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests fade from the attention of mainstream media.

A full copy of the MSU Freedom Pledge, as well as a list of faculty and administration asked to sign the pledge, can be found on the BSU’s Facebook page, BSU at MSU.

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.

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