Session A: 9AM – 10:30AM

Humanities, Interdisciplinary, Social Sciences. Session A – Oral Presentations, Pano East, Union

SESSION A (9:00-10:30AM)
Location: Pano East, A. Ray Olpin University Union


“The Goal is to Build and Strengthen the Black Community:” Black Faculty and Staff’s Role in Black Power Movement at the University of Utah
Callie Avondet, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor Shavauna Munster, University of Utah

SESSION A 9:00-9:15AM
Pano East, Union

The late 60s and 70s are known in the United States in part for the student protests that erupted from coast to coast. In addition to protesting the Vietnam War, college students were also active in racially backed campaigns such as the Black Power Movement. Situated just blocks east of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint headquarters, which then banned Black people from holding the priesthood, the University of Utah became a unique and ideal site for the Black Power Movement to play out in Utah. Though Black Power did not hit campus until the early 70s a few years after other institutions, Black U of U students followed their peer’s examples and protested in direct ways such as by walking into the university president’s office with a list of demands and by writing letters supporting Black teachers that the university was trying to fire on minimal charges. In all their work, however, these students were backed by and/or led by Black faculty and staff at the U. Faculty and staff collaboration was an essential, but often overlooked, component to these student activists’ wins as those non-students often stayed within the campus community for longer and had more direct ties to members of leadership. Thus, Black faculty and staff at the U were the less seen, but often more targeted, front lines in the Black Power movement on campus. This project focuses on the resistance and activism Black faculty and staff performed in the early 70s in three ways: asserting and defending space for Black faculty and students on campus, directly supporting student protests, and being the leaders in enacting organizational change that the students’ visible activism started. Understanding these roles not only highlights the less seen and remembered, but equally important, work that faculty and staff did to bring changes to the U, but also provides more depth and understanding of the Black Power movement and how it played out in Utah.



We Are What We Read: We Are What We Read: The Problem of Representation on Undergraduate Philosophy Syllabi
Mykie Valenzuela, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor Carlos Santana, University of Utah

SESSION A 9:20-9:35AM
Pano East, Union

Academic Philosophy suffers from what has been called a “demographic problem.” In 2018, only 1% of full-time philosophy professors in the US were black and women professors totaled just 17%. Progress in recruiting underrepresented groups has lagged far behind other humanities disciplines, particularly in race and gender. I hypothesize, given that undergraduate syllabi contain texts predominantly written by white and male philosophers that students from underrepresented groups are less likely to major in philosophy. I am testing this theory using several years of syllabi records from the University of Utah Department of Philosophy. Using the Simpson’s Diversity Index, based on authors of assigned readings, each syllabus is given a score that illustrates how representative it is of the different identities of philosophers and authors. For example, if a syllabus only includes authors with the same identity, this would score a 0. The study resulted in averaged scores of semesters and years to create a longitudinal comparison with undergraduate demographics in the major of philosophy at the University of Utah. Scores of the gender and race of authors of assigned readings, separately, correlate with the gender and race of undergraduates in the major. This novel research study adds to the literature that supports diversifying the philosophical canon.


The Black Hair Project
Nnenna Eke-Ukoh, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor Andrea Baldwin, University of Utah

SESSION A 9:40-9:55AM
Pano East, Union

Pride in one’s blackness includes pride in their hair, especially for Black women. For Black women, hair discrimination is not a new phenomenon. Race based hair discrimination negatively impacts how Black girls and women define and percieve blackness. Hair discrimination is a way to hire less people of color, especially Black women, and keep them out of professional fields and environments. Education wise, it uproots Black students from the learning environment and unnecessarily disrupts their learning. Pride in Black hair has grown significantly, but race based hair discrimination continues to negatively impact their self image/worth and how Black girls and women percieve blackness/ Black culture. Could the  Would the passing of the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act (CROWN Act) as a legal mechanism help alleviate race based hair discrimination particularly for Black women in the work place, institutions of higher education and in the larger social community spaces?In response to race based hair discrimination, the creation of the CROWN Act came about. The CROWN Act made it illegal to discriminate based on hair styles and textures in the work environment and schools. According to “Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears a Crown: A Critical Race Analysis of the CROWN Act” by Britney Pitts (2021), In January of 2019, the CROWN Act was introduced in California by Senator Holly J. Mitchell and “…expanded the definition of race to include hair texture and protective styling under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and Education Code” (pg. 720). Since the passing of the act in California in July 2019, the act gained more traction among other states. These states include: Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, Louisiana, Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine. There are forty plus municipalities that have passed the act as well. Despite the few states that have passed this act, more states have either dismissed the bill or have not introduced a bill the protects people from hair discrimination.  Pitts argues that the passing of the CROWN Act on a federal level is a necessity that increases educational and work opportunities for Black girls and women, as well as, “affirms their aesthetic value, self worth, or central identity,” (Versey in Pitts, 2021, pg 718). Pitt utilized real world examples to support her argument. In 2019 in the school setting, Black twin girls were expelled from extracurricular activities and banned from prom because they refused to remove their box braids. In 2019 in the work setting, a Black female newscaster was harassed by her white coworker who compared her natural hair to “throwing on a baseball cap to go to the grocery store,” (Santi in Pitts, 2021, pg 719). She later filed a report for race based discrimination, but was instead fired.  There have been similar incidents all over the country since the beginning of the institution of slavery. There is more than enough evidence that clearly shows that grooming policies disproportionately affects Black people. In turn, “are forced to shed their identity and Afrocentric roots to fit American standards of beauty, professionalism, and acceptability,” both in the workplace and in educational settings (Pitts, 2021, pg. 719).



Vanguards of Change in the ‘Georgia of the North’: Youth Activism in the Civil Rights Movement in New Jersey
Emily Peterson, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor Emily Peterson, Brigham Young University

SESSION A 10:00-10:15AM
Pano East, Union
Social Sciences

In 1935, Black children were forced to play on a separate playground sectioned off with barbed wire. In 1938, white onlookers threw tomatoes at young Black children who were attempting to swim in a local pool. In 1948, the NAACP reported 27 segregated schools in 11 different counties and that Black teachers had on average three times the workload of white teachers. In 1950, Martin Luther King Jr. and his friends were run out of a restaurant due to the color of their skin. In hearing all of these accounts, one would likely assume that they had occurred in the Deep South. Yet each of these instances occurred far north of the Mason-Dixon line, in New Jersey, state NAACP workers sometimes referred to as the “Georgia of the North,” because of its particularly harsh racial discrimination. In recent years, there has been growing interest in the Civil Rights movement, with scholars looking beyond the most prominent male leaders of the national movement in the 1960s. This paper builds on the work of scholars like Martha Biondi and Tomas Sugrue who have established the significance of the Black freedom struggle in the North but have primarily focused on cities like New York City, Detroit, and Chicago. It also draws on the work of historians Rebecca de Schweinitz and Thomas Bynum, which have examined the role of youth, largely in the South, in propelling the civil rights movement beyond litigation strategies. This paper highlights the role of youth in the Black freedom struggle in urban, suburban, and rural New Jersey communities from 1935 to 1955. Drawing on NAACP youth council branch papers and local newspapers from the time it showcases youth as active organizers in advancing educational opportunities, facilitating direct action, and organizing community programs, to support local and national civil rights initiatives. Showcasing how youth activism in New Jersey advanced efforts for racial justice in the state and facilitated regional and national collaboration, This research helps us to understand the civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century as a national, not just a Southern struggle. It also helps uncover the role that youth played in the long, and geographically broad, struggle for civil rights.


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Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research 2023 - Program Copyright © 2023 by Office of Undergraduate Research is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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