We have been discussing Black Lives Matter and other protests on campuses where students have demanded changes in everything from exam grading to tenure decisions to housing. Many of these demands raise troubling questions about the academic integrity of academic institutions as well as free speech and other countervailing concerns.
University of California Santa Cruz has yielded to four demands from protesters after they occupied Kerr Hall. The school now faces demands for three additional demands and has been given Chancellor George Blumenthal four months to comply over face “more reclamations.”
Kerr Hall was occupied by the Afrikan/Black Student Alliance, which described the action as a “reclamation” of the structure. The Hall houses many of the administrative offices, including Blumenthal’s office. The organization has declared opposition to “anti-Black racism and colorism; sexism and misogynoir; homophobia, transphobia, and queerphobia; or heterosexism and patriarchy.” Their site proclaims:
We are pushing back against the language of “occupation” in recognition of the largely white-centric and fairly recent “Occupy Movement”. We are pushing back against the language of “occupation” in recognition of the very real settler occupations that are hxstorical and ongoing, such as the European colonization and occupation of “The Americas”, as well as the current context of occupation in Palestine. We move in solidarity with Black people all over the world who are occupied by liberalism and neoliberalism’s devastating socioeconomic and political policies and materialities. This includes folks on The Continent, Palestinian people, and other Black and Brown people all over the world. While the actual actions during this Reclamation may appear the same as other “occupations” on campus and off-campus, we know that language does matter as do intentions.
For us, the language of “reclaiming” is about highlighting the fact there were things promised to ABC students that have gone broken and thrown away, like the four-year guarantee for housing in R.PAATH. We mean to reclaim those things.
After three days, Blumenthal agreed to guarantee all black and “Caribbean-identified students” four years of housing in the Rose Parks African American Themed House. He also promised to restore the building’s lounge and to paint the exterior in “Pan-Afrikan colors” of red, green and black. Finally, he agreed to require all new students to go through mandatory “diversity competency training.”
Blumental however now faces three more demands.
- We demand the University purchase a property located at or near the base of campus (High Street) to serve as a low income housing cooperative for historically disadvantaged students. We demand this property have 4 bedrooms with appropriate furnishings. This property will then be student ran and student operated by the Afrikan Black Student Alliance. We demand a written agreement to fund this project by beginning of spring quarter.
- We demand the University allocate an additional $100,000 to the SOAR/Student Media/Cultural Arts and Diversity (SOMeCA for the hiring of advisor who has personal and professional experience handling African/Black/Caribbean student issues) permanently. We demand A/BSA has a final decision on who is hired for this position.
Additionally, there was an earlier demand for the creation of a Black Studies department on this campus. The Administration has not agreed to the creation of a Black Studies department, and has instead agreed to the creation of a Black Studies Minor or Major. While some may want to commend this Administration for their seeming agreeance, the truth of the matter is that what they have agreed to has not come into existence, as it still only exists in “white man’s promise”, and as of today, the program, whether a Minor or a Major, has not been established at UCSC.
If these new demands are not met, the group is promising more “reclamations” and, if the school refuses, “there will be more Reclamations as you force us to have to take what we know to be in our best interest to Reclaim.”
I have a serious problem with demands for the establishment of academic departments based on threats of campus unrest or occupation.
What do you think?