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University of MN students start sit-in with demands targeting institutionalized oppression

By Brad Sigal |
February 9, 2015
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Students rally outside Morrill Hall while others occupy Pres. Kaler's office.
Students rally outside Morrill Hall while other students occupy Pres. Kaler's office. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Minneapolis, MN - More than fifty students marched from Coffman Union to Morrill Hall today at noon. They marched to Morrill Hall, the administration building, to support a group of students that had started a sit-in in President Kaler’s office in Morrill. The students have a list of 8 demands and they have pledged to maintain the sit-in until President Kaler negotiates with them or they are arrested and removed.

The march was organized by the group Whose Diversity?, which was formed last school year to fight against institutionalized oppression at the University of Minnesota. The U of MN administration talks constantly about their commitment to diversity, but Whose Diversity? and other activists on campus have decried a disconnect between the administration’s words and students’ lived experience. 

The eight demands of the students sitting in are:

1. Provide the support necessary to help the Department of Chicano & Latino Studies thrive by renewing the senior full-time faculty line, increasing the outreach coordinator’s position from 50% to 100% time, and hiring two more faculty in the next year with one additional faculty hire each year until the department reaches at least eight faculty.

2. Remove descriptions of race and complexion from UMPD [U of MN Police Department] crime alerts.

3. Reverse the decision to close PsTL [Post Secondary Teaching and Learning] by the 2016-2017 academic year.

4. Initiate a cluster hire of faculty of color as per the proposal put forth in 2014 by the Consortium for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, Gender and Sexuality (RIGS).

5. Establish a program that recruits high school students from working-class neighborhoods of color in the Twin Cities.

6. Require all students to take at least one class offered in one of the three ethnic studies departments (African American and African Studies, Chicano and Latino Studies, American Indian Studies) or the Asian American Studies Program.

7. Ensure at least one restroom in every building on campus is accessible to all genders.

8. Remove language from the admissions application that questions prospective students about their prior convictions and criminal offenses, as well as their history of expulsion, suspension, and probation in their former institutions.

The struggle around the Chicano Studies Department has been particularly sharp. Students, staff, faculty and community members have been organizing since last year to save the department. Chicano Studies has been reduced to a perilous existence with only one professor. The administration has repeatedly refused to commit to hire any more professors so the department can continue to function, let alone grow.

The students are asking people to support them by contacting President Kaler's office at 612-626-1616 or emailing him at [email protected] and demanding that he implement the students demands. The students are asking people to follow @WhoseDiv on Twitter and and tweet at @PrezKaler. Their hashtags are ‪#‎KalerUPromised‬ and ‪#‎MoralMarchOnMorrill‬.

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