Students call for univ. action on discrimination

Students call for univ. action on discrimination

May 3, 2019

Brandeis students gathered at the top of the Rabb steps to stand in solidarity with the students protesting at Johns Hopkins University and Yale University and to ask the Brandeis community to recognize racialized policing and violence on Wednesday, May 1. The students read a series of demands at the steps and then marched from the Rabb Steps to the Department of Community Living Office (DCL), to the Office of Public Safety and to the Shapiro Campus Center (SCC) Atrium, reading the demands at each stop.

The list of demands included calls for transparency from DCL and implementing the mental health provisions established during the 2015 Ford Hall protests. The demands list also called for public statements of support from Brandeis administration and were sent to student publications. The students last requested that the university issue “an official and public response to this list by May 14 at 12:00 p.m.”

In a statement sent to The Brandeis Hoot, the remaining students of #ConcernedStudents2015, referring to the Ford Hall 2015 protests, wrote that they “are unmoved and yet again concerned for the safety and comfort of the students of Brandeis University, centering the needs of Black, Brown, Trans and Queer Folx on campus, regardless of legal status.”

“We call for our University to adopt policies that create real safety for all students,” the statement read. “We ask that Brandeis’ promoted values and practices become aligned with its founding principles of Inclusion, Truth and Justice.”

At Johns Hopkins, students held a sit-in at their administration building to protest armed police forces on campus and university contracts with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to an April article in The Washington Post.

At Yale, a police shooting of an unarmed black couple by several officers, including a Yale police officer, a mile from the university triggered almost daily protests outside the President of Yale’s home, according to The New York Times.

Brandeis students joined the students of Yale and Johns Hopkins on Wednesday, carrying signs that read “It’s our duty to fight for our freedom” and chanting slogans such as “the people united will never be defeated,” “if we don’t get it shut it down” and “DCL is racist.” The students asked for a public statement of support by Liebowitz in solidarity with the students at Johns Hopkins and Yale and called for the president to support policies to encourage other universities to end private contracts with ICE.

At the DCL office, students read the demands and asked that, if quota systems exist in regards to student conduct and punishment, that the student body be informed and that the practice be eliminated. In a meeting with the student press and interested students on Thursday, students clarified that they do not know if quota systems exist and described them as a minimum number of conduct reports DCL would be required to make that would disproportionately affect students of color.

In the meeting, students also explained that they felt that DCL policies were being unfairly applied, citing the religious candle policy as an example of how religious candles for Judaism were allowed, but for African indigenous practices like Santeria, candles were not allowed. Students also called upon white students to face issues of race on the Brandeis campus, issues that exist but are often ignored or go unseen by white students, students said.

The students also called attention to racism in not only university institutions such as DCL and Public Safety, but in the university press, referencing both the Justice and The Brandeis Hoot. The students referred to the publication of a racial slur in the Justice and incidents of photos of students being used for protests they did not participate in, in both publications.

The demands regarding DCL also included mandating “informed consent for DCL room inspections,” providing independent advocates that can inform students of color of their rights and responsibilities if a student has been accused of violating a code of conduct and called for a third-party investigation of potential racial bias among code violation reports by the department.

At Public Safety, the students repeated the demands to officers and called for the Director of Public Safety, Ed Callahan, to come out and speak with them. Students chanted “who do you protect and who do you serve,” and “which side are you on Ed, which side are you on” (referring to Callahan).

The fourth demand called for DCL and Public Safety to be held accountable “for the safety and overall well being of students of color,” including ending “excessive policing of student of color organizations on campus,” requiring body camera use by the Brandeis police department and strengthening community engagement with students of color, according to the demands read during the rally and sent to student publications.

The group then marched to Bernstein-Marcus, the university administration building.

Students crowded into the building and read once again the demands in the president’s office, though President Ron Liebowitz was not present. During the march, the students were accompanied by two therapists from the Brandeis Counseling Center. Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Mark Brimhall-Vargas, Dean of Students Jamele Adams and Chair of the Department of African and African American Studies (AAS) Professor Chad Williams also attended the rally.

The students concluded their rally in the SCC Atrium, where they asked students in attendance and others present to remember that the SCC is where Ford and Sydeman Halls, the site of the original Ford Hall 1969 protest, once stood. Ford Hall 1969 was a sit-in of about 70 African-American students who presented 10 demands to the university administration, including the creation of the African and African American Studies Department (AAAS), which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, according to the Heller School for Social Policy and Management’s page describing the history of the Ford Hall protests.

During the rally, students called for a range of university actions. This included fulfilling the mental health priorities established during Ford Hall 2015, a 13 day sit-in where students issued a list of 13 demands to the university administration followed by a march to Bernstein-Marcus, according to the Heller School for Social Policy and Management’s page describing the history of the Ford Hall protests.

The Ford Hall 2015 demands are listed on the Brandeis website, and the fifth speaks to mental health, reading, “Employ additional clinical staff of color within the Psychological Counseling Center in order to provide culturally relevant support to students of all backgrounds.”

The students also called for transport options other than police cruisers in instances of emergencies, transportation routes for students who, financially, cannot travel home during academic recesses and expanding transport routes, such as the BranVan, from the Brandeis campus to Market Basket Plaza in order to reduce costs and food insecurity for low income students.

Students speaking in the meeting with press and interested community members expressed that they were part of a movement that started before Ford Hall 1969 and Ford Hall 2015, and they were frustrated that they continue to have to fight for an education and space at Brandeis.

The community violence and campus policing rally and the question and answer session with students involved were announced on the Instagram page @proudtobeaproblem48, a page that asks for financial support from Brandeis community members to pay for the cost of materials and to support the student organizers. Since the protest, students and clubs have shared the demands of the protestors on social media.

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