After 12 days of occupying the Bernstein-Marcus Administration Center, student negotiators from the Ford Hall 2015 movement and administrators signed a Draft Implementation Plan for Diversity and Inclusion at Brandeis on Tuesday, Dec. 1.
The agreement formed after students issued a list of 13 demands to the administration on Thursday, Nov. 19. It addresses the issues of diversity and inclusion on campus. It establishes plans to increase the number of black students, faculty and staff, creates support systems for those people and outlines a plan to create a more diverse and inclusive curriculum.
“The students of #FordHall2015 who have occupied the Bernstein-Marcus Administration building for the past 12 days, since November 20th, 2015, are now a part of history. We are a part of Brandeis’ history, Black History and American History. We are overjoyed to pave the way for future Brandeis students and hope that our actions are inspirations to other university students demanding a positive change,” a post on the group’s Facebook page reads.
Organizers of the movement declined to comment to The Brandeis Hoot.
The student and administrator negotiating team met for six to 14 hours every day between Wednesday, Nov. 23 and Monday Nov. 30, except for Thanksgiving when the meeting was shorter, according to an occupier.
The student negotiators were four women of color, and administrators included Lynch,Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel, multiple deans and provosts, though others were also consulted, according to Lynch.
On Tuesday, organizers created a Facebook event called “Unity Day,” inviting all students to join them at the Rabb Steps at 12 p.m. dressed in black.
Over 100 students marched from Rabb to Fellows Garden, where organizers announced Lynch would be making a statement at 12:30 p.m. However, the administration did not show up at this time.
“This announcement was going to be that the #FordHall2015 demands were officially met,” read a press release from the group released at 2:05 p.m. while students were still outside.
“Brandeis administration is 21 minutes late and counting. Therefore we are going to meet them where they are,” organizers posted on their Facebook page. The crowd then moved to the Shapiro Admissions Center where administrators were meeting inside. Some students linked arms in front of the doors, while other stood down the steps in front of the building.
They stood outside for two and a half hours. Temperatures Tuesday ranged from a high of 37 degrees to a low of 20 degrees, and rain fell off and on, according to AccuWeather.com for Waltham.
The administration had a different understanding of the situation on Tuesday.
Though Lynch believes the team was “unified in our sense of accomplishment” after negotiations that ended around midnight Tuesday, she said, “Our team believed that there would be one more meeting early on Tuesday morning to finalize edits on the agreement and to work out details regarding a signing and that there was a mutual understanding that no signing would take place until the sit-in concluded and the building had been vacated,” in an email to The Brandeis Hoot.
However, students believed the time of the ceremony was confirmed and that their belongings did not need to be moved out until 2 p.m., confirmed by multiple occupiers who wish to remain anonymous because they did not want to speak for the movement as a whole.
An issue with the Brandeis email server causing message delivery to be delayed further complicated communication.
Of the confusion over the timeline for a signing ceremony and leaving Bernstein-Marcus, Lynch said, “This should have been an easy misunderstanding to rectify if we had been able to communicate.” Both sides were sending, but not receiving, each other’s emails, according to Lynch. Both questioned where the other side stood on the agreement in its final form.
In an email sent to students later Tuesday evening, John Unsworth, vice provost of technology services, informed the student body of technology issues.
At 1:10 p.m., during the period when email was unreliable, Brandeis University posted, “We look forward to signing an agreement once all of the students involved in the sit-in have left … [Bernstein-Marcus]” on Facebook. This was the first public mention of the agreement.
It was after this post that a group of students went to the administrative building, formed a line and passed belongings from there to the SCC theater. There, supporters could collect their belongings, according to a post on the Ford Hall 2015 Facebook page.
Around 3 p.m., the agreement was signed. Lynch read the agreement to the crowd of students, which had decreased in size since the rally began.
“It was, frankly, so frustrating for everyone that a moment that should have been a celebration of unity became a moment of confusion,” said Lynch.
Reflecting on the agreement now in place, Lynch wrote, “The agreement was the result of an enormous amount of honest discussion about our mutual goals and how to make Brandeis an even more diverse and inclusive university. We all acknowledged that while much work has been done, actions will need to be sustained over time by all to accomplish real change. No one person or program can change the university.”
“We are moving our people toward a liberation that has long been denied,” the Ford Hall 2015 group wrote on their Facebook page. “This is a liberation that those of all races can understand.”