Students of color came together outside Brown University President Christina Paxson’s office late last week, working as “diversity consultants” for the school after a diversity and inclusion action plan was drafted last month.
A list of demands were written out as part of the “Day of Reclamation,” created in response to action plan developed by the University. Demands included disarming all Department of Public Safety officers, requiring a Diverse Perspectives in Liberal Learning course for all students, boosting the ethnic studies program and the Department of Africana Studies endowments by $50 million each, and the creation of new concentrations focusing on minorities.
An online forum was created by the University for student feedback after the release of its action plan, set to be open for comment until December 4. However, after receiving the list of demands, Paxson extended the deadline, giving students until January 8 to submit their feedback on the plan.
In order to give the demands to Paxson, students gathered in the rotunda outside her office during her office hours in an attempt to “reclaim” space to draft and submit their demands, writes Emma Jerzyk for The Brown Daily Herald.
A statement on the Facebook event page reads: “The diversity action and inclusion plan is illegitimate and insufficient. As a result of the arbitrary deadline of the feedback forum for (the plan) closing on Dec. 4, 2015, the administration has not acknowledged our countless and persistent demands to this institution.”
However, Paxson refused to meet with the students at that time, claiming other students had previously signed up to meet with her. Instead, she told them an administrator would hear their demands at 4:30 pm. When asked why she could not hear them herself, students said she told them it was “none of (their) business.”
A female student was seen responding to Paxson on a video, stating that the students also had other obligations, but that they could not focus on them because they were too busy concentrating on staying alive on campus, writes Peter Fricke for Campus Reform.
The demands were listed out in a 14-page document put together by Asian American/Pacific Islander, black, Southwest Asian and North African and Latino students, students with disabilities and members of Students Against the Prison-Industrial Complex.
Many of the demands included changes to be made to administration, faculty, staff, curriculum, financial aid, admission, the Office of Residential Life, DPS, Title IX, and student health, as well as to the relationship between the University and the community at large. In addition, students pushed for disaggregating and the public sharing of data concerning racial and ethnic diversity, adding groups previously left out of the diversity and inclusion plan, ensuring that departmental action plans were transparent, and boycotting companies and countries that have objectionable records, among other things.
Gender identities were also discussed, suggesting the creation of an open-text option on University forms that require gender assignment, the use of the term “legal sex” on government forms, and allowing students to use their own preferred pronoun on Banner, the student website.