Officials at Princeton University have come to an agreement with student demonstrators concerning the improvement of campus climate, putting an end to a 32-hour sit-in at the president’s office.
The agreement was signed by President Christopher L. Eisgruber, Dean of the College Jill Dolan and Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun after a lengthy meeting with seventeen students who also signed the agreement.
“We appreciate the willingness of the students to work with us to find a way forward for them, for us and for our community,” Eisgruber said. “We were able to assure them that their concerns would be raised and considered through appropriate processes.”
After the university announced a change to the title of the person overseeing its residential colleges from “head” to “master” earlier this week, almost 200 students walked out of their classes in protest, claiming the move to be racial injustice. The students conducted a sit-in at the university president’s office, with around 30 black and white students from a group called the Black Justice League, remaining in the office overnight while an additional 150 stood outside in support.
The students held a number of demands, including the removal of Woodrow Wilson’s name from all places it was located on campus, cultural competency training for staff members, making a course on the history of a marginalized people a required core curriculum course, and the creation of a cultural space on campus dedicated to black students, writes Alexandra Malkovich for The New York Times. The group said they planned to stay in his office until he agreed to implement the changes across the campus.
“All this matters because, at the end of the day, black people’s feelings matter just as much as any other people’s feelings matter,” said Asanni York, a black junior.
Eisgruber initially refused to sign the agreement. Although he agreed Wilson was a racist, he refused to remove his name from the campus, as the former university president had done some notable things for the school. In addition, he did not approve of the competency training, despite having attended such a training himself, unless staff members to chose to attend the training themselves.
However, the following day the president met with student members of the group and agreed to a number of their demands. Efforts will be made to remove references to Wilson throughout the campus, four rooms will be immediately designated for Cultural Affinity Groups, plans will be made for cultural competency training, and no disciplinary action will be taken against the students who spent the night in the president’s office.
A number of colleges across the country have seen similar sit-ins in an effort to improve campus life for students of color. Yale University recently discussed the removal of the term “master” in reference to the heads of residential colleges while the Princeton University website states the term used by the school is now “heads of residential colleges.”