Seek to “deconstruct imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, and a cissexist heteropatriarchy” and to divest from Israel.
Many college campuses are seeing sets of “Demands” issued by students to administrations, often seeking to suppress speech the students deem offensive and to increase faculty and student affirmative action policies and programs.
Hamilton College students using the name “The Movement” recently set what was believed to be a record 83 Demands. At least one of the Demands, for a “President of Color,” was promptly ignored by the college when it named its new President recently.
Oberlin College students, however, may be about to set a new record for length if not number of Demands.
Oberlin, a self-proclaimed progressive institution, has seen racial strife on campus in recent years, including The Great Oberlin College Racism Hoax of 2013 perpetrated primarily by a progressive white student trying to get the campus talking about race. Even after the hoax was exposed, the resulting campus conflict was exploited to advance “even more extreme policies.” (You can listen to my explanation of the hoax and result here.)
More recent strife on campus involved protests by the Black Student Union over the quality of food in the Afrikan Heritage House.
Oberlin also is known for non-racial activism, such at the “trigger warning” protests against the appearance of Christina Hoff Sommers.
A student tipped us off that starting last night students began circulating and signing a 14-page list of 50 separate demands, in the name of the Black Students Union (BSU).
As of this writing, I have not confirmed whether the list officially is from Oberlin BSU, or just created by some of its members.
This post was on the Oberlin BDS Open Facebook group page:
The Demands are addressed to the Trustees, President and other senior administrators
Oberlin College and Conservatory is an unethical institution. From capitalizing on massive labor exploitation across campus, to the Conservatory of Music treating Black and other students of color as less than through its everyday running, Oberlin College unapologetically acts as unethical institution, antithetical to its historical vision. In the 1830s, this school claimed a legacy of supporting its Black students. However, that legacy has amounted to nothing more than a public relations campaign initiated to benefit the image of the institution and not the Africana people it was set out for. Along the same lines stated by UNC Chapel Hill students in their 2015 document “A Collective Response to AntiBlackness,” you include Black and other students of color in the institution and mark them with the words “equity, inclusion and diversity,” when in fact this institution functions on the premises of imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, and a cissexist heteropatriarchy. Oberlin College and Conservatory uses the limited number of Black and Brown students to color in its brochures, but then erases us from student life on this campus. You profit off of our accomplishments and invisible labor, yet You expect us to produce personal solutions to institutional incompetencies. We as a College defined “high risk,” “low income,” “disadvantaged” community should not have to carry the burden of deconstructing the white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist system that we took no part in creating, yet is so deeply embedded in the soil upon which this institution was built.
The stated Goals of the Demands are:
Our larger goals are to see:
1. An increase in Black and students of color represented in the institution from the Americas, including the Caribbean and Africa
2. An increase in Black administrators and faculty across departments and governing bodies
3. The divestment from all prisons and Israel
4. Exclusive Black safe spaces on campus
5. The active elimination of institutional complacency that allows violence against Black
students to thrive and persist
6. The eradication of hegemony in the curriculum across the College and Conservatory
7. The end of Oberlin College functioning as a gentrifying institution
8. An end to the erasure of Black contributions on this campus
If the Demands are not met, a “forceful response” is threatened:
As you will see these are not polite requests, but concrete and unmalleable demands. Failure to meet them will result in a full and forceful response from the community you fail to support.
The Demand List ends with another warning:
These are demands and not suggestions. If these demands are not taken seriously, immediate action from the Africana community will follow.
The Demands are separated by categories such as Admissions, Recruitment and Retention, Academics and Curriculum, Financial Health and Wellness Being of Black Students, Workers: Academic & Non-Academic, and Community: Oberlin & Beyond.
Here are samples from different categories:
We DEMAND a concerted effort to increase the percentage of Black students and specifically Black female identifying instrumentalists in the Jazz department. We would like to reiterate the demand for a 4% annual increase in the enrollment of Black students in the Jazz Department starting in 2016 to accumulate to 40% increase by the year 2022.
We DEMAND that all Black international students who are unable to return back to their home countries be provided with FREE housing during postsemester breaks such as but not limited to winter breaks.
We DEMAND financial aid workshops for Black students by Black financial aid officers so that students can fully understand the contents of their financial package and how it will change throughout their time at Oberlin College and Conservatory.
We DEMAND a structural change in institutional graduation requirements:
a. Intro to the Black Experience or a similar course must be instituted as a mandatory requirement for all students before graduation.
b. Departmental requirements for students to take Western/Classical centered courses must be eliminated, if NOT then we demand all students MUST also take an equivalent course in the African Diaspora.
We DEMAND that a mandatory professional development program be developed for faculty
across departments in the College & Conservatory that will help facilitate their understanding of the ways in which racial capitalism, settler colonialism, and other forms of violent oppression inform and shape instructional methods for the disciplinary content of their courses. We further DEMAND that the content of this information be integrated in their coursework. Furthermore, this training should broaden professors’ awareness of the kinds of issues students of color have to navigate when racially charged, traumatic events happen on campus and in the world and help faculty develop productive and appropriate responses to such circumstances.
We DEMAND a written form that assures us of the institution’s commitment to increase the number of black psychologists within the Counseling Center. Furthermore, we DEMAND that black students be able to sit in on the interviews of these HIGHLY QUALIFIED candidates in order to ensure that these professionals cater to the needs of the Black students.
a. We also DEMAND the hiring of Black healers/ non western health practitioners because not everyone finds comfort and healing solely from a psychologist.
We DEMAND a 6% annual increase in grant offers versus loan offers for Black students for the next 5 years leading to a 30% increase by 2021. This deadline should NOT be taken as a reversal point back to the previous policy and should be maintained as a minimum.
We DEMAND an adequate increase in funding for internships and career opportunities for all Black students that is awarded appropriately. For instance, a $3500 internship fund for a low income student with a 3 month internship in New York City does not make any sustainable sense considering the high cost of living. We further DEMAND that we have direct input in the structuring of the rubric used to grant these funds.
We DEMAND that spaces throughout the Oberlin College campus be designated as a safe space for Africana identifying students. Afrikan Heritage House should not be the only space allotted for the promotion and acknowledgement of our community specific needs.
a. We DEMAND that no less than one full room or space be given to this need in:
i. Wilder Hall
ii. The Science Center
iii. Mudd Library
We DEMAND these professors be granted tenure IMMEDIATELY:
● Adenike Sharpley, Artist in Residence Africana Studies Department
● Bernard Matambo, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing
● Charles Peterson, Assistant Professor in Africana Studies
We DEMAND that Black student leaders be provided a $8.20/hr stipend for their continuous
organizing efforts around the well being of Black people on Oberlin’s campus, city and beyond.
Interestingly, in the list of demands as to the Community & Beyond, is a mention of divesting from Israel (emphasis added):
We DEMAND that Oberlin College stop functioning as a gentrifying institution by:
● The immediate rehiring of community members who worked at the Oberlin Inn before its renovation, accompanied with a Professional Development Day to train them on the updated work skills needed to successfully navigate their job responsibilities.
● The immediate discontinuation of the No Trespass List, because it disproportionately and discriminatorily targets Black people from the town of Oberlin.
● The immediate implementation of a free bussing system for Oberlin Elementary, Middle & High School students, paid for by the College.
● The immediate divestment from Israel, who has exploited many African descendant peoples seeking refuge. Furthermore, because the oppressive and violent acts towards Palestinians mirrors the anti Blackness
currently in the United States.
● The implementation of a program allowing willing community members to take one course per semester at Oberlin College for FREE.
● The immediate establishment of a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program by the College that is approved by the City of Oberlin.
This no doubt reflects the intense efforts of anti-Israel groups to tie problems in the black community to Israel. We have written about that effort many times, and it is the major focus of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement. In this regard, Oberlin has a long history of anti-Israel activism. It was the first or one of the first student governments to pass a divestment resolution, and it has had, at least in the past, a strong anti-Zionist atmosphere. In prior years flyers were posted on campus substituting a swastika for the Star of David on the Israeli flag.
(added) Earlier this semester there was a student proposal for divestment from fossil fuels and Israel, that the Trustees rejected. Again, the tactic of BDS is to tie Israel to unrelated issues and try to sneak in the anti-Israel agenda to a more popular cause. We have documented this at other campuses, as well.
(added) The Oberlin Students for a Free Palestine endorsed the list of Demands (h/t Blake Neff):
After the 2013 hoax, we reported on a psychoanalysis of the motivations by a Professor, who concluded:
The answer I have proposed was that reality had been redefined at Oberlin and that, within that redefinition, the charge of racism was, in effect, structural, and had come to provide the meaning of people’s college experience and, indeed, of their lives.
That may also be the explanation for the increasing number and fury of the Demands at Oberlin and other campuses.
UPDATE 12-17-2015: There had been some question whether the Demands were for real, and on whose behalf they were made. The Chronicle-Telegram reports that the Demands have formally been delivered to the college on behalf of the Black Students Union:
Students in Oberlin College’s Black Student Union have issued an extensive list of demands to the college administration — seeking policy changes to address what it says are underlying racial tensions on campus that have black students fearing for their safety.
The document was reportedly hand-delivered to the offices of President Marvin Krislov and Eric Estes, vice president and dean of students. It was also addressed to the college’s board of trustees.
It was signed by more than 700 people, including hundreds of students, alumni and supporters, said Jasmine Adams, a senior sociology major.
Adams said she is one of eight co-authors and a member of the Black Student Union, which goes by ABUSUA on campus.
College spokesman Scott Wargo confirmed the document was officially presented to the administration Wednesday afternoon. College administrators were unavailable Wednesday, he said.
Wargo said the college will need time to evaluate the document.
The Chronicle-Telegram provides this link to the Demands. It appears to be the same document Legal Insurrection obtained (embedded below) though I haven’t compared it word for word.
[Featured Image: Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov from Oberlin Promo Video]