In 2015, we were the first to report on a 14-page Demand List issued by ABUSUA, Oberlin College’s Black Students Union, including faculty hiring mandates and tenure promotions for black faculty, as well as a demand to “deconstruct imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, and a cissexist heteropatriarchy” and to divest from Israel.

The Demand List went viral, and is the most-viewed Scribd document we have posted, with over 172,000 reads.

In light of the death of George Floyd, ABUSUA has just issued a new list of Demands via an Opinion piece in the student-newspaper, The Oberlin Review, ABUSUA Demands Institutional Reform from Administrators, Board of Trustees.

Some of the Demands seek sweeping institutional change, others are very mundane, such as “adding lunch on weekdays and brunch on weekends at the Afrikan Heritage House,” and “three reserved parking spaces … be assigned to student leaders in the Africana community.” As before, ABUSA makes clear: “These are demands, not suggestions.”

Here are the Demands (emphasis added):

…. ABUSUA has published demands in the past, and while efforts were made, we encourage Oberlin to take another look at itself as an institution and make the necessary changes to improve its support of the Black community. This is an opportunity to create a better future for students attending Oberlin College.

We DEMAND transparency. We will be checking in and reviewing the efforts made to ensure these demands are being administered and upheld.

Regarding our Funding:

1. We DEMAND that Oberlin College institutionalize programming that is foundational to the Black cultural experience at Oberlin, many of which are long-standing traditions that positively impact the retention and graduation rates of Black students. We want this funding given directly to Africana Studies and the Afrikan Heritage House in addition to what they already receive. These programs include the Black History Month celebration, which serves as the official BHM celebration for Oberlin College ($5,000), Black Families commencement weekend activities which include the dinner and ceremony ($5,000), and the Africana Welcome during orientation ($1,600).

2. We DEMAND control of the 1835 Fund and that the John Mercer Langston Fund be given to the Africana Studies department. These funds are then to be administered by a committee selected by the Africana Studies department.

3. We DEMAND three students be hired as program assistants for the Afrikan Heritage House. The responsibility to organize all community events has fallen on the A-House Resident Assistants for too long and is beyond their job requirements. New paid positions should be created to fill this need.

4. We DEMAND there be an option to donate to the Afrikan Heritage House and Africana Studies department in all fundraising events, specifically in the All in for Oberlin campaign.

5. We DEMAND there be insurances and job security made for the current United Auto Workers employees, especially the ones that work in the Afrikan Heritage House.

6. We DEMAND $5,000 to renovate the Afrikan Heritage House lounges with new furniture and technology and the house library with books considered fundamental to Africana Studies

a. See attached list of proposed books by the Africana Studies department.

Regarding our Safety:

7. We DEMAND an increase in custodial services in the Afrikan Heritage House. This is a necessary step toward compensating for the increase in foot traffic we have experienced since the closure of Dascomb Dining Hall as well as addressing the new health and safety concerns brought about by COVID-19.

8. We DEMAND an increase in the number of meals served from the Afrikan Heritage House by adding lunch on weekdays and brunch on weekends.

9. We DEMAND that COVID-19 tests be easily accessible to all students with quick results.

10. We DEMAND a zero-tolerance policy on racial insensitivity and mandatory training on cultural diversity for faculty and staff, including union workers.

11. We DEMAND that all students go through a mandatory training session on diversity, power, privilege, and combating anti-Blackness during their orientation.

12. We DEMAND the hiring of a Chief Diversity Officer, held by someone with the proper qualifications and past work experience, to hold faculty and staff accountable and enforce expectations on diversity and inclusion. The search committee for this position should heavily consider the input of Black students and the Africana Studies department.

13. We DEMAND free, full psychological evaluations available to students. The mental and emotional well-being of Black people in the world has been ignored for too long. Black children are alarmingly under-diagnosed for mental illnesses and learning disabilities. Oberlin previously offered students free full psychological evaluations, which we demand be reinstated.

14. We DEMAND that the position of director of the Afrikan Heritage House be made a   permanent tenure track faculty position in Africana Studies.

15. We DEMAND that the dean of students; director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; program housing area coordinator; and the director of the Multicultural Resource Center be required to meet with the ABUSUA board on a monthly basis as well as have an ABUSUA board member present in all Division of Student Life meetings to give input on how their decisions are affecting Black students.

16. We DEMAND three reserved parking spaces outside of Lord-Saunders be assigned to student leaders in the Africana community as decided by the director and faculty in residence. Students often run errands and pick up supplies for Africana community events. Dedicated parking spaces should be provided at Lord-Saunders House so we are better able to access our community center.

Regarding Cultural Competency and Enrichment:

17. We DEMAND that all students be required to take a class in the Africana Studies department in order to fulfill their Cultural Diversity requirement. Conservatory students must be required to take a course focusing on Black music or the history of Black music.

18. We DEMAND the Jazz department have a tenure track position for a professor to teach Introduction to African American Music and related courses.

19. We DEMAND mandatory specialized training for the Athletics Department on anti-Blackness and its history in sports.

20. We DEMAND the Conservatory include works by Black composers in all large ensemble concert programs.

21. We DEMAND that the Black building adjacent to Lord-Saunders House be considered an extension of the Afrikan Heritage House. This building is to be repurposed so that it can be used by the Africana Studies department as an academic space as well as a place Black student organizations can meet uninterrupted and put on programming.

These are demands, not suggestions. As previously stated, ABUSUA and the Africana community will be checking in to make sure they are properly addressed.

The more specific demands from years ago about hiring and firing professors are gone. It will be interesting to see how the Oberlin College administration reacts.

 

 
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