Students have issued far-reaching demands in their efforts to erase racism from college campuses.
When hundreds of black students took over a meeting on race and equity at the University of Washington last week, they criticized the university for not moving fast enough on equity issues.
They also came with a list of seven demands. Some were symbolic: a request that the UW officially recognize that the Seattle campus is sited on the ancestral land of the Duwamish people, for example.
Others would cost the university money, or cede power to students. For example, the students requested money for seven programs that help with student retention and success, and asked the UW to establish a new interdisciplinary center for the study of race.
They also want the university to give a student-led committee the power to delegate funding to programs or groups to help fill some of the demands.
It’s unclear what happens next, although administrators said they would work with students.
At Western Washington University, the Student Assembly for Power and Liberation created a petition earlier this year that makes some similar demands of the WWU administration. The petition asks that the university create a College of Power and Liberation, which would be devoted to social justice and include 10 new tenure-track faculty. Students would have a say in the hiring of the faculty, and in what subject areas would be taught.
The petition also asks for the creation of a 15-person, paid student committee to monitor racist and other oppressive behavior on campus. Faculty would be subject to disciplinary action — including dismissal — for engaging in racist or oppressive behavior.
In an email to university leaders, President Bruce Shepard called the demands “problematic” because they would “fundamentally contradict our policies, practices, mutually bargained contracts, and federal law and policy on such matters as faculty evaluation and discipline, student conduct and discipline, the investigation of alleged racist behaviors, and the planning of facilities, spaces and residence halls.”
The plan would also be expensive, he said.
Shepard said he was bringing it to the attention of the university leadership but “not requesting any particular action.”