February 16, 2015

SDS Stands in Solidarity with Whose Diversity? Hands Off Students! Drop All Charges!

Students for a Democratic Society stands in solidarity with Whose Diversity? and the activists arrested in the righteous act of civil disobedience in University of Minnesota President, Eric Kaler’s office on Monday. We call upon the University to immediately drop all charges against the activists!

As Minnesota’s flagship state university, UMN does not serve all Minnesota students, but rather privileges some while systematically and institutionally burdening others. Rather than standing as a strong pillar of the community by striving to alleviate some of the inequalities present therein, it has simply maintained the disparate status quo by allowing a few to flourish at the expense of many others.

The University of Minnesota is situated in the heart of the diverse city of Minneapolis, but the student population fails to represent the diversity. While the Minneapolis population is 18.6% African American, the student population at UMN is only 4.1% African American. Further, while the Latinos/as make up 10.5% of the city’s population, they make up only 2.6% of UMN students. Additionally, many other communities are greatly under-represented, such as the different American Indian communities indigenous to Minnesota and the varying immigrant populations like the Hmong, Somalis, and other East Africans.

In addition to under-representation in the student population, the University of Minnesota also has fewer faculty of color, fewer tracks for tenured professors in the ethnic studies departments, and routinely criminalizes people of color on and around campus with racist crime alerts that serve only to make students and the community fear their peers of color.

The University administration released a statement Monday that it has a belief in “frank conversations” about the “issues that affect the campus community.” However, it has consistently balked at the opportunities to do so provided by Whose Diversity and other groups. Neither President Kaler nor the Board of Regents has ever been interested in anything but discussing such matters on their terms, either in one-sided scripted speeches with little opportunity for input or response, or behind closed doors in lavish administrative offices. This has maintained the status quo of talking without listening and words without actions that has the University’s administration well.

If the administration had decided genuinely act on its “beliefs,” then Monday’s protest would not have been necessary. That said, it is vital and essential for students to stand up and fight for justice because the University of Minnesota and its administration certainly will not. If UMN is going to be a center for democracy, education, progress, and transformation, it will be because the students have fought for and won it, not because administrators have just talked about or suggested it as policy.

Whose Diversity and other groups have both recently and historically demanded a more inclusive, tolerant, and accessible campus and education for students in Minnesota, especially students of color. They have called for a more diverse faculty and more tenure tracks for ethnic studies departments like Chicano and Latino Studies (which administration is now pushing to eliminate altogether).

If the University of Minnesota community wants change, the administration has clearly shown that we must fight for it. We must lead the dialogues and follow through with the actions necessary! Further, students cannot trespass on the campus our tuition dollars pay for, in the offices of the administrators whose salaries we pay! SDS demands: “Hands off students!”