Occidental students protest lack of diversity on campus

Students at Occidental College have organized a list of fourteen demands to President Jonathan Veitch to address the lack of diversity on the Southern California campus.

The organization, Oxy United for Black Liberation, has been formed as a result of the numerous protests in support of the discrimination against Black students at the college.

Students had occupied a campus administration building, organizing the list of demands, which included an increase of tenured staff of color, funding for medical and social programs for marginalized students, and the resignation of President Veitch.

Similar protests have happened at colleges such as Yale University, University of Missouri, Ithaca College, and Claremont McKenna College.

“When the protests first started, I did not think they would last as long as they did. But now I’m really glad they did because it forced the hand of higher administration,” said SLVHS alum and Occidental student London Murray. Murray participated in many of the protests herself.

The organization’s website describes that the institutional leadership of President Veitch has repeatedly closed off communication with students over certain issues, and has proved unsuccessful when attempting to treat issues of sexual assault and discrimination appropriately.

Since Veitch has taken leadership of the college, campus diversity has gone down, and has shamed students for speaking about sexual assault, calling it an “active embarrassment to the college.”

Occidental students hoped to force the school's president to resign
Occidental students hoped to force the school’s president to resign

Students walked out of classes and relived memories of sexual assault and racism in an attempt to reopen communication with President Veitch. They believe that they should not be the ones who have to sacrifice their education for the sake of their protection at their own college.

“This institution ignores how comfortable we feel on a day-to-day basis,” organizer Diamond Webb said to CBS Los Angeles.

The Board of Trustees at Occidental have come out in full support of Veitch’s leadership, despite his demand of resignation. The board believes Veitch has given great progress to the campus, and he will have a timely solution to the issues facing the marginalized demographics of the school’s campus.

“I was actually very impressed that we managed to get them to respond at all. However, the way the protests were handled on the Oxy website was appalling. The upper-level administrators kept spinning everything to make it seem like they were the good guys of this story, when it was their neglection of student concerns that led to the escalation of the protest.” said Murray.

According to Occidental College’s website, the administrators are planning to somewhat meet many of the fourteen demands from Oxy United.

The staff have been interviewing candidates for the chief diversity officer. The CDO will be promoted to vice president status and receive a 50% budget increase.

Students occupying administration building
Students occupying administration building

A $13,000 funding for the student diversity and equity board will double the budget, however this is small compared to the $60,000 demand of the students. This funding will also contribute to Harambee, the student group for black men.

The college plans to develop a minor in Black Studies, which will hopefully result in a new major, one the college has not had in forty years.

The Dean will work closely with the CDO to ensure a boost of diversity in tenured staff on the campus. Demand number six called for a 100% increase of faculty of color in five years.In Fall 2016, the school will begin to administer extensive training for staffs to provide tools to assist people from marginalized backgrounds.The LAPD will be removed from the campus, due to the mistreatment of marginalized students on campus.In Spring 2016, the college will hire physicians to treat physical and emotional trauma as a result of one’s identity.

The administration hopes these changes will make changes to the supposed systematic oppression of the campus, and will revive Occidental’s tradition of having one of the most diverse campuses in the nation.

“I think these protests will have a significant effect on not only the system in place at Occidental, but also on the face of the school as a whole. There is no end to this discussion–only progress,” said Murray.

By: Robert Jeffrey

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