Students demand University action on black student experience, departmentalization, dining transition


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Banners urging University action in commemoration of the Bursar’s Office Takeover hang outside the Multicultural Center. In May, students released a list of 47 demands for improvement in black student experiences, departmentalization efforts and the campus dining transition.

Students released a list of 47 demands Thursday — the 50th anniversary of the Bursar’s Office Takeover — urging the University to improve campus culture for black students, departmentalize the Asian American Studies and Latina and Latino Studies programs, and provide a smooth transition for food service workers.

The list, organized by Black Lives Matter NU, the Latinx Asian American Collective and Students Organizing for Labor Rights, said the students want administrators to “clearly and definitively” indicate within two weeks whether they will fulfill the requests.

“We hereby condemn the University’s hypocritical co-optation of the Bursar Takeover Commemoration,” the list of demands stated. “We conclude these demands with the promise that failure to comply and take immediate action in enacting them will result in continuous confrontation and direct action.”

University spokesman Al Cubbage told The Daily in a statement that administrators will continue to meet with students and alumni to further understand their points of view and work together.

“We agree on the critical importance of these topics, and we also agree they merit further examination and additional solutions, wherever possible,” Cubbage said. “This discourse is fundamental to the dynamic nature of Northwestern.”

Black Lives Matter NU demands

Black Lives Matter NU called for the University to increase representation and resources for students, faculty and staff as well as acknowledge the history of student activism involved in the evolution of black student experiences at NU.

Among the group’s list of 36 demands were ones urging the University to fully acknowledge its oppositional role throughout aspects of the Bursar’s Office Takeover.

Many students and alumni said not enough has changed over the years, expressing concern with the parallels between the demands presented to administrators in 1968 and those developed after the disruption of a groundbreaking ceremony for the lakeside athletic complex three years ago.

And Thursday’s list brought up many of the same issues as the 2015 protest.

“These demands reiterate the concerns raised in 2015 by Black Northwestern students addressing this institution’s continuous failure to listen to Black students, internalize what they have to say, and act on their recommendations,” the list stated.

Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer
Student activists hold a banner in front of the Multicultural Center. Students said they want administrators to “clearly and definitively” indicate within two weeks whether they will fulfill the requests.

Last year, NU established steering committees based on the Black Student Experience Task Force Report’s 14 recommendations. Although three were prioritized for the 2017-18 academic year, associate provost and chief diversity officer Jabbar Bennett told The Daily in April that the University is “already making progress” on the rest.

Still, not all of Thursday’s demands harkened back to the disruption of the groundbreaking ceremony. For example, BLM NU urged the University to offer departmental status to a number of current programs — including Gender and Sexuality Studies — by the 2019-20 academic year at the latest.

The group also touched on the Housing Master Plan, addressing the importance of a clear plan regarding building accessibility, as well as cultural competency and privilege training for faculty, staff, administrators and University Police.

Overall, students addressed a desire for greater transparency and accountability by the University in improving marginalized students’ experiences on campus, and called for monthly progress updates to students and faculty.

“They must focus on the tangible results of measurable actions to repair the University’s relationship to the Black community on campus and the wider Evanston and Chicagoland area,” the list stated.

Latinx Asian American Collective demands

The Latinx Asian American Collective, a joint effort by the Asian Pacific American Coalition and MEChA de Northwestern, insisted the University create an Asian American Studies Department and a Latinx Studies Department.

Students and faculty have said that without departmental status, the programs lack adequate funding to conduct research and hire tenure-track faculty, which limits the availability of courses and forces professors, as well as the program directors, to split time with other departments.

“We have reached this level of crisis due to the repeated failure of the administration to listen to and take seriously the concerns of faculty, staff and students within these programs,” Thursday’s list of demands stated. “Therefore, we demand that University administration remain attentive and responsive … to ensure that both (programs) are continually supplied with necessary institutional support in the present and future.”

The departmentalization effort began last fall, when students initiated meetings with faculty members to identify what was lacking in the programs. Soon after, the group began a social media campaign and finalized a proposal petition. Weinberg sophomore June Choe said in April that the movement had gained widespread approval from students, receiving more than 1,000 petition signatures and statements of support from more than 30 student groups.

And although the program directors have also stood behind departmentalization efforts, as demonstrated in a February letter to the editor, Weinberg Dean Adrian Randolph has said faculty members are not all on the same page.

On Thursday, Randolph said in an email to students that the administration is “taking the right steps.” He said administrators have raised the operating budgets of both programs since last year and are currently reviewing hiring plans and engaging with faculty members about whether the programs should serve as “tenure homes.”

Randolph’s email came the same day as the hanging of a banner reading “Dean Randolph, who do you value?” outside the Multicultural Center. The message was clear: Students were asking for funding, new hires and departmentalization “now.”

“On the question, whom I value?” Randolph said. “I realize that the academic structures that exist may appear to embody my individual values, but the current landscape, as well as future developments of Weinberg College’s cultural and ethnic studies, do not reflect my values. They reflect the collective values of faculty, students and staff that comprise the College.”

Later in the day, Randolph told The Daily in an email that the University has not ruled out offering tenure to faculty members who are not in recognized departments. He also pointed to the foundation of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research, which he said he feels “passionately” about.

Randolph added that he sent the email to explain himself to students.

“I absolutely take the students with whom I have spoken about Latinx Studies and Asian American Studies seriously,” he said. “My email was meant to convey my respect for their input and my desire to respond to them openly and sincerely.”


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer
A sign hangs from The Arch. University spokesman Al Cubbage said administrators will continue to meet with students and alumni to further understand their points of view and work together.

Students Organizing for Labor Rights demands

Students Organizing for Labor Rights demanded that in the dining transition process, both Compass Group North America and Northwestern stop using the service E-Verify — which checks if employees are eligible to work in the U.S. — for current campus service workers.

The group also demanded that Sodexo and Aramark, NU’s current food service providers, transfer all I-9 forms for campus service workers to Compass. They also urged Compass to not perform background checks on current employees and create and maintain hiring programs to employ workers with disabilities.

Northwestern announced on April 13 that it would move from Aramark and Sodexo to Compass in the fall. University spokesman Jon Yates told The Daily in an April email that Compass will ask all current workers to join the company with the same pay, benefits and seniority, though he did not specify whether that is a requirement in the company’s contract with NU.

Since NU announced the change, students and food service workers have expressed concern about the transition process.

On April 20, about 70 workers gathered in Norris University Center and later marched to Sargent Hall to present a petition to a Sodexo official asking for support during the transition process.

Elizabeth Arreguin, a Sodexo employee in Allison Hall, said at the march that she and many of her co-workers didn’t want to leave their dining halls.

“We want to stay the same and to keep our job … because we have been working for 30, 15, 20, a lot of years,” Arreguin told The Daily in Spanish. “We know the work, that’s why we want to stay. I want to stay because I’ve worked (in Allison) for 17 years. And the truth is I’m not ready for another job.”

In the Thursday list of demands, students urged NU to treat every employee like “valued members of our community.”

“Although Northwestern hides behind its contracts with independent food service providers … it is ultimately the University that decides how workers will be treated with dignity and respect,” the list stated. “If we are a school that accepts and includes everyone, we should firmly stand against conducting background checks and drug tests on members of our campus community. We demand Northwestern halt our campus-wide participation in E-Verify, a divisive, fear-provoking program.”

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