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As students continued their camp-out Wednesday in the Occidental College administration building to protest what they call racial injustice, the university president reached out to the group, asking them to take part in a “conversation about diversity and inclusion.”
The protesters have been calling for the resignation of college President Jonathan Veitch, condemning his handling of diversity issues and demanding the creation of Black Studies program and the hiring of more minority faculty. The group held a rally on campus last Thursday, and has been occupying the administration building since Monday.
The protests mirror similar student actions that have led to administrator resignations at the University of Missouri and Claremont McKenna College.
Veitch reached out to the group Tuesday night, saying he watched the campus demonstration on Thursday and “witnessed the pain and feelings of marginalization that many in our community feel.”
“For many years, our community has helped lead important discussions on diversity and inclusion,” Veitch said in a message to the Oxy community. “Every person must have a voice and place to safely express themselves without fear of judgment or shame. Together we have confronted and worked through many challenging issues.
“… While our work on such important and complex issues is never over, it is my belief that they are furthered by conversation, debate and even disagreement — but they must be based on mutual respect. While we can make decisions on our own, we know that the most meaningful change will be made by working together.”
Veitch said he is reaching out to leaders of the protest “and inviting them to join me in this important work.”
“To the community, I ask that you help me find a way to restart and maintain a conversation about diversity and inclusion that will be transformative,” he said.
He said he will convene a series of group meetings to discuss the impact of the past week’s protests and ways of moving forward. He said he hopes leaders of the protest movement “will be able to have a meaningful and respectful conversation very soon.”
On Tuesday, Chris Calkins, president of the college’s Board of Trustees, said the board stands “in full support of President Veitch and have no intention of changing the leadership of the college.”
The student occupation of the administration building is expected to continue until at least Friday.
“The movement happening across the nation at different campuses alerts me that our struggle is not isolated to Oxy,” sophomore Zawadia LeFang said. “The fact that we are not alone is disturbing because it assures me that the marginalization of students of color, especially black students, is a systemic issue.”
The group’s list of 14 demands also includes a call for the college to provide funding to a black student group they claim has been denied funds for five years, a 20 percent increase in tenured faculty of color by 2017-18 and the “demilitarization” of campus security.
—City News Service
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