College students across Connecticut are calling on campus administrators to take a firm stance against racism and police brutality.
Petitions, letters and social media posts have reached the desks of administrators at UConn, Quinnipiac University, Yale University and Western Connecticut State University, all with different demands but one cohesive message — college campuses should be a place where all people feel comfortable and accepted.
At UConn, Kiana Foster-Mauro, a graduate student working on her master’s in curriculum and instruction, penned a letter to the dean and associate dean of the Neag School of Education encouraging them to incorporate more anti-bias and anti-racism training into the curriculum.
According to the letter, the undergraduate programs at Neag only require one semester of multicultural education, which Foster-Mauro argues is not enough.
Foster-Mauro includes a list of demands for the administration including creating a new required course requirement about social justice and the history of race in America and extending the one required multicultural education class to be a full year long. She also asked for more texts by authors of color to be included in the syllabi and pathways to diversify the faculty at Neag.
One of the recipients of the letter, Dean Gladis Kersaint, said many of the changes that Foster-Mauro requested will start with the faculty.
“Faculty look at the curriculum in terms of its coherence and how we deliver it, so any changes in that way will be based on faculty discussion,” Kersaint said. “Individually there may be tweaks in their own courses and I think it will be a major part of the discussion in terms of how to prepare students.”
Neag is also working to hire diverse faculty members when vacancies arise as well as to recruit diverse students, according to Kersaint. She said feedback from students like Foster-Mauro is important.
“They are the recipients of the programs we deliver and if we are not meeting their needs then there is a need for us to revisit what we are doing,” Kersaint said.
A Change.org petition demanding that university leaders back up their commitment to “inclusive excellence” with real action attracted 4,383 signatures as of June 23.
The petition criticizes the university’s “carefully crafted” statement proclaiming that Quinnipiac stands in solidarity with the students, faculty and staff of color.
“The Quinnipiac University public statement was incredibly vague and did not address the black community directly,” the petition reads. “There is a significant lack of diversity in the student population already and this does not demonstrate enough support. The statement was simply words strung together that sound nice with absolutely no action supporting the claims.”
The petition continues with a list of demands, starting with a new statement that explicitly declares that Black lives matter. Other requests ask the administration to diversify the student and faculty population; increase resources for students of color; donate to Black organizations; decolonize the curriculum; and respond with a concrete action plan.
Quinnipiac ranked first in the nation for “Little Race/Class Interaction” in the 2019 Princeton Review. Top administrators will be holding a town hall with students to discuss topics related to campus climate and inclusivity today.
Members of the faculty senate at Quinnipiac released a statement last week declaring that faculty members would promise to reevaluate assumptions, reexamine the university curriculum, organize events and spaces to engage in difficult conversations and commit to amplifying the voices or Black, Indigenous and underrepresented faculty and students.
“Majority-white universities have benefitted from systems grounded in white supremacy and the oppression of Black and Brown people,” the statement reads. “As members of one such majority-white university, faculty senators recognize we have a moral imperative to take meaningful action to dismantle those systems.”
At WCSU, the school mascot, the Colonial, has come under fire as an outdated symbol of genocide and white male privilege. An online petition to change the mascot to a whale has drawn 332 signatures.
Victoria Santiago, a rising sophomore at WSCU, started the petition. In it, she explained her rationale for suggesting the whale.
“Whales are associated with compassion and solitude, and knowledge of both life and death. They are also associated with unbridled creativity,” Santiago wrote. “The exhalation through the blowhole symbolizes the freeing of one’s own creative energies. Sound is also a creative force of life.”
A movement at Yale to defund the Yale Police Department has been gaining traction alongside similar movements to defund local police departments across America.
Jaelen King, a rising junior, has been involved in the movement to defund YPD since it started.
“Defunding YPD looks like taking the funds used to support the YPD and its activities and transitioning those funds to community programs that community organizers deem need them,” King said. “Some examples of where the money may be distributed are educational resources, youth service programs, affordable housing, and transformative justice centers.”
To date, over 6,200 people have signed on to a Change.org petition titled, “Defund and Dismantle YPD.” Black Students for Disarmament at Yale started the petition, which links to a list of notable incidents involving YPD dating back to 2007.
The most recent from 2020 reads:
“YPD officer stops Black student and friend while biking on the trail behind Pauli Murray college to question their presence, despite the student having on Yale apparel.”
The petition bluntly calls for the dismantling of YPD and suggests directing the funds to “New Haven organizations that actually keep the community safe.”
Those interested in taking further action against YPD are directed to defundYPD.com, which includes links to email campus and community leaders to demand change.
Assistant Chief of Police at Yale University Anthony Campbell spoke at a forum hosted by the Jewish Federation of New Haven on June 22 about the role of the police in communities. While he didn’t mention YPD directly, he did talk about defunding the police and what that term means.
“Many in the Black community do not get the service that they should from the police,” Campbell said. “Some of that funding should go to social services, education but I also think it needs to be part of the educational process for anyone thinking of taking a police position.”