Hundreds of students gathered in Tomson Hall on May 1 at 7:50 a.m. to begin a day-long sit-in to support students of color and protest the racism on St. Olaf’s campus, both overt and institutional. During a protest in Buntrock Commons on Saturday, April 29, Assistant to the President for Institutional Diversity Bruce King announced that the President’s Leadership Team would be holding a Q&A session with students in Tomson 280 at 8:30 a.m. on May 1. Almost immediately, A Collective for Change on the Hill, the student group leading the movement, urged students not to attend.
“We will be not be going to Tomson 280. This is our movement as students,” organizer for A Collective for Change on the Hill Don Williams ’18 said.
All classes have been cancelled for the day and many professors also attended the sit-in. President David Anderson ’74 was also seen on the second floor of Tomson Hall until around 8:30 a.m.
A press release written by A Collective stated that “our concerns are not targeted toward any one individual on this campus. We demand institutional reform and the deconstruction of oppressive systems that tolerate racial sentiments and actions. We demand that administration be held accountable for the institutionalized racism that is embedded within the structures of this campus.”
Udeepta Chakravarty ’17 addressed students at 8:30 a.m. in the Tomson atrium.
“This has been a difficult time, but on behalf of A Collective for Change on the Hill, we tell you that we stand together and we stand strong,” he said. “This institution forces students of color to become spokesperson for their peoples and their cultures … The institution forces us to discuss and debate in a civil and polite manner with individuals that do not see us as equals.”
Chakravarty reiterated that the recent acts of racist hate speech on campus are not isolated events, but rather symptoms of a larger institutional problem.
“When we experience hate, the admin frames it as the problem of one bigoted individual, and not the community … We are not here to be sensitive to [the administration’s] insecurities and discomfort.”
Williams and Samantha Wells ’17 spoke about the hate speech they experienced recently. Both students found racist notes on their car windshields. Wells’s note explicitly threatened her safety. Even after a friend tore up the note and threw it away, Wells was forced to see it again.
“Someone must have dug through the trash, pulled out my name, and threw it outside my door,” she said.
Students of color in A Collective for Change on the Hill attempted to bring the list of demands to Anderson’s office at 8:45 a.m. after speaking to students. Upon discovering that Anderson wasn’t in his office, A Collective called for students to flood Tomson 280, lead by students of color, to ask Anderson to sign their terms of engagement.
Student leaders mentioned that Anderson said he was unaware of the planned sit-in and as of now has refused to sign the terms of engagement. President of St. Olaf Student Government Association Emma Lind ’17 announced that SGA agreed to the terms of engagement.
Expect further updates from the Manitou Messenger throughout the day. The full list of demands from A Collective for Change on the Hill can be found at www.acollectiveforchangeonthehill.com/demands
This is part of a series of stories about the sit-in in Tomson Hall on May 1, 2017