I caught up with the group “Whose Diversity?” this morning after it protested in front of Morrill Hall, the U’s main administration building.
About a dozen students attended, according to both an onlooker and the group’s spokeswoman, graduate student Joanna Núñez.
She summed up the group’s main complaint — that diversity at the U is merely cosmetic, and plagued by tokenism:
“Our pictures are taken when we’re at events. We’re asked to speak on behalf of the university, and talk about the diversity. They have hired people strategically — faces of color — to work in offices of diversity, for example.
But the university is not engaging with issues of equity and access. … When students voice concerns at places like public forums, or when students have engaged in public protests in the past, our concerns are dismissed, or told, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re thinking about diversity” — but they’re not actually engaging in those things.”
I hope to post a full list of the group’s demands — Update: The full document is below — but for now here are the main three:
- Increase recruitment of students of color until the university’s profile reflects the demographics of the nation. In one year, the percentage of non-whites in the student body should half what it is in the city. (The group says it should be 9 percent black in a city that’s 18 percent black. In two years, that figure should 75 percent of the city’s percentage. Note: I hope to check those figures in a bit.)
- Prioritize more highly the welfare of diverse students. The U should establish emergency scholarships for low-income students under financial stress. It should provide medical and counseling services that are culturally competent or staffed by people of color. The groups also says students should be able to protest without fear of retaliation or investigation.
- Change the curriculum. The group wants courses in ethnic studies and gender to be required for all students.
Note: University of Minnesota spokesman Chuck Tombarge had this to say about the gathering, and said Whose University? is not an officially recognized student organization at the U.
From earlier this morning:
Just got this announcement this morning:
Whose Diversity?, an autonomous collective of students at the University of Minnesota, calls upon U of M President Kaler and the administration to respond to a set of demands necessary for creating a campus environment that is free from discrimination and exploitation against students, staff and faculty who are people of color and/or GLBTQ and/or working-class and/or (dis)abled and/or (im)migrants. We seek to address inequalities along multiple axes of difference, and to create equitable representation for all communities at every level of the university.
The University of Minnesota “celebrates” its 150 years of being a land grant institution designed for the “common good,” which allows for “learning, discovery and engagement.” But what does this mean when celebration obscures reality? When the “common good” negates the reality of discrimination that students, staff and faculty from historically marginalized communities experience on campus? The Whose Diversity? Collective is ready to question the University’s framework of “success” and “progress” for our campus, a notion that stifles discussion, prevents growth, and disregards how the people from these communities endure exclusion on campus. Therefore, we are calling upon the University of Minnesota administration to uphold its commitment to diversity, and adhere to the demands presented by students who are representative of the communities that embody “diversity.”
We join in solidarity with other higher education student movements that are challenging mainstream narratives of diversity, which are happening across the nation. These movements include: #BBUM (Being Black at U Michigan), #ITooAmHarvard, and the Higher Education Justice Movement in Minnesota.