Oxy Student Protest Updates

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Latest Update

Students ended their sit-in late Friday and vacated the College’s administrative building, vowing to continue their efforts in the week ahead. Their action followed the College’s response on Thursday to the protesters’ list of demands. Since then, the College has taken a number of concrete steps to follow up on the commitments it made last week. In a message sent out today, President Veitch announced additional steps and reminded everyone of the campus’ collective responsibility to uphold freedom of expression and mutual respect.

The full message is below.

Common Questions

President's Letter - Moving Forward - November 23, 2015

President's Letter - Following through with action on our commitments - Nov. 20, 2015

Response to Community Demands & Moving Forward - Nov. 18, 2015

President's Letter to Oxy Community - Nov. 17, 2015

Board of Trustees' Letter to Oxy Community - Nov. 17, 2015

President's Letter to Parents - Nov. 17, 2015

Previous Updates

An emotional and necessary examination of racial injustice and diversity is taking place on our campus, just as it is at colleges and universities across the country. 

From Monday, Nov. 16 through Friday, Nov. 20, a group of students and supporters called Oxy United for Black Liberation—led by members of Oxy’s Black Student Alliance (BSA) and Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Equity (CODE)—occupied the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center (AGC). Students presented a list of demands to the College administration. Occidental’s leadership replied on Nov. 19 with an action plan in response to those demands, including additional funding for the chief diversity officer, providing more resources and support for students of color, and creating a Black Studies program. While Oxy United has called for President Jonathan Veitch’s resignation, the Board of Trustees has expressed its full support for President Veitch’s leadership.

We will continue to update this page with the latest about the sit-in and the College’s response. Below are answers to some common questions.

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Common Questions

What precipitated the sit-in?

On Thursday, November 12, more than 500 students (as well as many faculty and staff) gathered in the Academic Quad for a walkout and rally organized by a group of students called Oxy United for Black Liberation, led by members of Oxy’s Black Student Alliance (BSA) and Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Equity (CODE). The rally was one of hundreds held on campuses nationwide in solidarity with students of color at the University of Missouri, Yale University, Ithaca College and Claremont McKenna College following racially charged incidents on their campuses. The rally at Occidental focused specifically on issues facing the College.

Why did students occupy the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center?

Following a rally outside the AGC on Monday, November 16, Oxy United began occupying the building just before 1 p.m. The students asked Occidental administration to meet a list of 14 demands that were first presented at the November 12 rally.

What are Oxy United’s demands?

  1. The immediate removal of President Veitch.
  2. Promotion of the new chief diversity officer (CDO) position to vice president level.
  3. Increase budget of the CDO office by 50 percent.
  4. Allocate $60,000 to Diversity and Equity Board (DEB) to fund programming and provide resources for black and other marginalized students.
  5. Creation of a fully funded and staffed Black Studies program, a demand the group says "has not been met for over 40 years."
  6. Increase percentage of tenured faculty of color by 20 percent for the 2017-18 school year, and by 100 percent over the next five years.
  7. Provide funding for Harambee, the student group for black men, which has not received funding in five years.
  8. Institute mandatory training for all College employees—especially Residential Education, Student Affairs and Campus Safety—that provides tools to properly assist people from marginalized backgrounds.
  9. Immediate demilitarization of Campus Safety.
  10. Immediate removal of LAPD’s presence on campus.
  11. Ensure the continued existence of the Intercultural Affairs office on campus.
  12. Elimination of the First Year Residential Education program. In its place, restructure Core Studies Program classes to focus on issues surrounding identity, fulfilling its original purpose.
  13. Hire physicians of color at Emmons Wellness Center to treat physical and emotional trauma associated with issues of identity.
  14. Meet the demands that CODE made following the arrest of a community member on September 5.

What has been the response from President Veitch and the College’s Board of Trustees?

Oxy United called for President Jonathan Veitch’s resignation as part of its demands, but the Board of Trustees has expressed its full support for his ongoing leadership. President Veitch released on action plan on Thursday, Nov. 19 addressing the other demands, and subsequently has announced series of immediate steps to follow through on those commitments.

What is the college already doing to address questions of diversity?

While the College has taken steps to improve diversity and inclusion on campus, more needs to be done. Current diversity programs include:

• Interviews are now underway with finalists for the new position of Chief Diversity Officer, who will report directly to the president.

• Department of Intercultural Affairs: This branch of Student Affairs oversees policy and programming relating to issues of multiculturalism, social justice, and gender equity. 

• Intercultural Community Center, which for 25 years has been dedicated to engaging students – particular students of color and first-generation students – with programming, resources, and support.

• Intercultural Club Affiliate Program: A partnership between ICC and student-run cultural clubs, ICAP meets regularly to build a lasting community, provide resources, foster collaboration, and to develop student leaders .

• Multicultural Summer Institute: a four-week academic/residential program for approximately 50 incoming first-year students who represent a variety of ethnic, regional and cultural backgrounds.

• Pauley Hall is Oxy’s Multicultural Hall, one of the College’s student residential theme halls.

• The Community Engagement Office sponsors the annual MLK Service Day, and works with community partners to give students the opportunity to be agents of social change.

• Cultural Graduation Celebrations: There are five unique cultural graduation celebrations, in addition to the main Commencement: Asian Pacific Islander, Black, Latino/a, Lavender Graduation, and First Generation Reception.

Currently, 42 percent of Oxy students are students of color, an increase from 36 percent in 2009. According to U.S. News & World Report, that ranks sixth among the top 50 liberal arts colleges, with the five colleges above Oxy boasting far larger endowments and financial aid capabilities. The New York Times has also rated Occidental as one of the country’s most economically diverse college for the last two years.

Where can I go to learn more about the students’ positions on this?

Oxy United Website

Oxy United on Twitter

Occidental College’s Black Student Alliance on Facebook

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President's Letter - Moving Forward

Dear Oxy Community,

Recent protests and last week’s sit-in at AGC were intense for our entire community. There are many difficult and pressing issues we need to address in the coming days, weeks and months. Today, I simply want to share a few important thoughts with you.

Appreciation for Our Campus Community

To students, whether or not you were in AGC and regardless of your views and positions on these issues, I care about your well-being and want you to thrive at Oxy. To our staff, I understand the significant disruption that occurred to your daily working life last week and I appreciate your tremendous efforts and contributions to our College. And to our faculty, your work and your support for all of our students is at the heart of what makes this institution special. Thank you.

Freedom of Expression & Mutual Respect

Occidental must be a place where even if we disagree vigorously about the issues, we can respect and be civil with one another. In 1971, when passions were riding high over the war in Vietnam, Occidental faculty and trustees adopted a statement on academic freedom that has guided the College ever since. It spells out our collective obligation "to respect the dignity of others, to acknowledge their right to express differing opinions, and to foster and defend intellectual honesty, freedom of inquiry and instruction, and free expression on and off the campus." Any kind of retribution for views honestly expressed has no place at Occidental. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to honor these values and lead by example.

Adhering to Process & Proposed Town Hall

We respect our students’ right to protest and make their voices heard. Now is the time move forward. To that end, on Friday, I invited the organizers of the protest to designate 5-7 students to attend a working session this afternoon with me and four other College administrators to address the implementation of our commitments. The protest leaders have yet to accept this invitation, which remains open. They have instead publicized a town hall meeting and determined the terms of my attendance. We have informed the organizers that we do not believe that this would be a productive next step. Community meetings have an important place on this campus, but only after we have made meaningful progress together. We will begin our dialogue in our first working group today. The decisions we make will be broadly inclusive and will be consistent with the principles and procedures of shared governance.

Progress on Our Commitments

On Thursday, we responded to the protesters’ concerns, outlining our action plan along with timelines. On Friday, we announced a budget increase for Intercultural Affairs (ICA) and details regarding the Campus Safety Advisory Committee. We also announced the creation of an Oversight Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. Today, I announce three additional items.  

  1. Today is the last day of on-campus interviews with CDO candidates. I plan to extend an offer for this critical role as soon as possible. To complete this process, I request that students, faculty, staff and administrators who have participated in these campus visits complete the evaluation surveys that were given at meetings with the candidates and return them via email to mschnirring@oxy.edu in my office as soon as possible, but no later than this Wednesday.
  2. Second, in my original action plan, I noted that we would institute a training program to support College employees in properly assisting students from diverse backgrounds in the Fall of 2016. As a first step, Student Affairs is planning a division wide training early in the Spring term.
  3. Finally, starting after the winter holiday, I will hold President’s Office Hours on a regular basis.  Students have made it clear that the Administration needs to be more accessible and attentive, and I hope this will be one of several steps to allow for direct and constructive engagement on issues of concern to the student body. We will follow-up by December 4th with details and timing.

Occidental is not without flaws. No institution is. However, I’m proud of Oxy. Built on the foundation of the passion and intellect of our students and the strength of our faculty and staff, we’re dedicated to building an environment that prepares our graduates to thrive in a complex and diverse world.

I will continue to keep you updated on a timely basis.

November 23, 2015

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President's Letter - Following through with action on our commitments

Dear Members of the Oxy Community,

As follow up to commitments that we announced yesterday, I wanted to let you know about the first action steps being taken. Actions speak louder than words, and the ultimate measure of our success will be how we work to fulfill our promises. We know that these steps are not the end, but rather the beginning of our work on this issue.

  • Oversight Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.  Some of our commitments will take time to implement. For example, the faculty is responsible for the creation of new majors. This requires planning and input, as well as hiring scholars to lead the effort.  Many of the other initiatives must also be accomplished in stages (e.g., improving our recruitment policies; restructuring of FYRE and CSP programs). I am therefore forming an oversight committee that will be responsible for ensuring that my commitments are met within reasonable and realistic timeframes. The committee will be headed by our Chief Diversity Officer and chaired by our General Counsel until the CDO arrives, and will be comprised of two students (one selected by the Diversity and Equity Board and one selected by the Dean of Students from the Deans’ Advisory Council); two faculty (selected by Faculty Council and the Dean of the College) and one additional staff person (selected by the Administrative Staff Council and the Director of Human Resources). The individuals shall be selected no later than December 15, 2015.  The committee shall report to me and the College community on a quarterly basis.
  • Increase to ICA Budget.  The additional ICA funds will be transferred to ICA’s budget by November 25, 2015.
  • Campus Safety Advisory Committee. The Campus Safety Advisory Committee will review current practices and recommend policies and procedures. The committee will be comprised of two students (one selected by ASOC and one from Greek Life); one faculty member (selected by Faculty Council); three staff (one from Facilities, one from Campus Dining, and one from Athletics). The individuals who serve on this committee shall be selected no later than December 15, 2015.  The committee shall report to the Vice President for Finance & Planning and the college community on a quarterly basis.

As we make additional progress on our commitments, I will provide you with updates. Progress is going to be made together, and we look forward to joining you in that work.

November 20, 2015

Response to Community Demands & Moving Forward

Dear Oxy Community,

Over the past several weeks, we have witnessed the power of this community to be a part of a national dialogue on issues of diversity and inclusion – values that lie at the heart of Oxy’s mission. While that dialogue is often a difficult one, it is necessary if our College – and our society as a whole – is to move ahead in a way that embodies and expresses those values.

We have heard you, and we welcome the opportunity to join you in taking action. We want you to know that we are all committed to working for change. The president and Board of Trustees, in collaboration with the faculty, are committed to moving ahead.

Let us begin with a recitation of where we currently stand:

  • 42 percent of Oxy students are of color, an increase from 36 percent in 2009.
  • 45 percent of the Class of 2019 is made up of students of color.
  • Occidental ranks sixth in faculty diversity among the top 50 liberal arts colleges, according to the latest statistics published by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • Occidental has one of the highest percentages of Pell Grant recipients (21 percent) among top-ranked liberal arts colleges. Pell Grants are a proven resource to helping low and moderate income students enroll and complete college.
  • For the past two years, The New York Times has rated Occidental as one of the country’s most economically diverse colleges. With more than 70 percent of our students on financial aid, we provide $42 million in financial support for students each year.

But these statistics alone are not enough.

At Occidental, our mission of equity and excellence demands that we hold ourselves to a higher standard. We must create a community where every member feels equally valued and at home on a campus rooted in mutual respect. We have heard the pain experienced by our students and witnessed their courage in sharing these experiences. We also have heard and are prepared to respond to their calls for change. Below, we have outlined an action plan, campus leader, and timeline to address demands 2-14 outlined by campus activists.

While there remains significant work ahead, we believe we will best be able to accomplish it together. The Board, faculty, administration, staff and students all must play an important role in transforming and improving our community. We look forward to direct and meaningful engagement in the near term. To accomplish this, we propose to invite a neutral mediator to work with administration, faculty, and student representatives to help restore trust and pathways for dialogue. We welcome your active participation in that process.

Sincerely,

Chris Calkins
Chair of the Board

Jonathan Veitch
President

Jorge Gonzalez
Dean of Faculty
 

Download the full response

 

# Demand Response Campus Leader Projected Time Frame
1 Immediate removal of President Veitch No.  The President is committed to addressing the critical issues of diversity and cultural sensitivity at Occidental.    
2 Promotion of the chief diversity officer (CDO) to a vice president level Yes. President Immediately.
3 Increase the budget of the CDO’s office by 50 percent Yes, operating budget will be increased by 50%. VP for Finance & Planning Immediately.
4 Provide $60,000 in funding to the student diversity and Equity Board to fund programming and provide resources for black and other marginalized students Funding for DEB is decided by ASOC.  
 
ASOC
 
 
ICA budget will be doubled (from $13,000 to $26,000). VP for Student Affairs/Dean of Students Immediately.
5 Creation of a fully funded and staffed Black Studies program, a demand that has not been met for over 40 years  Hiring of associate professor of African American Studies is already underway.  This scholar will lead the development of a new minor in Black Studies.  We expect that this minor will lead to the creation of a new major. Dean & APC Immediately.
6 Increase the percentage of tenured faculty of color by 20 percent by the 2017-18 school year and by 100 percent in the next five years The Dean will work closely with the CDO and faculty to ensure a  robust and diverse search process. Dean, CDO & Faculty Upon hire of CDO.
7 Provide funding for Harambee, the student group for black men which has not received funding in five years Yes.  Funding is available through increased budget of ICA. Vice President for Student Affairs -- Dean of Students Immediately.
8 Institute mandatory training for all college employees, especially Residential Education, Student Affairs, and Campus Safety, that provides tools to properly assist people from marginalized backgrounds Yes. CDO Fall 2016
9 Immediate demilitarization of Campus Safety, which includes, but is not limited to, removal of bulletproof vests from uniform, exclusion of military and external policy rhetoric from all documents and daily discourse, and increased transparency and positive direct connection to the student body Chief's Advisory Group (including students) will review campus safety policy and protocols and provide appropriate recommendations.   VP for Finance & Planning Immediately.
10 Immediate removal of LAPD’s presence on campus Yes, absent emergency or required police business. Chief of Campus Safety Immediately.
11 Ensure the continued existence of the ICA as a longstanding office on campus Yes. VP for Student Affairs -- Dean of Students Immediately.
12 Elimination of the first-year education program. In its place, restructure CSP classes to fulfill the original purpose of the CSP, which was to focus on issues around identity Student Affairs will restructure FYRE to effectively address issues of diversity and cultural sensitivity.  The Academic Planning Committee will review CSP and recommend appropriate changes to the faculty, Dean and President during the Spring 2016 semester. VP for Student Affairs -- Dean of Students Implement Fall 2016
13 Hire much-needed physicians of color at Emmons Student Wellness Center to treat physical and emotional trauma associated with issues of identity The College is committed to hiring diverse professionals to treat physical and emotional trauma associated with issues of identity. VP for Student Affairs -- Dean of Students Spring 2016
14 Meet the demands that CODE made following the arrest of a community member on Sept. 5 Chief's Advisory Group (including students) will review campus safety policy and protocols and provide appropriate recommendations.   VP for Finance & Planning Immediately.

November 18, 2015
 

President's Letter to Oxy Community

First and foremost, I want every member of our community to know how much they matter to me and the College. At the demonstration on Thursday, I witnessed the pain and feelings of marginalization that many in our community feel. You spoke eloquently and honestly, and I thank you for that. I will continue to listen and learn from you, and I ask the entire community to help me make Occidental a better place for everyone. I am committed to making this happen.

For many years, our community has helped lead important discussions on diversity and inclusion. 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. We have embarked on these painful conversations together, and we have found ways to forge a path forward. 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.

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. Over the next 24 hours, I am personally reaching out to leaders of this movement and inviting them to join me in this important work. At the same time, I am beginning a series of group meetings with various stakeholders in our community to discuss how the activities of the past weeks have impacted them and how we move forward together.

To the leaders of the movement taking place on campus, making change requires dialogue—and it is my hope that we will be able to have a meaningful and respectful conversation very soon. I invite you to the table when you are ready to join me. In the meantime, I will communicate in writing. 

I wish to include the entire community in this critical and difficult work, and I will be grateful to those who demonstrate the patience and commitment to partner with me despite any differences that we have.

​November 17, 2015

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Board of Trustees' Letter to Oxy Community

We live in a society that is pided by issues of racial injustice and other inequities. I deeply regret that Occidental is not immune from those problems. Despite our best intentions and collective commitments to creating a safe and welcoming environment, Occidental remains a microcosm of that society. 

We must, and will, do better.

We recognize the personal pain of these experiences, and we support action to address issues of racism and discrimination in a meaningful way. Leading the way in diversity has been at the core of the College’s mission for many years, and it will continue to drive our actions for more to come.

While we are listening to community members’ demands, it is our responsibility to act in the best interest of the College. We stand in full support of President Veitch and have no intention of changing the leadership of the College. Our community has flourished in a multitude of ways under President Veitch’s leadership, including working through some very challenging issues.  We know that the only way that timely solutions will occur is under Jonathan’s leadership.

The Board of Trustees is in a very good position to appreciate what the president does with his time. From the very beginning, Jonathan has focused on creating a more diverse and inclusive institution. He has been tireless in raising money for scholarships; hiring a diverse faculty and staff; and furthering the mission of the College. He has our full support. We believe that the only way forward is to focus on the meaningful work we share—making Occidental a more diverse, welcoming and inclusive institution.

​November 17, 2015

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President's Letter to Parents 

As I am sure you are aware, an important national conversation about racial injustice has been the focus of an intense debate on college campuses across the country from Yale to Claremont McKenna. The same is true at Occidental. Some of our students here have expressed their dissatisfaction—and even pain—in response to their experience on our campus. I am moved by that and I take their concerns very seriously.

Those concerns have been expressed in a variety of settings: in the classroom, in intimate dorm room conversations, in the Quad and most recently through a peaceful sit-in at the main administrative building. Undoubtedly, many of you may have participated in such protests yourselves. Raising questions and engaging in critical thinking is what Oxy is about, and we applaud our students for shining a light on areas where we can continue to improve on our commitment to diversity. We can and will do better.

I want to assure you that the well-being of your sons and daughters is uppermost in our minds. We have every intention of continuing to support the community’s peaceful demonstration on these issues. We want you to know that we are making sure that they are cared for, including keeping the heat and electricity on in the administration building. At the same time, we will ensure that students who want to attend class can do so. For students who are processing emotions surrounding this situation, we have added additional counsellors at Emmons Health Center. At the same time, we are making sure that equal care is provided to members of the community who aren’t involved in the demonstrations.

Just a few minutes ago, I sent a note to our community. In that letter, I implored them to join us in a meaningful dialogue and to take lasting action on these issues. At this point, the leaders of the movement have expressed an unwillingness to engage in a dialogue with me or the administration. While we respect their position, I have encouraged them to join me in a thoughtful discussion on these issues. I know that the only meaningful way forward on these issues is by working together.

I will remain in contact with students, faculty, staff and most especially, parents through the days ahead. In the meantime, I encourage you to talk with your students about the situation by phone now and if you are fortunate enough to have them home for the holidays, talk to them then as well.

November 17, 2015

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Previous Updates

November 21, 2015 - As they announced on Friday, student activists vacated AGC today, formally ending a six-day sit-in. The building is now being prepared to reopen for business as usual on Monday.

November 20, 2015 - At a rally late Friday afternoon, student activists announced that they will be ending their sit-in in the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center tomorrow. They also made clear their determination to pursue their goals in the days ahead.

November 20, 2015 - Following up on the College’s Thursday response to the 14 demands made by student activists, President Veitch today outlined three immediate steps to begin implementation of its action plan: a budget transfer to increase funding for the Intercultural Affairs Office by Nov. 25; creation of an Oversight Committee on Diversity & Inclusion by Dec. 15; and creation of a Campus Safety Advisory Committee by Dec. 15.

Read the full text here.

November 19, 2015 - In a message to the Oxy community Thursday morning, Board of Trustees Chair Chris Calkins ’67, President Jonathan Veitch and VP for Academic Affairs/Dean of the College Jorge Gonzalez outlined the College’s plan of action for the list of 14 demands by student activists at Oxy. The response includes promoting the chief diversity officer to a VP level and the development of a new minor in Black Studies.

The full letter from President Veitch and response to student demands is below.

November 18, 2015 - On Wednesday, November 18, members of the student group Oxy United expanded their occupation to all parts of the AGC. All other buildings on campus remain open and most class schedules remain unchanged, unless specifically instructed by professors.

President Veitch has reviewed the students’ list of 14 demands and is exploring what meaningful actions can be taken to address their concerns. He has also attempted to engage directly with student leaders and will continue to do so.