Update | The sit-in ended with a negotiated agreement on Friday after more than one hundred hours. Read my recap here.
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I received word not long ago that as many as three hundred students are sitting in at the admissions office of Colgate University, a private college in central New York with an enrollment of about three thousand students. The sit in began on Monday morning, which means that it just passed the 48-hour mark with no end in sight. You can keep track of events as they develop on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, and there’s a good write-up on Tumblr from some supporters at nearby Hamilton College.
The protest was sparked by concerns about campus climate and inclusivity at Colgate, particularly around issues of race and socio-economic status. Some Colgate students’ noxious attitudes are reflected in Yik Yak responses to their action that the activists are collecting and posting to Photobucket — the gallery includes plenty of overtly racist trolling, as well as more insidious comments like this one:
“If you want equality, then fine. Either I come here for free too of you all can pay $60,000 a year like I do. I’ll let you choose.”
Top Colgate administrators released a statement yesterday saying that they “are eager to work with all members of our community to fulfill our mission to be an inclusive institution, and to move the campus forward in a purposeful manner. We are working on a comprehensive response to the student petition,” the statement continued, “which we expect to share with them tomorrow.” (A previous statement from the administration can be found here.)
The students sitting in haven’t presented a list of demands, but neither are they engaged in the kind of open-ended campus occupation that has been seen so frequently in recent years. Instead, they’ve published a Petition of Concerns/Action Plan — a 1200-word, 23-point proposal for campus reform. The Colgate students’ Action Plan is wide-ranging. It calls for more student-centered, culturally conscious admissions and orientation policies; more robust financial aid; improved diversity training for new and existing faculty, as well as improved attention to “systemic power dynamics and inequities” in the curriculum; improved support for Colgate’s economically disadvantaged and educationally less-prepared students; and new efforts to attract and retain students from underrepresented groups. The whole thing is worth reading, but one proposal in particular leaped out at me:
“We ask…that, because Financial Aid cannot remedy systemic socio-economic disparities, including access to transportation services, Colgate reinstate a free and safe transport system to and from Syracuse for the entire population at Colgate. This would work to alleviate the experience of isolation on the basis of socio-economic status.”
Colgate is a college of three thousand students in a town of sixty-six hundred. Syracuse, the nearest big city, is forty miles away. The college offers a shuttle service to Syracuse, but prices start at $108 each way. And although I haven’t been able to find specific demographic information online, my strong hunch is that many of Colgate’s least well-off students come from cities, making their isolation in small-town America that much more acute.
A report from the sit-in’s Twitter account suggests that there’s likely to be a new statement from the Colgate administration at eleven o’clock this morning. I’ll be following this story as the day goes on.
Update | Post edited to incorporate additional information from Inside Higher Ed. Also, this week’s protest follows one thirteen years ago in which a group of students occupied the same building for seven hours in response to a series of racist incidents on campus. Several of the demands from that sit-in are repeated in the current occupation’s action plan.
12:15 Update | According to a source within the sit-in, daytime participation in the action has been hovering around four hundred students. Some two hundred stayed overnight last night, up from one hundred the night before. Given that total enrollment at Colgate is a little less than three thousand students, these are big numbers.
12:30 Update | The Colgate administration has apparently prepared a response to the sit-in proposals, and had intended to release it in a mass email to the campus. The demonstrators have convinced the admin to discuss that response with them before making it public.
2:00 Update | In a new statement, the Colgate administration says that “President Jeffrey Herbst — along with Suzy Nelson, dean of the college, and Douglas Hicks, provost and dean of the faculty — met for many hours over the past two days with ACC representatives to discuss their concerns. Herbst, Nelson, and Hicks also joined the sit-in for several hours to listen to the students’ stories of having endured incidents of racism, classism, homophobia, and sexism on campus.” The statement says that senior administrators have prepared “a written, point-by-point” response to the demonstrators’ proposals — apparently the response that the demonstrators have requested not yet be released publicly.
In concert with the release of the new statement, President Herbst and Dean Hicks addressed the demonstrators in person. Activists responded positively on Twitter to the latest developments, but the sit-in is still ongoing.
5:20 Update | According to the most recent report I’ve seen, posted to Facebook at about 4:30, the sit-in is still ongoing, amid discussions among the demonstrators about the administration’s point-by-point response to the ACC’s proposals.
6:00 Update | The occupation’s twitter account just declared that “the sit-in will continue until further notice.” In a series of tweets, they described the administration’s response to their proposals as “vague,” and said the occupiers were taking a dinner break after two hours of discussion regarding “plans to move forward.” More details should be forthcoming sometime tonight.
Thursday Morning Update | The occupiers have spent their third night sitting in, and don’t seem to be in any particular hurry to leave. I’ll be offline most of the day, but I’ll post updates on Twitter if I get the chance. Meanwhile, follow the #canyouhearusnow hashtag for all the latest.