Author: Sarah Corsa
The administration addressed Oxy United for Black Liberation’s 14 demands in an email signed by President Jonathan Veitch, Vice President for Academic Affairs Jorge Gonzalez and Chair of the Board of Trustees Chris Calkins Thursday morning. The administration agreed to meet every demand in some capacity except Veitch’s removal and the allocation of funds to the Diversity and Equity Board (DEB). Though Oxy United has stated that it is unsatisfied with Veitch’s response and continues to call for his resignation, the organization is planning to vacate the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center (AGC) at 5 p.m. Friday.
The email, which was sent out to Occidental students, faculty, staff and administration, includes a chart listing each demand along with the administration’s response to it, the campus leader responsible for implementing it and the projected time frame. Of the 12 demands the administration plans to address in some way, the chart indicates that nine will be met immediately.
Oxy United published a statement to its Facebook page Thursday evening criticizing the response. Attached to the statement was an annotated version of the administration’s spreadsheet, which contains critiques and questions about the specific responses.
“Oxy’s systemic racism will not simply be fixed by saying you’ve listened to us or by creating a spreadsheet that does not offer mechanisms of accountability,” the Oxy United Facebook statement reads.
The administration’s email defended Veitch’s retainment, stating that the president was committed to solving issues of diversity and cultural sensitivity. However, the activist group alleged that Veitch is not capable of addressing those problems and did not care about students.
“While we recognize your insistence that President Veitch is ‘committed to addressing the critical issues of diversity,’ he is not capable of ensuring that diversity is at the core of every facet of the institution,” Oxy United’s spreadsheet reads.
In regards to the demands that the chief diversity officer (CDO), for which a search is currently underway, be promoted from a dean to a vice president position, the administration said that this change was effective immediately. The administration also pledged to increase the CDO’s operating budget by 50 percent, a move that Oxy United criticized. They said that the budget should be 50 percent higher than what it would have been had the position originally been established at the vice president level, which they asserted would be a larger amount.
While the college did not meet Oxy United’s demand to fund DEB — which is under the jurisdiction of Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) — and Harambee, the student group for Black men, the administration indicated in the response section for these demands that it would double the budget for the department of Intercultural Affairs (ICA) from $13,000 to $26,000, effective immediately.
Oxy United denounced the administration’s decision to leave DEB funding to ASOC, saying that there is no guarantee this will happen since the new ASOC constitution has yet to be voted on. It also insisted that the administration show proof of its commitment to doubling the ICA budget, either through a written contract or by making the revised budget public. In addition, the group questioned why Harambee needed to be funded through ICA. They asserted that if the group’s funding could be cut unilaterally by administrators, it could also be funded directly by administrators.
According to a follow-up email from Veitch Friday morning, which specified how and when the administration would achieve some of the actions they outlined, additional funds will be transferred to the ICA’s account by Nov. 25.
Responding to the demand for the creation of a Black studies major, the administration explained that the hiring of an associate professor of African American studies is already underway. This professor will lead the development of a Black studies minor and potentially a Black studies major in the future. Oxy United said that a minor is not enough and that a new major should be created immediately.
The administration also promised that the Chief’s Advisory Group will review current policies and provide recommendations in response to a demand of the “immediate demilitarization of Campus Safety,” which Oxy United says includes the “removal of bulletproof vests from officer 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.” The Chief’s Advisory Group will include two students, a faculty member and three staff members, according to a Veitch’s follow-up email, and will be under the campus leadership of Vice President for Finance and Planning Amos Himmelstein. Oxy United insisted in its public statement that half the students be Oxy United representatives.
The administration’s email, and Oxy United’s response, came a day after a protest at the Samuelson Alumni Center, where protesters surrounded the building after learning that Veitch and other administrators were meeting there. At around about 8 p.m., students walked from the AGC to the alumni center located just off campus chanting “67 grand, meet our demands.” The protesters then formed a chain around the building and continued chanting.
Shortly thereafter, the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) was called for a medical emergency inside the Alumni Center. LAFD requested Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) support to ensure that the emergency medical responders had access to the person who needed medical attention, according to LAPD. Upon their arrival, LAPD asked the protesters to unblock the main entrance, which they complied with. No arrests, citations or hospital transports occurred, LAPD said.
Veitch was escorted out of the building and to a Campus Safety truck, at which point the protesters dispersed.
Oxy United is planning an event on the steps outside AGC today at 4 p.m., preceding the evacuation of the building. Organizers of the movement also initiated an art project in which students of color personalize and place small orange flags around areas of campus in which they have felt unsafe.
“We will continue fight for equity at Occidental College,” the Facebook event description of the rally reads.
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