Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

To: the Hampshire Community

From: Members of the SOURCE Community

RESPONSE TO PRESIDENTIAL MEMORANDUM

As many of you know, President Ralph J. Hexter issued a memorandum to the Hampshire community on Tuesday, April 1st, 2008 (linked here: https://actionawareness.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/memorandum1.pdf) We, as members of the SOURCE community who have been involved in organizing Action Awareness Week and the following negotiations process, want to share our response to this memorandum and to the “action items” presented in the appendix attached. Our intentions in writing this response is one that comes out of the urgency to communicate the voices of students that have been silenced and misrepresented by the memorandum in question. During the negotiations process, no one was notified that this memorandum would be released, leaving us no opportunity to respond until now.

When the President stated in the second page of this memorandum that “attending to issues of prejudice of all sorts, and racial in particular (…) is not always sufficient to guide the behavior of some members of the community,” he is effectively disregarding institutionalized racism in favor of placing racism at the fault of individuals. In other words, the language of this memorandum denies institutional accountability by allocating blame on individual members of the Hampshire community. Furthermore, by referring to students as “stakeholders,” this memorandum promotes the notions of private aspirations or demands and fails to understand the necessity of desired institutional change for the entire community

The “action items” presented by the administration were not comprehensive solutions, but rather illusions of progress. In the appendix attached to this letter, you will see the articulations of what is missing from each item as analyzed by members of the SOURCE community. In the action items proposed, the administration fails to convince that they are committed to really address the core structural problems of the institution.

The language presented by the memorandum denies the fact that members of SOURCE and the administration operate on an unequal playing field. Historically, students of color and international students have had to fight within their communities for validation and legitimization of their presence in higher education. Through this struggle, students have become frustrated with the active silencing of their voices, and these frustrations frame the language of demands. This language of demands that we have employed is historically based in American histories of resistance, particularly involving higher education. By ignoring the language of demands and instituting “action items,” the administration invalidated our presented language and replaced it with seemingly less serious terms. These languages of “multiculturalism” and “diversity” have been, and are still, used by the administration in an attempt to what we perceive as covering the histories of power and struggle. Within higher education, these histories are generally ignored by those who are not directly oppressed by systems of power. This lack of historical context is one reason why institutionalized oppression is generally not understood.

Though there has been a great deal of support for the demands put forth by members of the SOURCE community, there have also been misunderstandings as to how these demands affect the greater community of Hampshire College. If the demands were to be properly met by the administration, there would be better financial accountability for all students and student groups, more comprehensive health services for students, more transparency within administrative and academic processes, and more sustainable resources for all students, staff, and faculty, to give several examples. Not only this; but ideally, classrooms and residences would become safer spaces for all students.

Furthermore, the language of “civility and respect” often employed by the administration may invoke the patriarchal principles under which civil and respectful dialogue occur only among those that share the same interests. The right to protest and unionize has been part of the American tradition, and we follow in these footsteps. While the administration is still talking about action, students are the ones who are taking action.

It is not inconsequential that the administration has ignored deadlines that student negotiators demanded, thus prolonging the negotiation process. As students of color and international students who inherit histories of resistance, we are pushing the administration in an attempt to resist this stalemate. From our standpoint, it seems as though the administration is delaying the negotiations process with the hope that eventually we will stop pushing for our goals. However, because of this inherited history of struggle, we are committed to keeping the legacy of those who have struggled before us.

— Members of the SOURCE Community

Please find our responses to the presidential “action items” in a post below.

Advertisements

Appendix: Analysis of “Action Items” presented by the administration

These are the objections that we, members of the SOURCE community, voiced to President Ralph Hexter, and other administrators present at Monday afternoon’s negotiations:

Response to “Action” Item #1

a) This item does not specify the role of SOURCE community members or that of faculty in the selection process of the Dean of Multicultural Education. While we appreciate that this demand is met in this Response to “Action” Item, we also want to make sure that it explicitly acknowledges that student and faculty input is important in the hiring process for this position.

b) We are concerned that an internal search for the position will overwork faculty who decide to take on this additional responsibility.

 

Response to “Action” Item #2

a) New faculty positions offered in this item must be in addition to positions already in place. An expansion rather than a reallocation of already scarce resources will assure that the Five Schools of Thought do not suffer as a result of the creation of this position.

b) If schools are only “invited to compete” with no additional provision of funding from the administration, there is no way to insure the formation of these positions, since there is no system to hold the Schools of Thought accountable.

 

Response to “Action” Item #3

a) This item explains the process that is already in place. Disproportionately, faculty of color and adjunct and visiting faculty across disciplines who engage in issues of race, gender, sexuality, and class are not offered permanent positions. More is needed to insure complete transparency and a more efficient process.

b) This semester many prominent professors will be leaving, and this loss of educational resources affects the entire community.

 

Response to “Action” Item #4

a) The Multicultural Perspectives should be reviewed through the Dean of Multicultural Education Office (that is to be re-established) and reported to the Dean of Faculty.

b) This requirement is rooted in academia and should therefore be evaluated by faculty and not administration.

 

Response to “Action” Item #5

a) Public Safety is not explicitly stated as part of staff in this item. Public Safety Officers have a prominent role as “figures of authority” to students 24 hours a day; furthermore, Public Safety has a history of problematic and intimidating behavior towards students.

b) The trainings proposed should not be contingent on the “findings of a survey”; this undermines the urgency of such trainings.

c) This item contains no definition of anti-oppression and no mechanism for student’s input.

d) There is no explicit statement of where funds will be drawn from, reiterating our fear that funds will

be reallocated from areas that already are facing tighter budgets.

 

Response to “Action” Item #6

a) This item deviates only slightly from current financial aid policy. There is no revision of policy that deals with students who may have unique financial conditions such as missing parents, parents unwilling to contribute, and countless other special family circumstances.

b) Students should be notified regardless of their own inquisitions as to the status of their aid processing well in advance of final registration deadlines.

c) The threshold for possible debt should be raised to $5000.

 

Response to “Action” Item #7

a) This item misnames both the Lebron-Wiggins-Pran Cultural Center and the Queer Community Alliance as “Multicultural Center” and “Queer Center,” which in itself indicates the administration’s lack of knowledge of the purpose of these safe spaces.

b) The budget proposed for all three centers by the administration is unacceptably below the budget outlined in the demands.

c) The flawed and oftentimes inefficient process for group recognition still relies heavily on assessment of risk management. Since the mechanisms of this process remain largely unchanged, the same issues faced by identity based groups that cater to the needs of underserved students on campus will continue.

d) This item does not recognize Ficom’s status as an entity operating under the authority of the administrative body.

 

Response to “Action” Item #8

a) None of the proposed actions in this item mean anything without a proposed timeline.

b) Additionally, there is no explicit guarantee of a full-time position to assist the current Cultural Center director.

c) Rather than outlining the hiring of a full time coordinator for the Queer Community Alliance, this is an articulation of the process to replace Steven Nathan, which began without input of current students.

 

Response to “Action” Item #9/10

a) This item proposes the same policy that is applied to identity-based mods.

b) Students are burdened with the responsibility of filling beds to keep their safe space.

c) The housing office needs to work with admissions to send out comprehensive information to accepted incoming students about residential life in order for the students to make more informed decisions.

d) The deadline for halls being filled should be moved back to allow for students to be given adequate time to utilize safe living spaces once they arrive on campus.

e) The issue of empty beds stems from inadequate recruitment of incoming students of color and queer students.

 

Response to “Action” Item #11

a) This is the current policy for the acquisition process of entering faculty.

b) The item does not resonate with the original demand for allocation of resources to Third World studies and students.

c) The allocation of material should not be contingent on the (as of now, not guaranteed) hiring of ALANA and/or queer studies faculty.

d) It is necessary to take into account the under-representation of students of color and international students in programs which require studio and lab fees when considering grant distribution.

 

Response to “Action” Item #12

a) Mamta Badlani, while a valuable member of staff, does not have a position that extends beyond the current academic year.

b) The request for full time staff comes with the understanding that students must live full time on campus, and must have adequate mental health resources.

c) Hampshire should have a more aggressive role in deciding who fills Health services position.

d) Student experiences are a testament to the dire state of quality mental health treatment.

 

Response to “Action” Item #13

a) Current policy is merely being restated, with no additional effort to secure permanent identity based housing.

b) There is no time line or mechanism suggested to actively and aggressively hire and retain students of color and international students as interns.

c) There is no provision for the aggressive recruitment of domestic students of color or queer students in admission.

 

Response to “Action” Item #14

a) http://www.hampshire.edu/cms/index.php?id=8667

“Adopted in the 1970s and updated in 1994, the policy [Hampshire’s policy on socially responsible investment] prevents the college from knowingly investing in businesses that “operate in countries engaged in serious human rights violations and serve to perpetuate, promote, and finance these conditions.’”

b) To meet these pre-established requirements it is imperative that CHOIR meet regularly, and the meeting process is more transparent to students.

 

Response to “Action” Item #15

a) While we appreciate the comprehensive harassment policy, it should be reiterated that a separate and explicit racial harassment policy is necessary.

 

Response to “Action” Item #16

a) The necessity of fiscal support for the sustainable implementation of actively anti-racist institutional policies remains unaddressed. The item does not create a position in institutional advancement to raise funds and seeks grants addressing the outlined concerns.

b) There is no alternative plan of action proposed. Current practice is restated.

c) Retention of students of color and international students is directly related to the necessity of funding for systems of support. This concern is largely ignored in this proposal.

 

Response to “Action” Item #17

a) Rather than relying on the extended effort of students, the administration should make funding available to bring outside facilitators to the desired teach-ins.

 

Response to “Action” Item #18

a) This unnumbered demand was met with no response on the part of the administration.

Hi everyone,

WELCOME TO OUR BLOG!  We will be posting a response to Hexter’s memorandum, as well as the memorandum itself, later today.  In a meantime, please check out other Hampshire students’ coverage of the past two weeks’ events: Queer Kid of Color has great coverage of the Monday walk-out, and Letto has, up until now, been the go-to blog for posting information to the community.

We demand the following:

1. Re-establishment of Dean of Multicultural Affairs position (as stipulated from the Cole Agreement), in addition to the already-existent Presidential Assistant for Diversity position.

2. Creation of four new positions for full-time faculty in ALANA and Queer Studies.

3. Transparency in the process by which adjunct faculty become permanent faculty.

4. Re-evaluation of the Multiple Cultural Perspectives academic requirement.

5. Mandatory anti-oppression trainings for faculty, staff, Public Safety, and Residential Life staff and interns.

6. Stability in financial aid packages. If a student’s needs do not change, then the package must remain the same over the course of the student’s time at the college. Further, a student’s ability to register for classes will not be hindered by holds or other issues related to financial aid status.

7. Institutionalized funding for the Cultural Center, SOURCE groups, QCA groups, and Women’s Center. Identity-based groups will be exempt from the process of “group recognition” each semester.

8. Permanent staffing at the Cultural Center, Women’s Center, and Queer Community Alliance. Creation of a new staff position at the Cultural Center to be filled by an individual experienced in addressing the needs of international students.

9. Establishment of at least one residential hall designated for students of color, in the dorms, by Fall 2008.

10. Designation of a Queer-Identified (and not just Queer-Friendly) residential hall in the dorms.

11. Allocation of funds to expand library and media resources relevant to Third World Studies and students.

12. Immediate hiring search, for which a committee will be formed with students for whom this position is intended to serve, for a new staff member in health services with the goal of hiring this person within one year. Person must provide some kind of concrete experience/qualifications for relating to students of color, international students, queer students, trans students, and female students.

13. Guaranteed permanent identity-based housing on campus. Aggressive recruitment of students of color, international students, queer students.

14. For Hampshire to live up to its current plan of responsible investment, keeping with historical precedent of divestment from South Africa, we demand that Hampshire should cut financial ties with countries that occupy and practice racial apartheid.

15. Establishment of a comprehensive racial harassment policy to be outlined in Non Satis Non Scire.

16. Creation of a position in Institutional Advancement geared towards raising funds that specifically address issues of diversity on campus.

17. Closing of the college on Columbus Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to hold a campus-wide teach-in on racism and imperialism.

LASTLY, we demand that a committee of students and administrators be established to negotiate these demands and assess whatever agreements follow.