By Chris Chesky
Murphy News Service
A day-long sit-in at University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler’s office by members of a Latino-Chicano studies student group culminated Monday night with 13 arrests.
The student organization, Whose Diversity?, took over space late Monday morning within Morrill Hall, home to the U’s administrative offices, to demand an end to what they call University police department “racialized” crime alerts and demanding an expansion of the U’s Chicano and Latin Studies departments.
The names of those arrested were not immediately available.
The U released the following statement at about 8:45 p.m. Monday after a day of hearing student grievances and eventually deciding to bring the episode to an end by taking students inside Morrill Hall into custody.
“Around 11:30 this morning, 16 people, including at least three non-student supporters, began a sit-in inside President Kaler’s Morrill Hall office. They advanced eight issues they asked be addressed.
The President, Provost Karen Hanson and Vice President for Equity and Diversity Katrice Albert listened to and discussed the students’ concerns with them multiple times throughout the day. At the protestors’ request, a formal, written response to each of the issues they posed was also developed and provided to them. The response addressed or moved forward the dialog on each issue.
The protesters received multiple communications about the time the office and building closed, and were told that they would be trespassing if they chose to stay after that time. At 6 p.m. when the building officially closed, the protesters were given the opportunity to leave freely. Three chose to do so. They were also later informed multiple times that they could choose a citation, or choose to be arrested.
Thirteen protestors chose to remain in the president’s office and be arrested. Those individuals were removed from the building by police between 7:15 – 7:30 p.m.
The University took this action as a last resort after trying to have a dialogue for nearly seven hours. We regret that individuals chose arrest over a peaceful conclusion. The protesters were cooperative and the arrests occurred without incident.
The University shares a deep commitment to increasing faculty, staff and student diversity and to creating a community that welcomes and embraces all experiences and perspectives. Addressing these concerns requires partnerships with all parties working together to achieve a common goal. However, discussions and goal setting must occur without disrupting University business and with respect for the law.”
Lisa Albrecht, a U professor, spoke Monday afternoon during the protest outside of the administration building about how university officials have told her that the Chicano studies department has not been bringing in enough money. Albrecht said she believes an addition of faculty to the program would create more tuition dollars for the university.
“I stand here in solidarity with students, former students, faculty and staff who can not tolerate the continued closing of this university,” Albrecht said. “Every other Big Ten institution has thriving and large Chicano Latino studies except here.”
Whose Diversity? handouts said specifically that the group wants the university to hire two Chicano-Latino studies faculty members within the next year and one faculty member for each following year until the faculty number reaches eight.
The rally began at 11:45 a.m. in front of Coffman Student Union and made its way to Morrill Hall around noon, where students announced that other members of the group had begun a sit-in in Kaler’s office.
The building was locked down at about 12:15 p.m. and only members from the UMPD were allowed entrance. A U representative denied entrance to all others into Morrill Hall.
Students and members from the group continued support of those inside Morrill Hall throughout the day with some people remaining outside until the protesters were removed from the building by UMPD at about 8 p.m. People outside Morrill Hall chanted in support of the members inside the building as the protesters were brought out in zip ties and loaded inside a UMPD vehicle.
“[The student support] make me really believe in the work that we are doing and the communities that we are impacting,” said Tori Hong, one of the event organizers. “We all care. We all want to change not only this campus and this city, but this country and this world.”
Members from the student group said they spoke with Kaler in December, when they say he promised to work toward ending racialized crime alerts and working toward adding faculty to the school’s Chicano and Latin studies departments, according to a transcript from the conversation.
Whose Diversity? said it does not believe that Kaler has done enough to follow through on his commitments since they met in December, according to the rally description on the group’s Facebook page.
“We have yet to see an increase in the number of faculty of color on campus-in fact there are less faculty of color this year than last,” the description said. “No tangible changes have been made regarding increasing recruitment and retention of students of color on campus since Whose Diversity? confronted the administration with this issue last spring.”
The rally can be followed by using the hashtags #KalerUPromised and #MoralMarchonMorrill.
Reporter Chris Chesky is studying journalism at the University of Minnesota