Student Assembly for Power and Liberation Demands (WWU)
******Note: You do not have to be a current or former WWU student to sign this petition. We appreciate all support ********
First, it is paramount to acknowledge that the campus of Western Washington University is occupying Nooksack and Lummi land. As we work, we must continuously think about the legacy of colonialism upon which we stand.
We are the Student Assembly for Power and Liberation. We are a growing group of students from a multitude of communities and disciplines around campus combatting the systemic oppression embedded within our society that is inevitably upheld through this institution, as it was created to uphold white supremacy at its core.
1.) In order to meet the growing needs and demands for educational opportunities that emerge from and contribute to movements for social justice, especially those that reflect the histories and experiences of marginalized peoples, we call for the creation and full implementation of the College of Power and Liberation. In addition to creating a community that can more effectively resist the type of events of last quarter, a College of Power and Liberation (CPL) will make Western Washington University a national leader in the development of academic programs that are committed to social justice. This is essential for realizing Western’s mission of creating “active minds, changing lives”. The following points are the base-line requirements of implementing the college. These demands force us to confront the question: Whose minds? Whose lives? A College of Power and Liberation will serve all students by bringing the study of histories and communities that continue to be mis- and underrepresented into the mainstream curriculum at Western. If Western’s administration wants to claim that they care about social justice, they need to give resources and power to those who are impacted by violent injustices and design the kind of education that will meet our needs and give us the tools to transform unjust social relationships.
- In order to give the college, the resources it needs to be successful we demand a cluster hire of ten tenure track faculty to teach at the college. Until those searches are approved and complete, we demand faculty buy-outs to fulfill CPL class needs that will continue as part of the CPL budget once the cluster hire searches are completed. The Student Assembly for Power and Liberation will have direct input and decision-making power over the hiring of faculty for the College. These hiring committees that search for and hire new faculty must have students with significant voting power on them. Requiring a hiring structure that assures accountability to student voices through student participation in hiring procedures, including student forums, student voting, and student interview sessions with candidates because for this college to serve students, students must have power in deciding what subject areas and professors can teach at the college.
- In order to provide the appropriate services, the new College would require, a relocation of physical space to allow the College of Power and Liberation to be housed in its own building. Acceptable spaces that could act as a temporary location for the College of Power and Liberation would be one in close proximity to campus such similar to the WWU Alumni House. While these options fulfill the needs of the College immediately, we also call for a commitment to acquiring funding for a brand new academic building on campus that will make the College visible and accessible. Acquiring such funding is the responsibility of the administration, whose accountability to students should be expressed through their fervent advocacy for students’ needs at both the local and state levels.
- In order to support the academic programming of the new College, we demand that the university provides real material resources that are sustainable and concomitant with the growing interest in the field both among the student body and nationally. This includes funding a staffed interdisciplinary library that reflects the critical inquiries of the College and its students, so that students have support in accessing academic material directly related to their fields of study. This additional support must also include funded staff positions, including an archivist and a counselor, who would serve students of the College and students at Western interested in these topics in general.
- In addition, we demand a yearly Student Emergency Fund to be included in the College's annual budget. This funding will support underrepresented students from the College who encounter financial emergencies during their time at Western, and will be awarded at the discretion of a committee composed of faculty, staff, and students in the College. This funding is necessary for retaining those excellent students from underrepresented communities who are unable to remain at Western due to financial hardship.
- In order to confront this same reality for underrepresented students, we also demand work study positions for at least 20% of students enrolled in the College so that they are supported in the important work that students perform, which so often goes unpaid and unrecognized. This will ensure that students in the most precarious positions have the opportunity to pursue their academic interests while being supported with material resources.
- Lastly, we call for a minimum of $50,000 from the University to put on an opening event that will introduce the College and its mission. This event will be structured as a symposium, bringing together eminent scholars from the interdisciplinary fields that have grown out of social just movements, marking the beginning of the momentous history of the College of Power and Liberation and the reemergence of a serious commitment to Ethnic and Gender studies on Western’s campus.
The next set of demands focus on the broader University community and are designed to hold the university accountable. No individual student should have to take on the task of monitoring and challenging injustices within the university. The College of Power and Liberation will provide and support students who are trained and educated in recognizing and addressing these injustices. The following demands require new methods of valuing work and making sure that this work has real rather than symbolic consequences.
This demand is to be fully funded and have a detailed course of action that is to be created in collaboration with students by Spring 2016.
2.) Though many students, staff and faculty members are committed to doing the important yet difficult work of confronting racism, misogyny, trans- and homo-phobia on this campus, the reality is that students have continuously been expected to live in and address these systems of disempowerment while simultaneously being exploited in order to uphold this image of an “active mind changing lives”. This work is often done without recognition or compensation for labor, time, and effort. The College of Power and Liberation demands an annually dedicated revenue of $45,000 for compensation of students and faculty doing de-colonial work on campus. When this work is used for WWU promotion the student’s/faculty members must be contacted in order to give consent. If consent is not given, then the institution must respect such wishes. Any de- colonial work done by faculty must also go toward their annual review. Some of what the Student Assembly for Power and Liberation is referring to as de-colonial work is including but not limited to; providing space and resources to learn alternate histories, supporting student's non academic work, emotional and intellectual labor that is not about publishing or service to the institution, providing often unrecognized trainings, workshops, and/or interventions on behalf of students.
This demand is to be fully funded and implemented by Spring 2016.
3.) We demand the creation and implementation of a 15 persxn paid student committee, The Office for Social Transformation, to monitor, document, and archive all racist, anti- black, transphobic, cissexist, misogynistic, ablest, homophobic, islamophobic, xenophobic, anti-semitism, and otherwise oppressive behavior on campus. Often times this is found in faculty curriculum and interactions with administration, police, and/or students. These are not isolated incidents; these are embedded in the structure of this university. The purpose of this committee is to field concerns and document incidents experienced by students on campus, and offer space, guidance, and advocacy in moving forward. The committee will do this work in a way that is accountable to students, rather than to the university. The dean of the College of Power and Liberation (CPL) and a panel of students will facilitate the application process. The 15 persxn committee will serve with staggered appointments throughout Spring Quarter, in which the new application process will take place. The incumbent committee will facilitate the application process, and upon classes beginning Fall Quarter, will transition the committee roles to the incoming committee members. To aid in the first-year creation and subsequent transitions, there will be paid mentoring and trainings for students that will take place on campus. These trainings will include, but is not limited to, skill acquisition for documentation of incidents and safety in navigating faculty/admin and curriculum, campus police, campus housing, health centers and medical care, especially in regards to marginalized identities. Necessary trainings are subject to change and expand as the committee learns what is needed on this campus.
- This committee will be formed by student representatives from the Associated Students Offices (AS) and from colleges and departments on campus. Students will be nominated by fellow students and faculty from each office, college, or department. Nominated students will then apply to join the committee. Departments and colleges represented will be CPL, Education and Social Justice (ESJ), American Cultural Studies (ACS), Law, Diversity, and Justice (LDJ), Human Services (HS), and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS). All ROP offices are welcome to apply, but AS offices that will specifically be represented are the Queer Resource Center (QRC), Social Issues Resource Center (SIRC), Ethnic Student Center (ESC), or future organizations that represent the interests of underrepresented students at Western.
- The committee will employ a three-strike disciplinary system that corresponds to citations that are processed. A collaboration between the student(s) involved, the faculty, and the committee must take place in order to appropriately address the offense. All faculty is subject, with justification, to disciplinary action, including non- tenure track faculty, tenure track faculty, tenured faculty, and everyone in a teaching position within the University. In accordance with Appendix B and section 19 Disciplinary Action/Discharge of Collective Bargaining Agreement between Western Washington University and United Faculty of Western Washington University, “19.1 No faculty member shall be disciplined or discharged without just cause. Historical guidelines commonly used by arbitrators can be found in Appendix B. 19.2 The University shall employ, where appropriate, progressive discipline, including but not limited to the following steps: verbal warning, written warning, suspension without pay, and discharge. The University shall tailor discipline to respond to the nature and severity of the offense, and will not be required to apply progressive discipline where the University reasonably believes that the severity of the alleged offense calls for the imposition of discipline at an advanced step.”
We demand the recognition of an unsafe classroom environment due to the oppressive behaviors articulated above as a severe offense and a justifiable cause for an investigation of tenured faculty that could lead to discharge.
- All faculty, staff, and administration that work with students, specifically Campus Police, Campus Housing, the Health Center, DisAbility Resources, and the Counseling Center are subject to a three-strike disciplinary system. A collaboration between all parties and the committee must take place in order to appropriately address the offense. The committee will accommodate students in whatever capacity necessary. Some examples might include; accompanying students to Campus Police interviews and Health Center appointments, aid in housing grievances, and support in garnering appropriate resources from the DisAbility Resources for students. While these are some of the more common examples of failure on to students, we recognize that the University is a political institution with many settings in which institutional violence actively harms campus community members. The institution will be held accountable no matter where these grievances originate.
- Funding will be transferred to the Committee for Social Transformation since it will not only be addressing institutional barriers (Equity), lack of representation (Inclusion), and persistent issues continuously diluted by the passive rhetoric of “Diversity” which results in violence that becomes legitimized through the University’s own mechanisms. As we’ve witnessed these themes echo those of the President’s Task Force on Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity. The President’s Task Force simply facilitates conversation; this committee is dedicated to specific, campus wide action that centers the voices of marginalized and underrepresented communities, something that is yet to be produced by the President’s Task Force. This committee will also “review campus climate, recruitment and retention practices, curriculum, and community outreach efforts” in a more effective way.
This demand is to be fully implemented by the end of Spring 2016.
4.) All students at Western come seeking an education that includes actively engaging with the community and to leave with a better understanding about how they can affect positive change in the world, which includes understanding ourselves and our histories. Therefore, it is in direct contradiction to Western’s mission statement, which stresses the importance of being an international leader in critical thinking and societal problem solving, to deny and silence the voices and experiences of Western community members, especially those whose experiences and histories continue to be marginalized and silenced in national conversations, in the curriculum at Western, and in Western’s day-to-day operations. In order to promote and achieve a campus climate and culture which offers all community members the basic right to safety, comfort, and success, there needs to be concrete action that works toward accountability. This requires:
- A mandatory online survey that will be conducted by all faculty/administration in the classroom and work place to ask questions that allow Western Washington University community members to confidentially express concerns of discrimination and safety.
- The results that are collected will be used for reviews of all people in teaching positions. The results will be added to their periodic review to help foster a collaborative effort to ensure a positive campus climate.
- The CPL, in conjunction with, but also not limited to the “Enrollment and Student Services” (Admissions Office) unit of our administration, will hold a quarterly forum that provides a platform for all students to express concerns and solutions regarding the campus climate.
This demand is to be fully implemented by the beginning of Spring 2016.
5.) We demand the establishment of multicultural residence building to celebrate student’s different identities and to give us a chance to live together in order to build a community and connections. Students must apply to this housing situation to receive admission and applications must be received, reviewed, and decided by the Committee for Social Transformation. Applications would include a personal essay about why that applicant wants to be live on those floors/halls and how they would positively contribute to the community.
- In addition, we demand that there will be a mentorship program that prioritizes the mentoring and support for students of color living in residence halls. There will be one mentor for every residence hall community. The mentors will go through rigorous and critical cultural trainings to qualify for this position. In addition to being a support to the residents, this mentor will serve as a liaison between the halls and different offices on campus that focus on support for marginalized students. The mentor will be an advisor to the RAs when it comes to developing programs and events centered on issues of diversity and social justice. This will be a paid position or the mentor will be provided with room and board within the multicultural community.
- There will be a retreat coordinated and led by the College of Power and Liberation for marginalized first year student before the start of the academic school year to help build community and give student connections.
This demand is to be fully funded and have a detailed course of action that is to be created in collaboration with students by Spring 2016.
6.) We demand that any Western Washington University student who has been targeted by, harassed by, or has experienced excruciating acts of violence that was racialized, sexualized, gendered, based on ability, employment status, citizenship and/or mental health from the University, either through its policies or institutional agents, must be compensated by the University. We are asking for compensation in the form of tuition reimbursements for students who have experienced such institutional and administrative violence.
This demand is to be implemented by Spring 2016.
We leave you with this:
The Administration of our University now has a choice to make about whether they wish to truly support movements for justice through deed or whether they will continue to do so through word only. As students who are a part of the Student Assembly for Power and Liberation, our demands address the multiple platforms of violence that students experience on Western’s campus. This should be of grave concern to university administrators, who should trust those of us most knowledgeable about these experiences and their solutions. We recognize that these demands are not the only ones that students on this campus will be making, as they don’t encompass the needs of every single student. We will openly support the demands of other groups organizing on this campus that work towards true social justice. We also recognize that the institution had been steadfast in its commitment to maintaining dominant narratives and structures of power. Because of this, these demands are the beginning of a transformation rather than a Band-Aid solution to the problems that persist here and across the country. These demands contain the basic necessities of what we need to provide students so that they can thrive not just survive on this campus in a truly accountable way.
As has become increasingly obvious to us since we arrive at Western, we cannot count on the University to follow through for hxtorically oppressed students. These demands come out of a long hxstory of oppression played out at all levels of schooling, and just like the events of last quarter, these demands do not come out of nowhere. Rather, they come from careful consideration of what students need. We build these demands and this sense of ‘need’ on the understanding that all of these forms of oppression are racialized and are built on the continued expropriation of Native land and life, the enslavement of bodies, and the forced exploitation of people across the world.
In 1968, Black students at Western Washington University were openly fighting and resisting the same structures of power we are today. We continue the important work that they started. We honor their words, their spirits, and their strength by leaving you again with this quote: “When Western begins to make phony excuses and resist needed changes, we will be forced to look at Western as an enemy to Black and non-white people and, act accordingly. In short, there will be political consequences for political mistakes.”
This movement is not limited to Western, but is connected to other universities nationwide where students are demanding that they have power over their own lives, bodies, and histories. As Chrystos so beautifully reminds us, this movement is decades old and we walk in the history of those who came before us. We recognize all forms of oppression have been resisted since their inception. We are in solidarity with the students on college campuses across the nation actively resisting and protesting their institutions’ lack of accountability and failure to adequately serve all students. As Hopi elders, June Jordan, Grace Lee Boggs, and Alice Walker continue to remind us: We are the ones we have been waiting for.
We expect to receive a response from the university on March 1st, 2016 at 5pm agreeing with these demands and a proposed date to meet collectively.
For further info contact the The Student Assembly for Power and Liberation at PowerandLiberation@gmail.com or on Facebook at The Student Assembly for Power and Liberation!!!