Above Photo: GILLIAN GILES
Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Westlands Sit-In, a 10-day occupation addressing the College’s elitism and lack of commitment to racial justice. 50 years later, we are left perplexed and frustrated with the administration’s choice to invisibilize the demands for racial justice at our institution for over five decades. We, the Diaspora Coalition, along with our allies, occupied our administrative building Westlands at 7am this morning, March 11, 2019. This was in response to the College’s verbal claims to diversity with no real action, and a worsening social climate for students of color. The goal of our demands is to open up dialogue about the pains that low-income students and students of color (including international students) face daily, with concerns ranging from course offerings, administrative positions, and funding from conservative donors such as Charles Koch. The choice to present these demands came after years of exhausting one-sided “dialogue” with administration, in which we felt our struggles were not prioritized or even considered to be legitimate. We started planning in November, and this has quickly become the largest protest in Sarah Lawrence history. This was in homage to SLC occupations in 1969 and 1989 as well as movements such as #BlackOutSLC2015, and our demands are modeled after and unfortunately nearly identical to each of these protests’ demands.
Our wish is for administrators such as President Judd along with our deans to sign in agreement to attending our informative “talk-back” (Also modeled off of the 1989 occupation) and see that further meetings for negotiations are scheduled. This morning we met with President Judd for over an hour while administrative offices were hit with a phone swarm from our outside support, but Judd has still not agreed to show solidarity with us via signing the document. With over 140 students occupying, approaching our 10 th hour, we are dedicated more than ever to bringing about institutional change for our communities. Over 50 alum have signed a document in solidarity along with 21 faculty. Sarah Lawrence is associated with a history of activism, and that activism is often tokenized and used as a selling point for the school instead of being recognized as a reason for change. The Diaspora Coalition firmly rejects the reputation that SLC is the “most liberal college in the US” when students go hungry, homeless, and without access to their own history.
The primary concern of our administrators is with our request that they sign a copy of the demands. Over 140 students have signed this copy, and we merely ask they express a similar concern over these issues and a commitment to engage in negotiations with us until each point in the document is addressed. We are prepared to remain in Westlands until further notice.
The Diaspora Coalition