After Days Of Protests, Students Occupy Building At Occidental College

Above Photo: Students unhappy with Occidental College’s handling of diversity issues begin their occupation of the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center on the Eagle Rock campus. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times).

After several days of protesting Occidental College’s handling of diversity issues, students occupied an administrative building Monday, demanding that the school president step down if officials don’t take such steps as creating a black studies major and hiring more minority faculty.

The actions come after weeks of student protests throughout the nation, including at the University of Missouri, where the president and chancellor resigned, and Ithaca College in upstate New York and Yale University. The dean of students at Claremont McKenna College stepped down last week after a campus protest and hunger strikes by two students over her email to a Latina student saying she would work to serve those who “don’t fit our CMC mold.”

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Student leaders at USC voted last week to ask school officials to increasefunding for diversity training and to hire more minority faculty. On Monday, school officials announced they would fund more diversity efforts and appoint staff to increase awareness.

“Universities should be spaces committed to showing the promise of diversity and helping everyone recognize, appreciate and respect difference,” Michael W. Quick, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, wrote in a letter to the USC community.

Two new funds of $100,000 each will be established to support campus programs to enhance understanding of the issues. The funds will be administered by student government organizations and the religious life office.

At Occidental in Eagle Rock, students have been protesting the administration’s handling of complaints about racism on campus and the lack of diversity. Last Thursday, a crowd of students held a demonstration that ended in a march at President Jonathan Veitch’s campus home.

After a rally on the steps of the school’s main administrative building Monday, several hundred students entered the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center. They have presented school officials with a list of 14 demands they want met by Friday, including the creation of a black studies major, an increase in funding for minority student groups and more diversity training for faculty and students.

If their demands are not met by Friday, students said, they will demand Veitch’s resignation.

Veitch, who received a contract extension from school trustees last year that runs through 2020, was traveling Monday.

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Several students and faculty were critical of Veitch for leaving last Thursday’s demonstration when students began discussing how administrators have handled allegations of sexual assault. “It made me feel like he didn’t care about our students,” said Abhilasha Bhola, a senior.

Veitch left the rally when he “realized his presence there was no longer being constructive,” said Marty Sharkey, the school’s associate vice president of marketing and communications. “He wanted that space to be a safe space and productive space.”

Sharkey said students were welcome to stay in the administrative building overnight.