#DearDeanKelly Protest Occupies Seattle University Office

Above Photo: Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant tweeted this photo from the occupied college lobby. (Kshama Sawant, Twitter)

 Demands Dean’s Resignation

Seattle University students have occupied the front lobby of a college to demand the resignation of its dean, citing oppression, traumatization, and an unsatisfactory humanities program. So far, they have spent Wednesday evening and Thursday occupying the office.

The students, the MRC Coalition, have set up camp in the Matteo Ricci College lobby. They told The Stranger that the issues have been mounting for a long time. Using the hashtag #DearDeanKelly, they have promoted their cause across social media and are calling for the college’s dean, Jodi Kelly, to resigns.

The MRC Coalition’s online petition states:

We, the students of MRC Student Coalition, are writing to express and address the alarm we feel with regards to our undergraduate experience. We consider it an ethical matter to name the disturbing experiences we have lived while in this College, while also noting that we are not the first students in this college to express these concerns, as they reflect a long-standing history of oppression and resistance in cohorts long since graduated. Students have made specific demands over the course of several years, yet no tangible changes to address these demands have occurred. Once again, these concerns are urgent and necessitate an immediate response, to be handled with utmost severity and care. Dissatisfaction, traumatization, and boredom are realities within our collective MRC experiences, as well as being ridiculed, traumatized, othered, tokenized, and pathologized. These experiences have been profoundly damaging and erasing, with lasting effects on our mental and emotional well-being. Additionally, the curriculum in MRC is unsatisfactory as a Humanities program. For students to have their personal and ancestral voices erased in curriculum and conversation, only to be told that their experiences of pain are insignificant, is psychologically abusive.

The petition had received 501 signatures by 4 p.m. Thursday. Their goal is 1,000 signatures.

In response to student concerns, Dean Kelly has called for a study of the college’s curricula — due by December 2016. She also is hiring an outside consultant to investigate the culture of the school in regard to student complaints.

The cause peaked the interest of figures such as Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant — she has taught at Seattle University in the past.

Seattle University released this statement May 12 in response to the occupation:

The dean of Matteo Ricci College, Jodi Kelly, and other university leaders, have been meeting with the students in recent weeks to understand and address their concerns.

Dean Kelly, in consultation with the provost’s office, has outlined concrete steps for moving forward. There is a strong desire to work together with the students to find solutions to the issues they have raised around curriculum and culture within the college.

The steps outlined include the formation of a committee of currently enrolled students in the college, college faculty, an outside consultant and alumni to conduct a comprehensive review of the curricula of the college’s degree programs and make recommendations for addressing the students’ concerns.

The outside consultant will be tasked with assessing the college’s culture, climate and manner of discourse and engagement both inside and outside the classroom. The consultant will be tasked with bringing forward recommendations on how best to serve and support the college’s students.

Racial and cultural literacy training will also be made available for all faculty and staff.