Student Protest Brings Racial Equity Advances
Results of the 14-day strike include improvements to recruitment and enrollment of Indigenous students, a new interim chief diversity officer and student-centered changes of that role going forward, budget for renovations to the Black Cultural Center, anti-bias training for College employees, Election Day as a holiday, and more.
A 14-day strike that began with a sit-in on Founders Green on Oct. 28 ended Nov. 11 with new College-wide anti-racism reforms committed to and budgeted for by College leadership, along with assurances of support for the protesters.
Led by Women of Color House, Black Students Refusing Further Inaction (BSRFI), Black Student League, and others, the boycott of classes, course work, and campus jobs was initially catalyzed by an Oct. 28 email from President Wendy Raymond and Interim Dean Joyce Bylander urging students not to protest the murder of Walter Wallace Jr. in nearby West Philadelphia due to safety concerns.
"We want to reiterate that it is not just Wendy’s original email or even administrative violence that we are responding to—we are actively resisting a centuries long colonial project predicated on the destruction and devalorization of Black life that ultimately murdered Walter Wallace Jr.," said the organizers in an email that went to all Haverford students, faculty, and staff on Wednesday. "All the work we have done for this strike is more than just an attempt to make this institution safer for BIPOC students, we also hope to honor the lives taken from the system of white supremacist racial capitalism that Haverford itself continues to benefit from."
Though the commitments secured by the strike from the College will continue to grow “in breadth and depth,” as President Raymond wrote in a Nov. 11 email to campus, the efforts of the student organizers have already resulted in numerous immediate and ongoing changes and budgetary pledges. Election Day was made a holiday for all students, staff, and faculty. $75,000 was secured for renovations to the Black Cultural Center, and students were invited to participate in accelerated planning efforts for a renewed BCC and the establishment of a Latinx Center. Campus-wide budgets of no less than $75,000 for staff and faculty professional development including anti-bias training over the next two years were ensured. The Office of Admission pledged to strengthen its recruitment and enrollment of Indigenous students, including articulating a program specifically for students from the Lenape Nation and other descendants of Native peoples original to Pennsylvania state territories. President Raymond stepped down from her post as interim chief diversity officer, and welcomed Provost Linda Strong-Leek as current interim CDO, a post that she will share with a co-CDO as of December, while an advisory group plans structure, budget, and organizational role for the CDO that will be implemented by July 2021.
"As provost and CDO, I will be working with the faculty as they begin conversations about how to honor the ‘shadow work’ that women and faculty of color often do—things that are not generally ‘counted’ when it is time for tenure and reappointment decisions," said Strong-Leek. "I will work, as well, in my interim CDO role with students and others who want to engage in DEI work by providing funding for programming and other opportunities for engagement. … This is the work I came here to do."
Support for students in their academic and work lives on campus following the strike, as well as for their mental health, was also secured. The College pledged increased hours for on-campus therapy and supplemental resources for BIPOC, FGLI, and LGBTQIA students. Students will be paid for up to 20 hours of work they missed by not going to on-campus jobs while on strike, and the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) agreed to continue the pass/fail model instituted in spring 2020 for this fall’s semester.
In their email to the campus, strike organizers called these commitments "very real wins."
College leadership also elevated several new policies not outlined in the student demands. These include a new vendor policy prioritizing certified minority-owned businesses, antiracism training for staff and faculty, and, in response to demands from last summer's BSRFI letter, the development of a new fund, which, via the CDO and student antiracism project assistants, will support BIPOC and FGLI initiatives with input from those students. Additionally, to assess the College’s progress towards these and other commitments over time, the Board of Managers will convene a new a antiracism inclusive accountability group populated by campus community members and outside experts and practitioners.
President Raymond and Senior Staff have committed the College to these changes. Because they involve virtually every aspect of College operations, their implementation and refinement will require involvement campus-wide.
"As we move forward, each of us must take on the responsibility to live the values and practices of racial justice, mindful that we have the capacity to change this College for the better," said Raymond in a recent email. "We can embrace that challenge together on shared paths forward, and do so without retribution. Unity of purpose requires us to seek and build on common ground, across a variety of perspectives."
Read the full list of pledged commitments, budgets, and timelines.
A digital archive of the strike and student activism is underway in the library and will be available by the end of the academic year.