A coalition of 25 student organizations representing eight minority communities at the University of Maryland has presented a list of 64 demands to the administration. They include increased mental-health support and scholarships for marginalized students, as well as prayer rooms in every “major” building and shuttle service for Muslim students to a Muslim center.
The coalition, called ProtectUMD, sent a letter with the demands to officials at the University of Maryland at College Park in late November and met with a group of them at President Wallace D. Loh’s request, according to the Diamondback, the school’s major independent student newspaper. The Diamondback recently published a special project explaining each specific demand as it relates to students, which you can see here. (A full list of the demands is below.)
The petitioners listed the communities of students that participated in the initiative this way: “Marginalized, American Indian, Black, Latinx, LGBTQIA+, Muslim, Pro-Palestine, Undocumented.” No Jewish group at the university signed the list of demands, which include a call for “the active encouragement of faculty and students to engage in discourse and learning about the Palestinians’ struggles and the Boycott Divest and Sanction movement without fear of consequences by the university administration.” The BDS movement is a Palestinian-led global campaign to put economic and political pressure on Israel, and it is opposed by many Jewish students.
Asked for a comment about the demands and what the university would do in response, a university spokesman sent this response:
We commend the students for their passionate advocacy and for coming together in solidarity on these issues. President Loh has convened a group of his staff to thoroughly review the list of demands and make recommendations accordingly. That process is well underway.
A short time after the demands were publicized, white-nationalist posters appeared on the College Park campus; authorities said they appeared to be part of an effort targeted at colleges in a number of states, according to this Post story.
Among the 64 demands (which you can see in full below):
• Required diversity training for Greek organizations and groups recognized by the Student Government Association.
• An immediate response to hate speech or actions from university officials, including a consequence for the perpetrators.
• Penalties for groups that screen movies that “perpetuate false narratives and stereotypes” of Muslims.
• Acknowledgment during every campus event that “this is indigenous land,” along with efforts to “officially recognize the tribe or nation whose land upon which the University of Maryland is built.”
• One room in each major building designated for prayer.
• A full-time undocumented-student coordinator to advocate for, advise, represent and protect undocumented and “DACAmented students.” (DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields some undocumented immigrants from deportation.)
• A declaration of the College Park campus “as a sanctuary campus for undocumented and DACAmented students and their families.”
• Converting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies Program into a department in order to provide curricular autonomy.
• University System of Maryland divestment from Maryland Correctional Enterprises, the prison industry arm of Maryland’s Division of Corrections, as well as “student divestment from businesses and companies invested in MCE and the prison industrial complex.”
• Shuttle service for students on the College Park campus to the Diyanet Center of America in Lanham for “Muslim students to have access to a place of worship and participate in the many activities that the center hosts.”
The absence of Jewish groups from the initiative underscores continuing tensions between the Jewish and pro-Palestinian communities at the College Park campus. In April, for example, a celebration hosted by the Jewish Student Union called Israel Fest was protested by a few dozen students who carried pro-Palestinian flags, chanted and lay on the ground. The protesters left after security intervened. The Jewish Student Union’s website says it is the largest cultural and social organization recognized and sponsored by the university.
A statement issued to the Diamondback from ProtectUMD about why no Jewish groups signed the demands said that any community was welcome to participate. It said in part:
ProtectUMD is a coalition of organizations throughout the University of Maryland’s campus dedicated to uniting the different voices into one voice for change. When the coalition was created, multiple organizations were contacted to participate while others contacted us themselves. Not all organizations chose to be a part of the coalition. ProtectUMD respects this choice. No one organization is in charge of the coalition and as such, the purpose of ProtectUMD is not to prioritize demands but uplift the needs of all marginalized communities. As a result of this, we did not turn away any communities that wished to stand with us.
The newspaper’s project includes video responses from a few Jewish student leaders about why their groups did not participate. Sam Fishman of the Jewish Student Union said, for example:
In the ProtectUMD letter, they kind of indirectly call out JSU for smearing them as anti-Semitic. And the exact quote is, “Administration should support and defend activist groups by nullifying slander and smear campaign from bigger group.” JSU also happens to be one of the largest student groups on campus. “Example: Many members of [Students for Justice in Palestine] were slandered as anti-Semitic for being pro-Palestine.” That is a clear reference, I believe, to our response to the protests at Israel Fest last year. And first of all, if you read my opinion piece in the Atlanta Jewish Times and [JSU President Julia Ring’s] in the Diamondback, you will not see the words “anti-Semitic” anywhere. You will not see us accusing them of hating Jews. We rebuke their positions on Israel, sort of. And we call for why they should not have protested our event. But never do we smear them as anti-Semitic. And I think to call JSU out for that is completely ridiculous.
The groups that signed the list of demands are: the African Students Progressive Action Committee; Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority,Theta Nu chapter; Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Iota Zeta chapter; the American Indian Student Union; Ashley Vasquez, Behaviorial and Social Science College, University Senate, Committee on Committees undergraduate representative; Bisexuals at Maryland; the Black Student Union; Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, Chi chapter; the Coalition of Latinx Student Organizations; Community Roots; Sigma Gamma Rho sorority, Eta Beta chapter; the Ethiopian Eritrean Student Association; Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Kappa Phi chapter; Katherine Swanson, student body president; U-Md. NAACP; Lambda Theta Alpha Latin sorority, Upsilon chapter; Lambda Theta Phi Latin fraternity, Delta Eta chapter; the Muslim Students Association; True Colors of Maryland; Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society; Preventing Sexual Assault; the Pride Alliance; Students for Justice in Palestine; the Student Labor Action Project; and Our Revolution.
The 64 demands follow, and each is linked to the linked Diamondback story:
For All Marginalized Student Communities
- Required diversity training for SGA recognized and Greek organizations.
- The University employ more professors of color in all university departments
- Increased mental health support and resources for students of color.
- University scholarships for students of marginalized communities.
- A statement from President Loh reassuring marginalized UMD students that the University is committed to making UMD a safe space for all marginalized groups in response to the election and urging these students to speak out when they feel that the university is not meeting this goal.
Accountability for hate speech or action:
- Immediate response to hate speech or actions from the University including a consequence (e.g. mark on transcript, potential suspension);
- Immediate turnaround for the removal of hate speech printed or written on campus property, sidewalks and boards;
- A task force separate from UMPD officers to look into investigations.
- Revamping of the Diversity and Cultural Competency General Education requirement.
- Students that meet this requirement should take a class that allows them not only to understand other cultures, but also by the end of the course have an understanding of privilege, oppression, and marginalized groups.
- Representation of students of color on UMD Student Judiciary and Senate.
- Study into the punishment statistics by race/gender/etc. of students at some point in the coming year — the legal system is rife with discrimination against minorities, especially those in poverty. It is crucial that our student judiciary is more equitable and gives all students a fair judgement.
- Establishing a voluntary accreditation for activist groups.
- Administration should support and defend activist groups by nullifying slander and smear campaign from bigger group. Example: Many members of SJP were slandered as anti-Semitic for being pro-Palestine;
- Make free legal advice available for students participating in activism who face slander or other dishonest claims while exercising their rights to protest and free speech;
- Provide protection during campus events that might make students feel unsafe because of their political implications [ie Israel Fest for Muslim and Arab students, Columbus day and Independence Day for American Indian students etc.].
- The University of Maryland match the campus minimum wage to Prince George’s minimum wage.
- An established safe, secure and permanent location for the Office of Civil Rights & Sexual Misconduct at The University of Maryland.
- The creation and implementation of Dean of Students with supporting staff.
- Serve as liaison for student needs and concerns on behalf of administration
- Get to know student groups on campus and is actively available for students; makes efforts to attend student engagements
- Serve as an ally to marginalized students
- Help implement policy change on behalf of student concerns
- Master’s or Doctoral degree in Education Administration
- Experience in diversity and inclusion on institutional level
- Preferably a representative from a vulnerable group
- Students serve on Dean of Students search committee along with other staff, professors and administrators
For the American Indian Student Community
- The University officially remove the Christopher Columbus Day holiday from all university materials and mediums. Replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day to take away the stain of colonialism from our University.
- Acknowledge during every event, that “this is indigenous land.” Make efforts to officially recognize the tribe or nation whose land upon which the University of Maryland is built.
- Establish an Indigenous Studies minor.
- Funding for AISU and departments such as Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy office, who supports indigenous students and their efforts.
- The official recognition of the Sarah Winnemucca award in the University awards.
- An indigenous scholarship for college students as well as high school students.
- An indigenous cultural center where students can explore their indigenous identity and others.
For the Black Student Community
- University System of Maryland divestment from Maryland Correctional Enterprises.
- UMD student divestment from businesses and companies invested in MCE and the prison industrial complex.
- Tenure for African American professors.
- Increased funding for the Nyumburu Cultural Center and making the Nyumburu Cultural Center a stop during UMD campus tours.
For the Latinx Student Community
- A claim to physical space on campus. A school that prides itself on diversity has failed to give students of color adequate, quality space such as a Latinx Cultural Center.
- University recruitment practices involving students of color that making them and their friends feel welcome and included on campus.
- A faculty body that is more diverse and representative of branches of academia that deal with the history and discourse of minority populations and integrating this into majors such as a USLT major and a road for tenure for the professors who teach in these departments.
- More funding allocated for multicultural student organizations in order to execute educational and cultural programming to help bridge the diversity divide on campus.
For the LGBTQIA+ Student Community
- Mandated faculty training in the fundamentals of campus inclusion of queer folks.
- Students be allowed the choice of different gender roommates in the residence halls through random matching.
- Multi-stall gender-inclusive bathrooms in every building with multi-stall bathrooms.
- Converting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Studies program into a department in order to provide curricular autonomy.
- Including pronouns in addition to names on student rosters seen by faculty and advisors.
- Implementing a campus wide policy to replace male-female checkboxes with write-in boxes on all forms, surveys, and applications.
- Gender neutral bathrooms in all buildings on campus.
- Faculty (especially those working in the health center and counseling center), students, and college park police take part in queer diversity training, such as the Rainbow Terrapin Network.
- The administration advocate for and defend the Arts and Humanities, as they are one of the departments most sensitive to LGBTQ issues and also one of the most at risk under new state and federal leadership.
For the Muslim Student Community
- Protect the names and religious/ethnic affiliations of students should they be demanded from the government for harmful use.
- An increase in the number of safe, designated prayer areas on campus.
- One room in each major building (e.g. SPH, Chemistry, McKeldin etc.) designated for prayer.
- Shuttle services to the Diyanet Center of America for Muslim students to have access to a place of worship and participate in the many activities that the center hosts.
- Increased discussions about the diversity of the Muslim community on campus and worldwide.
- More classes offered pertaining to Islam and the Muslim world taught by Muslim professors, who will counteract the negativity surrounding the name of Islam that is perpetuated by our culture and media.
- Measures to prevent situations similar to the “American Sniper” situation from happening again.
- SEE and other organizations on campus should have better judgement when choosing to show movies that perpetuate false narratives and stereotypes of Muslim and should be held accountable if they do not take this into consideration.
- More Zabiha options on the campus meal plan to accommodate Muslims who adhere to those rulings.
- More counselors who are sensitive to the needs of Muslim students. Ensure that the have the training be sensitive to the nuances in the Muslim community and are from the communities we often come from.
- Additional training or staff is necessary.
For the Pro-Palestine Student Communities
- The encouragement of equal and positive representation of Pro-Palestinian human rights activists on campus. Specifically, condemning the conflation of Pro-Palestinian activism with racism and Anti-Semitism.
- Pro-Palestinian activists are people who seek the fair treatment of Palestinians in Palestine and the rest of the world. Pro-Palestinians do not reject the human rights of any group of people, and encourage a fair and just system of governance across the globe.
- The active encouragement of faculty and students to engage in discourse and learning about the Palestinians’ struggles and the Boycott Divest and Sanction movement without fear of consequences by the university administration.
- Faculty and students have long been targeted for their political stances and their rights to free speech impeded, especially on this issue. We hope the university administration recognizes their disenfranchised groups and helps develop an environment within which it is safe for them to voice their opinions.
For the Undocumented Student Community
- A full-time Undocumented Student Coordinator to advocate for, advise, represent, and protect undocumented and DACAmented students.
- A declaration of the University of Maryland, College Park as a sanctuary campus for undocumented and DACAmented students and their families.
- Ensured protection of student information about immigration status from local, state, and government agencies.
- A system to ensure reaction and protection from the UMD Administration if an undocumented or DACAmented student faces detention or deportation proceedings.
- A full-time immigration attorney for the Offices of Undergraduate and Graduate Student Legal Aid.
- An Undocumented Student Resource Office to provide academic counseling, legal support, mental health counseling, and to guide students to university resources.
- Mandatory training about undocumented students’ unique experiences and needs in academic settings for all university faculty and staff.
- A significant expansion of mental health services for all students of color, especially undocumented and DACAmented students.
- A system to ensure that DACAmented students can continue to receive in-state tuition if their DACA status is canceled.
- An opening up of merit scholarships and emergency funds to undocumented and DACAmented students.