Demonstrators At Brandeis Say They're Prepared To Protest Through Thanksgiving

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Students who last week began protesting what they say is a lack of diversity on campus say they plan to continue their occupation of an administration building at Brandeis University.

The group released several demands they want met by next fall's academic semester, including calls for an increase in the number of black students, faculty and staff at Brandeis.

The students have been inside and in front of the administration building since Friday, and they say they are prepared to stay through Thanksgiving and are seeking further dialogue with the administration.

"Since I've been here, I've definitely found a place within the black community on campus, but I haven't found a place on this campus as a whole, specifically," said Gilberto Rosa, a freshman from New York, who was one of about 70 protesters who gathered Monday.

Rosa said the protest is about students being made to feel welcome.

"And I feel like this institution should make space for the black community and accept them and really hear what we say and make this our home," Rosa said.

Brandeis says non-Hispanic blacks make up 5 percent of undergraduates. According to a federal database, Brandeis is in the middle of the range of similarly sized private nonprofit four-year colleges in Massachusetts, where black students make up from 2 to 6 percent of undergraduate enrollment.

As for faculty and staff at Brandeis, non-Hispanic blacks make up 1.5 percent of the faculty, 2 percent of staff.

The protesters have the support of some faculty.

"I think it's historic," said Eric Olson, a senior lecturer in environmental studies. "I think that it's opening eyes all around campus. It certainly has opened my eyes, the way I first read the letter of demands to [interim] President Lisa Lynch."

No one from the administration would agree to a recorded interview, but in an all-campus email, Lynch said she met with the students for five hours on Friday and then met with university trustees over the weekend.

Lynch says she is committed to working to further advance diversity at Brandeis and is proposing to use town halls, teach-ins and existing institutions, such as the student union, to identify ways to accelerate efforts to increase diversity and inclusion on campus. She also points out that a new position — vice president of diversity and inclusion — will be filled by July 1.

The interim provost also sent an email to faculty telling them they may use their discretion in regard to class attendance and completion of academic work by students engaged in the protests.

This segment aired on November 24, 2015.

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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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