Occidental College Pres. 'Happy to Resign,' Amherst Pres. Defends Right to Protest
Protests on college campuses continue.
By Sheryl Estrada
Occidental College and Amherst College are thousands of miles apart. Yet they are the two latest schools where students are voicing their opinions on the racial climate on campus.
Oxy United for Black Liberation Group, a student organization at Occidental College in Los Angeles, is demanding the resignation of President Johnathan Veitch.
Hundreds of students began staging a sit-in of a campus administration building on the Eagle Rock campus Monday and continued the protest into Tuesday. Activists say Veitch has not remedied an atmosphere of racial insensitivity fueled by a lack of diversity on campus.
Oxy United gave the administration a list of 14 demands on Thursday, which includes the "immediate" resignation of Veitch, more diversity training for students and faculty, immediate removal of the Los Angeles Police Department on campus, the creation of a fully-funded Black studies program and an increase in funding for minority student groups.
The demands are currently under review by the administration.
"We definitely welcome the opportunity to engage those in a meaningful and thoughtful way," Marty Sharkey, the school's associate vice president of marketing and communications, told the Los Angeles Times.
Last week, students showed solidarity with University of Missouri, where student protests led to the resignation of Timothy Wolfe. Mary Spellman, who served as a dean of Claremont McKenna College in Los Angeles, also resigned from her position following protests.
Some incidents of racism at Occidental include a student being called the N-word on campus and, last year, a fraternity party with an End of the World-Malaysian Air-ISIS-Ebola theme.
During a demonstration on Thursday, Veitch responded to Oxy United's list of demands.
"We simply can't meet every demand on that list," he said, adding, "I will honor the conversation."
When a student shouted, "So resign," he responded, "And I do not cling to this job. I'm happy to resign."
Veitch received criticism from students and faculty for leaving the demonstration after students questioned the administration's handling of allegations of sexual assault. Students want their demands to be met by Friday.
Veitch said on Tuesday he will not resign. In an email he wrote:
To the community, I ask that you help me find a way to restart and maintain a conversation about diversity and inclusion that will be transformative. Over the next 24 hours, I am personally reaching out to leaders of this movement and inviting them to join me in this important work.
Last year, he received a contract extension from school trustees, which runs through 2020.
Sharkey said the school administration is not going to force students to leave the administration building.
"We're not going to shut anything down," he said. "They've been conscientious and respectful. They'll be able to stay 24 hours a day."
The college has approximately 2,100 undergraduate students, of which 52 percent are white, 16 percent Latino, 13 percent Asian, 4 percent Black and less than 1 percent Native American.
"This institution ignores how uncomfortable we feel on a day-to-day basis," organizer Diamond Webb said.
A student sit-in at Amherst College's Robert Frost Library took place from Thursday until Sunday. The protest, coined by students as the "Amherst Uprising," was an opportunity for students to air their grievances as well as share experiences of racism on campus.
"Seeing the crying, the insecurity, people so seriously isolated that they were at the point of breaking down in front of their peers and being forced to take leaves for multiple semesters was really impactful," said Mostafavi, a graduate student pursuing environmental conservation at UMass.
Students compiled a list of 11 demands for President Biddy Martin.
Demands include several statements of apology from Martin and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Cullen Murphy to students, alumni and faculty regarding injustices on campus and institutional legacy of white supremacy as well as a statement condemning the "inherent racist nature" of the school's unofficial mascot, "Lord Jeff," and the removal of its image from all memorabilia.
Both the college and the town of Amherst are named after Lord Jeffery Amherst. The 18th century governor-general is said to have given Native Americans smallpox by means of infected blankets to wipe out the population.
According to the New York Times, Don Faulstick, the athletic director at the college, told more than 100 students assembled in a hall on campus on Tuesday the college athletic teams have been removing the mascot from athletic gear since September.
"I said to my staff, 'We're moving on here; the Lord Jeff is done,'" Faulstick said.
The student body of the top-ranked liberal arts college in Massachusetts is 42 percent white, 13 percent Latino, 13 percent Asian, 12 percent Black and less than 1 percent Native American.
Martin issued a statement on Sunday about the protest and students' experiences with racism:
The depth and intensity of their pain and exhaustion are evident. That pain is real. Their expressions of loneliness and sense of invisibility are heartrending. No attempt to minimize or trivialize those feelings will be convincing to those of us who have listened.
In regards to the list of demands, she said, "While expressing support for their goals, I explained that the formulation of those demands assumed more authority and control than a president has or should have."
Martin also commented on the national protests taking place:
Our students' activism is part of a national movement of students who are devoted to bringing about much-needed change. They are exercising a fundamental American right to freedom of speech and protest. Student protesters at Amherst have been threatened on social media with physical violence. The College police are, as always, doing their job of keeping the campus safe. And the administration will ensure that no students, faculty, or staff members are subject to retaliation for taking advantage of their right to protest.
Jemel Roberson family's attorney says the task force has a habit of not disciplining, firing, or criminally charging officers in police shootings.
The Illinois State Police Public Integrity Task Force released a preliminary report less than three days after the shooting of Jemel Roberson, Black security guard in Robbins, Ill, which contradicted what witnesses and Roberson's family attorney have said.
"I think, at this point, everybody's qualified and everyone should run," Obama said, in jest. "I might even tap Sasha!"
We've never had a POTUS and FLOTUS like the Obama's before, and we've never had a Trump before. Two very different presidencies, one wrought with bigotry, racism and rampant white supremacy, and scandal, the other full of hope, unity and service. Former FLOTUS Michelle Obama says we need to pay attention to who is qualified in the next presidential election.
"I implored people to focus and think about what it takes to be commander-in-chief," Obama told Robin Roberts in a "20/20" interview, in reference to women electing a misogynist in 2016 instead of a qualified female candidate.
She expressed the importance of voting, but went beyond that to describe the kind of person qualified to run this country.
"The commander in chief needs to have discipline, and read, and be knowledgeable. You need to know history, you need to be careful with your words," she said.
"I'm going to be looking to see who handles themselves and each other with dignity and respect so that by the time people get to the general (election), people aren't beat up and battered," the former first lady, who said she will not run for president, stressed.
"I think this (Democratic nomination) is open to any and everybody who has the courage to step up and serve."
She even joked that at this point, anyone is qualified to run for president —even her daughter.
"I think, at this point, everybody's qualified and everyone should run," she said on Good Morning America "I might even tap (her younger daughter) Sasha!"
.@MichelleObama on whether Hillary Clinton should run for president in 2020: "I think at this point everybody is qualified and everybody should run. I might even tap Sasha!" https://t.co/E6lGKfK6oR pic.twitter.com/Axrvs7SDZQ
— Good Morning America (@GMA) November 13, 2018
Obama and her husband were about service before, during and after the presidency.
Candidates like Trump, drunk with power, have a past, present, and future that mirror that intoxication.
Coming off midterms there are questions about what to do next — investigations of Trump, what lessons did we learn articles, predictions of the 2020 election, but getting back to what a leader, a public servant of this country is supposed to do — lead by serving its people — is a message that voters can review candidate criteria with.
"It's amazing to me that we still have to tell people about the importance of voting," she said. "People have to be educated, they have to be focused on the issues and they have to go to the polls if they want their politics to reflect their values."
Obama explained, "Where I'm at right now is that we should see anybody who feels the passion to get in this race, we need them in there. Let's see who wants to roll up their sleeves and get in the race. That's what the primary process is for."
In looking at Trump's record, most of his decisions have been made to serve himself. His record of cheating employees out of money, not paying taxes, discriminating against Blacks in terms of who could claim residency in his buildings, misogynistic comments, scandals around payoffs for affairs — none of it shows signs of service.
Obama writes in her new memoir "Becoming" how Trump's division and bigoted messaging tactics to garner a movement to propel his campaign impacted her own family's safety:
"The whole [birther] thing was crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed. But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks."
In current times, his decisions in the White House usually involve a lot of divisive words to spark attention from white supremacists, "look what I did" moments on twitter for validation, and little about what the country needs, but instead what the country should be afraid of.
And that is not why you get the job in the first place.
A white man stabbed Ann Marie Washington in a subway station and "started punching her in her face because she was Black," a witness said.
A 57-year-old Black woman is recovering from surgery to repair a collapsed lung because while exiting a subway in Brooklyn, N.Y., she was punched in the mouth and stabbed by a white man who called her a "Black b--ch" The NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the attack as a hate crime.
Latino guests were the main targets, and individual checks aren't nearly enough for the "inconvenience."
The Children's Place may not be so welcoming if you're Black or Brown.
Miriam and Carlita Alejandro, Latinx sisters, shopping at The Children's Place in Camp Hill, Pa., got harassed by a nosey store clerk when they ask to price match clothes. A sales associate said the women were angry because they're on welfare.
Miriam said she was there to help a family who had lost everything in a fire by purchasing clothes for a child. Ms. Rhonda, the store clerk who was helping the ladies, said they may have to wait for the price check because the store was busy.
Miriam wrote on her Facebook page that she responded to Ms. Rhonda: "'Lancaster never gives us any issues or said such a thing, but okay.' Then Price Match Patty aka Genie who was never in our conversation started getting smart saying that we (my sister & I) 'were mad because we were on welfare.'"
Ms. Rhonda didn't know what to do when the Alejandro sisters reported what the nosey store employee said, but she attempted to chastise her. Miriam started recording to document the experience they had.
Price Match Patty has been fired, according to a company statement provided on Monday. Carlita Alejandro posted on Facebook that the company called and offered gift cards and reward points to continue spending her money at the retailer.
Because that's the way to handle your company's screw up-- buy off the people your employees have offended?
Alejandro wrote, "I will NEVER feel safe nor welcomed shopping their stores again!!"
The Children's Place has a history of discrimination. In 2000, they lost a lawsuit concerning profiling customers and had to provide anti-discrimination training in all stores in Massachusetts and hire a consultant to look at their policies.
Unrelated to the incident, two executives left the company this week (Pamela Wallack and Anurup Pruthi), "to pursue other opportunities" — the only minority and the only female in the C-Suite (other than the female CEO). The Children's Place Inc. has never participated in DiversityInc's Top 50 Companies for Diversity competition.
CEO and president Jane Elfers said, "As we approach the last phase of our major systems implementations, the opportunity exists for significant efficiencies across the organization, and today we are announcing a more streamlined senior leadership structure."
Price Match Patty has not been fully identified yet, but some commenters on social media say she's married to a Black man, like Key Fob Kelly in St. Louis. That wouldn't excuse her behavior anyway.
Others say they have been profiled at that same store by Price Match Patty and others before:
Her racist comments cost Susan Westwood her job, her apartment, and gave her a criminal record.
Susan Westwood's racist rant landed her simple assault and criminal threats charges and a warrant after leaving the scene where she harassed the Garris sisters outside their Charlotte, N.C., apartment complex, threatening them with concealed weapons.
The fake 911 call she made saying that the sisters were trying to break in also earned her a misdemeanor warrant for misuse of the 911 system, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
Westwood was booked by Sunset Beach Police on Saturday and transferred to the Brunswick County Sheriff's Department. She was later released.
The Garris sisters' attorney, Michael Phillips, brought up the safety issue in terms of concealed weapons and threats to residents to the Camden Fairview Apartments attorneys, and they agreed to evict Westwood.
"When I spoke with them and their legal counsel they agreed that that behavior was not going to be tolerated at their apartment complex," Phillips said.
Westwood had threatened to take out her concealed weapons after telling the sisters that she was white and hot, and that they didn't belong there.
The 911 call Westwood made was released by police:
"There are folks that are trying to break in. They're trying to get in the apartments. They are actually people that I've never seen here before ― but they are African American."
When the dispatcher said that police were already responding to a broken down car in that area, Westwood replied: "If you want to know my personal opinion, there's no car broken down. There's somebody trying to cause problems. Nobody breaks their car down in the best part of society."
"They just don't belong here. … Get them out of here," Westwood demanded. "I'll tell you what, I'll pay $2,500 to get them out of here."
In a recording of a call made by Garris, she told another dispatcher that she was still waiting for police while Westwood was harassing her.
Westwood was heard screaming, "You're not going to sell drugs here."
Garris had to call 911 twice to get a response about Westwood, and when they showed up Westwood had already gone. She was MIA for four days, before turning herself in.
"We are so distraught and still very upset about what has taken place only because of the color of our skin. It was so upsetting to know that today we still have this overt racism that's going on in 2018," said one of the sisters.
Cohen said Trump commented in 2016: "Black people are too stupid to vote for me."
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Returned during W's presidency, the murderer was released by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's department.