Following a march to Ballou Hall and the occupation of an administrative office on Monday, students and administrators settled on a list of five agreements addressing university support for the race and ethnic studies program that will have Africana studies at its core.
Students march on Ballou
A group of approximately 60 students marched to Ballou Hall on Monday after a rally for Black Solidarity Day on the upper patio of the Mayer Campus Center to present a list of demands to the administration in regards to the creation of an Africana studies department.
The purpose of the march was to speak with administrators as well as educate University President Anthony Monaco on the history of students' requests for Africana studies, Tabias Wilson, a student representative for the group and president of the Pan-African Alliance (PAA), said.
Wilson, a junior, believes that past meetings between students and administrators to address students' concerns about Africana studies have largely been unsuccessful.
Dean of Arts and Sciences Joanne Berger-Sweeney held an open meeting on Sept. 20 to address the proposed creation of a race and ethnic studies program, which Wilson characterized as particularly tense, with many students walking out of the meeting.
After that, a group of approximately 80 students organized regular meetings to discuss their concerns about the race and ethnic studies program, he said.
Participants included members of groups such as the PAA, Queer Straight Alliance (QSA), the Asian American Alliance (AAA), Tufts Education Society and Tufts Occupiers, according to Wilson.
"It was a collective effort from multiple people and from multiple groups," junior Jameelah Morris, a student representative for the group and vice president of the PAA, said.
The group had been planning for some time to march on Ballou Hall following the Black Solidarity Day Rally, according to Wilson. The group began to solidify a list of demands for the administration in the two weeks prior to the march.
Interim Provost and Senior Vice President Peggy Newell, who attended the rally, told the Daily she was unaware that students were going to march on Ballou Hall.
When students arrived at Ballou Hall, they presented a list of demands to Berger-Sweeney, Newell and Monaco. The list included several points that students have brought up with Berger-Sweeney before, Wilson said.
"Nothing in that list of demands was anything that was new," Wilson said. "These were things that have been communicated to Dean Berger-Sweeney time and time again."
The list of demands included the creation of an Africana studies department as well as the release of the report generated by an external review committee evaluating Africana studies at Tufts.
There were two reports issued by evaluating bodies last school year. One was created by members of the Tufts community — students, faculty and staff as well as an external consultant — and it was made public earlier this semester. The second report was generated by an external review committee, which was charged with evaluating the findings of the Tufts Task Force and conducting its own assessment, and has not been released.
The list also demanded that students have equal input on the board that will create the race and ethnic studies program and that the program "provide tenure for professors focused primarily on Africana Studies."
Students and admin agree on five points
Monaco requested that three students represent the group in a conversation with him and Berger-Sweeney and Newell.
The group selected Wilson, Morris and graduate student Romina Green. The students and administrators then held a two-and-a-half hour meeting during which they discussed student and administrative concerns.
The students and administrators settled on five points, which they presented later to the rest of the occupiers for approval.
Newell worked with the three students to draft the agreements into a formal document, which was signed by the six negotiators with the approval of the other students, Wilson said.
The first agreement states that Berger-Sweeney will ask the three members of the external review committee to release their findings to the public. If the three members agree, they will release their findings, but if even one member disagrees, the committee will not release the findings.
Berger-Sweeney has declined in the past to release the external review committee's findings, Wilson said.
The document also states the administration will provide institutional support to the race and ethnic studies program, with Africana studies at its core.
This element was a sticking point during the meeting, according to Morris.
"It took a long time for us to get some form of clarification when they were talking about this in negotiations," she said.
The document states that the university anticipates hiring three tenure-track faculty in existing departments, with an obligation to participate in the program for Africana studies, which will be the first area in the race and ethnic studies program to be staffed. The hiring of faculty will contribute to a foundation for an Africana studies major, according to the document.
Before Monday's agreement, students had no guarantee that Tufts would hire tenure-track faculty or provide institutional support for Africana studies, according to Wilson.
The third point addresses students' participation in the working group of faculty who will create the race and ethnic studies program.
It states that students will have an open meeting with the working group before Feb. 1, 2012 to express their opinions. After that time, a group of up to four students will participate in some, but not all, of the working group's meetings.
The PAA will select two of these students from the PAA by consensus, and the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate will select one or two additional students, according to Wilson.
Wilson pushed at the meeting for maximum student participation in the working group.
"I felt that there needed to be some level of trust and some rapport there so it wasn't just a transitory relationship where this information was being passed back and forth," he said.
The document also stipulates that the administration will update the Tufts community on recent progress made on the points put forth by Berger-Sweeney in her Sept. 14 letter by Nov. 30 and provide a plan and timeline for her initiatives by Feb. 1, 2012.
The administration has the obligation to fulfill these promises by the outlined dates, Wilson said.
"I plan to hold the president and the provost and Dean Berger-Sweeney wholly accountable," he said.
The last point on the document states that Berger-Sweeney is working to "foster interdisciplinary studies" as well as periodically review the new program.
Students and administrators react
Morris said the meeting was highly productive.
"I walked away [Monday] feeling that we did a lot," she said. "There is a future of cooperation at the university."
Newell, too, described the conversation as "constructive and useful."
"I left very proud of those students," she said. "I think they handled themselves beautifully and they had things on their mind that were clearly very important to them and they felt a responsibility to be sure that the administration was listening to those things."
Newell said that students did not force the administration into agreeing to these points.
"I don't feel like anybody forced anyone's hand," she said. "I would hope that what we accomplished on Monday was an understanding that we can have these kinds of constructive conversations."
Students have occupied administrative buildings before as a method of protest, but it has not happened in the past several decades, Newell said.
Newell said that those occupying the building were respectful and not disruptive.
"They came because they wanted to have a conversation," she said. "I think they handled it appropriately and responsibly."