In the wake of Brown University issuing an article and video featuring our student-led walkout on November 16th, we felt the need to speak out and reject the co-optation of our action by the University. We also reaffirm our demands.
On November 18th, 2016, the Brown University Facebook page published a post two days after Brown’s #OurCampus/#SanctuaryCampus walkout. The post had a video made by a student of color they did not initially give credit to, a link to a news article about the walkout, and a caption that read “Students engaged in a large march and rally on campus Nov. 16, one of several around the country, to express concern for students whom they see as marginalized after a divisive election season.”
Yet, even though we personally invited President Paxson and Provost Locke to receive our demands days before the march, they chose not to come. Hundreds of community members marched around University Hall for about twenty minutes in the cold, chanting, “Administration, come out,” to no response from any administrator or University representative.
In response to a call by hundreds of community members to make Brown a sanctuary campus for its undocumented community, President Christina Paxson and Richard Locke wrote that, “Based on consultation with legal counsel, we have come to understand that private universities and colleges do not have such protection to offer legal sanctuary from members of law enforcement or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” If private universities cannot become sanctuary campuses, then how were 28 other colleges, including Columbia University, Wesleyan University, and Portland State, able to? Some of these campuses have much lower endowments and fewer resources than Brown has. Yet, they are committing themselves to becoming a sanctuary. We do not trust that the University has made enough of an effort to try to make Brown a sanctuary campus.
Furthermore, the article co-opts the student-led, organized, and mobilized walkout, while also co-opting the Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition’s (BIRC) student-led organizing that prompted the University to provide resources for undocumented and DACAmented students on campus. Similar co-optation can be seen in the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP). This Plan was not born out of Brown University’s self-realization, but out of student activism from 2015 and years before.
We refuse to let Brown use our work, our politics, and our bodies as marketing for their “liberal” agenda. We reject the neutral language that the administration uses to address these issues. This protest was not to “express concern for students whom they see as marginalized after a divisive election season” but rather to demand our University to actually put into action what they have so far only expressed in words. It is undisputable that undocumented students and students of color are marginalized and unprotected on this campus.
This is not new. Brown University has a history of co-opting student organizing and progressive actions as their own, without meeting student demands. For example, one of the demands in the walkout of November 16, 2015 included a demand from the 1968 Black student walkout at Brown. The University continues to fail to address student needs as proven by the fact that demands written in 1968 have yet to be met.
When Brown University uses student activism as publicity, and when Brown co-opts narratives of change that depict the University as the source of action, instead of the students, the radical roots of these progressive measures are erased. The students who put in countless hours of unpaid/underpaid work on these documents and actions are erased. This erasure must stop. Students should no longer have to serve as the moral compass for Brown University.
Brown University exists today because of its settler colonial displacement of Narragansett people and occupation of Narragansett territory, the enslavement of African peoples, and the continuous gentrification and displacement of Rhode Island locals. Brown is in debt to students of color and residents of color. When students are facing harassment for their identities both online and on the streets of Providence, the University cannot stay neutral. When student organizers receive death threats for their work, the University cannot stay neutral. Brown University has failed its underrepresented students of color. It continues to only enact change when it is pressured by student activism. It continues to not provide resources for all students to feel safe, included, welcomed, and ultimately be able to succeed.
We as students will continue to push to make sure Brown is accountable to its most vulnerable populations.
We also wish to direct attention to the #NoDAPL Water Protectors. The fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline continues. We also urge you to consider supporting the Water Protectors’ resistance with monetary support. Here are a few places you can contribute to.
With revolutionary love,
Our Campus – Brown