OP-ED: Results May Vary

Hannah Paul and Aliyah Fard, President and Vice President of Whitman's Black Student Union

This piece was originally published to Issuu by Hannah Paul and Aliyah Fard on July 20, 2020.

Whitman College pledges to provide a “liberal arts education to… students from diverse backgrounds… that prioritizes student learning within and beyond our classrooms”

*Results May Vary

Black, Indigeneous, People Of Color & Allies Demands of Whitman College

Recently, the Whitman administration created the Whitman Inclusion Task Force (the third one in six years) with the goal of “working to make Whitman a more inclusive and equitable community, where every member can share a sense of belonging. The task force will examine systems and structures within the college through an equity and inclusion lens”. Historically, these task forces have not met the demands that students have presented time and time again. Now that there is pressure from students and alumni, the Whitman administration has decided to take steps and listen to students; however, this is not enough. The task force does not target the root of systemic issues that manifest at Whitman College.

The new task force has requested BIPOC students, who’s emotional labor has been exploited for years, to answer their questions regarding “diversity and inclusion” at Whitman. However, BIPOC students have already created instructional documents that address the inquiries of the task force. We have already shared “concerns that affect the student community.” We have already “shared individual experiences” and we have already “offered potential steps to build a more inclusive campus”. We have created meetings, and written emails, all of which have been ignored. Therefore we, as BIPOC students, have created this particular document to demand Whitman administration to take the following, necessary steps in creating the anti-racist campus we are all working towards. We need action leaps and outcomes.

Attached is a direct copy of the demands created by the Whitman College Black Student Union on September 14th, 1970. We are using this space to acknowledge the work Whitman College has done in attempts to create a sustaining environment for BIPOC students. This document will also reveal the changes that are still needed and what the current Black Student Union is currently demanding from administration. This document is a direct guide as to how Whitman can become a more inclusive, equitable and anti-racist environment.

These demands can be found on page four of the original Issuu document.

To begin, Whitman College administration has made some progress in attempts to meet the original demands from the 70’s:

  1. In Comparison to 2015, Whitman had 303 BIPOC students. In 2020 Whitman College has admitted an additional 65 BIPOC students raising the total to 368 BIPOC students. We acknowledge the admissions of a broad base of Students of Color, however Whitman has not successfully admitted 100 Black students as demanded in 1970. Black students cannot be grouped together with all People of Color.
  2. 2015: 20.6% of the student population identified as BIPOC (not including international students). This number has increased to 24.4% in 2020. a. An increase of 1.1% Black/African-American students. b. An increase of 1.2% Latinx/Hispanic students. c. An increase of 0.1% Native American students.
  3. Whitman college has put financial resources to incoming first years through the Summer Fly-In program which was created in the summer of 2015. a. The summer fly-in was created as a result of Emma Rust, Jessica Palacios and Anna Zheng voicing their frustrations as first generation/working class students in the 2015-2016 school year.
  4. A Black counselor (Dr. Rae Chresfield) was hired by Whitman College to strengthen the representation of BIPOC Students in 2019. Additionally Deanna Ortiz (a Mexican-American woman) was also hired in addition to Dr. Rae Chresfield. We are of course not implying that these two counselors were hired solely to represent BIPOC students, but their representation has provided a voice that was not present before.
  5. A tutoring program was created for students who are experiencing difficulties in certain fields at no extra cost. The ARC is extremely accessible and supportive of all Whitman students.

The demands yet to be completed by the Whitman College Administration from the 1970’s demands: The following is verbatim from the original document shown above.

  1. That an emphasis shall be placed upon the admissions office in the procedures of recruiting Black students and other ethnic groups to the Whitman College campus. a. That an emphasis shall be placed upon the admissions office in the procedures or recruiting Black students and other ethnic groups to the Whitman College campus. b. More stress shall be placed within the areas in which Black students and other ethnic groups might be interested. c. A reevaluation of the admissions board and its policies dealing with the acceptance of incoming Blacks and other ethnic students.
  2. That a Black viewpoint be more prevalent in the fields of study offered by Whitman College. In such fields as a.Art, b.English, c.History, d.Economics, e.Philosophy f.Political Science and g.Sociology.

Chapter 2: The Black Student Union, Men of Color Association, Woman of Color Voices, Pan Asian Club, Whitman African Student Association, Indigeneous People’s Education and Culture Club, Mixed Race Club, South Asian Students Association, Queer Trans People of Color and Alliance of Whitman (still) Demands Reparations

BSU Demands to Whitman College:

We, the leaders of the Whitman College Black Student Union in conjunction with the members of the Black Student Union, eight BIPOC clubs and allies are presenting a list of ten demands concerning the future conditions of BIPOC students of the Whitman community. Since 1970 the Whitman administration has displayed a clear lack of effort towards actively participating in creating an anti-racist environment for BIPOC students. On numerous occasions Whitman has failed to create proactive responses about current racial violence in America, racial tensions on campus, and the mistreatment from Whitman administration. As a result, Whitman has invoked an unsafe environment for Students of Color, especially Black students. Unfortunately, sending out Ibram Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist is not enough. As stated previously, we need action leaps and not small steps.

Due to the lack of effort upon the part of the Whitman administration we, the Black Student Union, Men of Color Association, Woman of Color Voices, Pan Asian Club, Whitman African Student Association, Indigeneous People’s Education and Culture Club, Mixed Race Club, South Asian Students Association, Queer Trans People of Color and Alliance of Whitman present the following demands of which we feel deeply concerned. The demands are as follows:

  1. A direct, written TIMELY response to all of the demands listed with an explanation of how these demands will come into fruition or why certain demands cannot be met. We request our demands to be addressed by Kathy Murray, Kazi Joshua and Thomas Witherspoon. Additionally, we call for a response to the following documents: a. For the Record b. Whitman Admin, Can You Hear Us Now? c. We Need to Thrive: Women of Color Manifesta
  2. A required first year anti-racist course similar to that of Encounters, but taught by majority BIPOC professors with an emphasis on Black professors. The anti-racism resources page on Whitman College’s website clearly states that the second step to becoming actively anti-racist is education, which is “critical to disrupt the cycle”. Despite this claim, Whitman has not made this crucial education available to its students. a. This course should heavily feature texts from BIPOC authors with a unit on global literature. b. We demand that marginalized voices constitute at least half of the syllabus with several of these works exempting the focus on enslavement/trauma. c. Implement an independent study/research course for BIPOC or any student to research and present on a topic that revolves around race and get academic credits for it. d. We demand an emphasis on educating about colonization through BIPOC perspectives alongside the history of the people whose land we inhabit.
  3. A racial bias training workshop for all non BIPOC professors, health and counseling center faculty, and ASWC members. This should be completed prior to the start of every school year and to be presented from an external third party organization. This should be a mandatory requirement completed several times a year. Example: Racial Equity Resource Guide.
  4. A mandatory racial bias workshop taught during first year orientation for all new students. We encourage you to not put this burden on faculty/professors but to search for those who do this work for a living. a. With a focus on microaggressions including derogatory language and respecting Professors of Color. b. In addition, please see this document with resident life demands. We expect a response to this document as well.  https://docs.google.com/document/d/18upvLI9tBsTHgZAqSMo19XYVOAviCNkzDXF9rtuSlew/edit?usp=sharing
  5. An active recruitment and retainment of Black and Indigenous professors and faculty as outlined in We Need to Thrive: A Manifesta. a. A Black studies department is long overdue. Creating this will allow for a recruitment of Black professors. b. An Indigenous studies department is long overdue as few classes actually address Indigenous issues/teachings. c. We want to clearly highlight We Need to Thrive: A Manifesta written by faculty of color highlighting their demands for an equitable and sustainable place for them to not just survive but thrive. Failure to acknowledge the demands of these Women of Color risks an environment in which they are unable to exist comfortably in comparison to their counterparts. d. Thoughtfully consider wider search pools for faculty and professors of BIPOC within different regions of the U.S. and around the world.
  6. We demand transparent communication. This will entail yearly updates and public posts of Whitman’s retention rates including specifics for BIPOC students. a. Prospective students should have access to these yearly updates easily like we have access to class profiles. b. In order to address the gap in communication between students, faculty and administrators we urge that Whitman College be completely transparent in all further inclusion task force meetings in either video or transcript form.
  7. That a Black and Indigenous viewpoint be more prevalent in all fields of study offered by Whitman College. a. In other words, we require all of the fields and departments at Whitman College to become decolonized. If in need of where to start please ask for the anti racist shared google drive created by the Alliance of Whitman outlining anti-racist and inclusive materials for each major department. We would be glad to share it with you.
  8. That Whitman College partners with Historically Black Colleges around the nation for those interested in being exchange students. a. According to the Off Campus Studies Website, Whitman partners with four schools to study nationally , yet none of them are HBCUs. Additionally, Whitman College partners with several other institutions such as CalTech and Columbia University. We demand that a partnership with at least two HBCUs be implemented.
  9. Add more African languages to the foriegn language department curriculum. Additionally, consider the creation of a Black/African interest house for the cultural benefit of Whitman.
  10. That the Whitman College administration writes their own demands for themselves and what they can do in order to make Whitman an anti-racist institution. These demands should be shared with the Black Student Union, Whitman African Student Association, Men of Color Association, Woman of Color Voices, Pan Asian Club, the Indigenous Peoples Education and Culture Club, Mixed Race Club, South Asian Students Association, Queer Trans People of Color and the Alliance of Whitman. These demands must explicitly state what they can complete, will complete and “cannot” complete.

These demands are of the utmost importance to our future lives at Whitman College, and to the future of incoming BIPOC students. We must consider the necessity and importance of these demands. We must emphasize that the burden should not fall on BIPOC students, staff or faculty to fix these issues.

We must acknowledge that the administration must take accountability for the demands they have not met and the trauma they have inflicted upon its studentS, not with empty words, but with action. Implementing these demands is the ONLY way to start to mend these harms. If these demands are not addressed we will be forced to take measures upon ourselves.

The United States will be minority white by 2045. Current 18 year olds are already over 50% People of Color. If Whitman waits to address the issues raised by BIPOC students for another 20, or 50 years, it will fail as an institution altogether. We expect these demands to be put into immediate action.

“Radical simply means grasping things at the root.”

– Angela Davis

We (the President and Vice President of the Whitman College 2020 Black Student Union) could not have completed this document without the help from the BIPOC clubs, affinity groups on campus, the Alliance of Whitman and the 1970 Whitman College Black Student Union who wished more for us. We continue where they left off and we honor them.

We want to highlight that this work could not have been done without past BIPOC students especially Women of Color, always paving the way for a better environment and future with their astounding activism.

Whether you gave us one or several edits, we see you, we hear you and we deeply appreciate you. We hope that this document represents the type of change you want for a better college environment and community. Below is a list of those who sent us recommendations and suggestions.

Aby Ramata Mbaye

Bornnie Kabongo

Cheysen Cabuyadao – Sipe

Daniel Dang

Daphne Gallegos (alumni)

Erica Keevama

Eboni Haynes

Ellie Klein (alumni)

Erina Horikawa (alumni)

Grace Fashanu

Jasmine Razeghi

Jess Boyland

Jeff Mutethia

Jenny Kim

Jordon Crawford

Julia Goodley

Kalilou Ali Kadiri

Kira Joseph-Lim

Nehali Dave (alumni)

Mohammed Rashed

Nancy Delgado

Nia Combs

Toyona Howard

& Allies of which there are too many to name. Thank you.