Author: Lauren Rewers
The Coalition @ Oxy for Diversity and Equity (CODE) organized a demonstration Thursday at 11:30 a.m., protesting a party planned by two members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and calling for a larger discussion on racism at Occidental. The party, called “End of the World Party: ISIS, Ebola, & Malaysian Airlines,” was announced in a Facebook event on Tuesday. It was removed from the social media site shortly thereafter.
Members and supporters of CODE protested outside of the Marketplace, calling to passerby with a megaphone and engaging in discussion with interested students and faculty. They also carried a chalkboard reading, “an apology is not enough,” in response to Phi Kappa Psi’s emailed apology to the campus on Wednesday.
“It’s indicative of institutionalized racism on this campus, something we don’t talk about enough,” Lucia Martinez (senior) said. “People are obviously really uncomfortable talking about it, but this needs to be addressed.”
Following the protest, CODE released an open letter to the Occidental community.
“Our goal here is not to demonize Phi Psi, but rather to recognize that the issues that their members brought up are ones that face the Occidental community more broadly,” they wrote.
These sentiments were echoed at a community conversation attended by students and members of the Dean of Students office and Residential Education and Housing Services on Friday. Several students said they felt unsafe on campus, as many had experienced backlash following the protest. They distributed a handout of threatening posts taken from the anonymous social media forum “Yik Yak” over the course of the last 48 hours as evidence.
“I’m honestly really, really terrified for this weekend,” one senior said.
Besides immediate safety concerns, students expressed frustration with what they saw as a lack of transparency and accountability in the administration’s handling of these issues. They asked for diversity training programs to be made mandatory for first-years and for more communication about the search for a chief diversity officer.
“We saw that our administration really cares about this issue and we are grateful that they will open their doors,” Bobby Rodriguez-Donoso (senior) said. “But we also saw an obvious need for structural changes, because everything we heard from the administration points to disorganization and ineffectiveness.”
The administration emphasized that the meeting was only a starting point for discussing both Tuesday’s incident and issues of diversity more broadly at Occidental. The chief diversity officer is not expected to start work at Occidental before next fall, according to Assistant Dean for Community Engagement Ella Turenne, but both she and Interim Dean of Cultural Affairs Sherry Simpson-Dean said they were always willing to talk to students in need.
“I actually thought that [the meeting] was productive,” Dean of Students Barbara Avery said. “I’m taking it to heart, and also to my colleagues. Students should never have to feel uncomfortable.”
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