Student diversity sit-in

Lucius Couloute

The 1997 Goodell Sit-in: A Movement Tired of Broken Promises

In the 1994 Administrative Response to the 1992 Alana (student-administration) Agreement, students were addressed by then Chancellor David Scott, who had this to say regarding diversity and multiculturalism; “We believe we must demonstrate our understanding of difference in our policies and our practices, in our habits of thought and in our daily routines”(Report on the 1992 Alana Agreement, 1994).  However, the students who organized the 1997 Goodell Takeover, felt that half-hearted statements and an inadequate commitment to student demands, could no longer be taken as an institutional normality. The organization of students to take over the Goodell building in 1997 became an outlet for student disgust, mistrust, and anger. In fact, it was the Bureaucratic neglect of underrepresented students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which enflamed hundreds of ALANA students and supporters to take direct action against the institution’s plutocratic mold.

During the early 90’s, students from UMASS Amherst had grown increasingly unsettled with the disproportionate amount of support going to white students, while the ALANA student body faced drastically low funding and minimal representation. In 1992, ALANA students took over the Whitmore Administrative building in an attempt to create change on campus and also to respond to the unsatisfactory Rodney King verdict. Their main concerns included lack of faculty and students of color, support programs, and adequate retention rates. What came out of the 1992 protest was an agreement by the Administration to meet certain student demands (Trefethen, 2003). Number one on the list of demands was to increase the minority representation on campus to 20% for the freshmen class of 1995 (Report on the 1992 Alana Agreement, 1994). Although this was agreed upon by the administration, the resulting acceptance rate in 1995, according the UMASS Office of Institutional Research, projected at only 18%. Another emphasized demand was the additional hiring of minority faculty on campus. The 1994 reply to this demand was that additional faculty had been hired, bringing their percentage up to 12.6% of all faculty in 1993- exactly the national average at the time (Report on the 1992 Alana Agreement).

However the issues didn’t stop there. In a special report of the AD HOC committee on

Admission practices and minority recruitment concerning the recruitment of ALANA candidates in 2001, it was reported that actual ALANA enrollment rate was only 17% in 1995. In 1996 and 1997, the enrollment temporarily spiked to 21%, however there was no concerted effort made to retain these percentages and support those enrolled students (Wolff, 2001).  Subsequent to the 1992 takeover and its formulated agreements, student realization of administration’s broken promises and lack of dedication became prevalent throughout campus. Numerous individuals, RSO’s, and even the Collegian spoke out against the inattention they were experiencing. In 1996, a Collegian article by Lisa Chiu explained the shock that incoming freshmen had experienced when they realized how small the ALANA population was on campus (Chiu, 1996).  SHADES, a former RSO created in the mid 1990’s, dedicated itself to “inform, educate, and celebrate the minority multicultural community.” However, due to a “severe lack of funding” it was forced to disband and subsequently spoke out against its deficient budget in the newspaper (Lugo, 1995).  It was issues such as these that helped act as catalysts for further mobilization of student protest.

Even the SGA was having issues on the basis of racism and ALANA representation. In 1996, Senator Peter Luongo and Senator Dan Kittredge co-authored a motion to repeal the voting power of the ALANA caucus. Claiming they were acting to ensure equality since the ALANA caucus senators were not elected by the customary constituency, what they in fact were claiming to do was cut off the ALANA voice in the SGA- thus decreasing their representation in general. Speaker Dan Castellano struck down the motion however, ruling it dilatory. Kittredge, making a statement to the collegian, claimed this was “reverse discrimination,” whereas Castellano declared the motion “anti-student,” and that their actions were “motivated by racial ignorance” (Elliot, 1996). Later that year, around 100 ALANA students occupied the campus activities office in the Student Union building in protest of SGA discrimination. The group occupied the building from 1pm May 8th until around 1am the next morning, explaining that their reason for demonstration was due to the fact that “organizations for minority students receive[d] far less funding than other registered student organizations” (McClarence, 2001). The students also attributed much of their anger to the student senate’s funding cuts for three culturally oriented groups, while many other groups received increases in funding (BG, 1996).

In addition to the local issues involving diversity and race at UMASS, on a national level, California’s Proposition 187 was also making headline news. In 1994, California voters approved a measure which attacked the non-white Californian community, especially those of Latino descent. One of its major provisions barred “illegal aliens from the state’s public education systems from kindergarten through university” (Golden, 1994).  It also required all health service providers “to report suspected illegal aliens to California’s Attorney General and to the INS, and police must determine the legal status of persons arrested.” (Golden, 1994) As Nelson Acosta, then director of the Office of ALANA Affairs, explained; “The passage of Proposition 187 in California and its impact here has helped to up the ante in the struggle for social justice and change” (Mahtowin, 1997).

In effect, what was taking place was a quasi-enlightenment period. Students had gotten angry; they felt they could no longer remain victims of marginalization. There had been an outcry for help and change- an outcry that was met with little response and plenty of vacant pledges on behalf of the administration.  An article excerpt by Dickie Wallace, a graduate student at the time, seems to sum up the preceding frustration best; “Something was up—that was the word around campus. Returning from winter break at the end of January, the talk was of some kind of student protest that would wake people up… The Black Student Union and other ALANA organizations were increasingly frustrated by the administration’s inattention to the issue of university accessibility to people of disadvantaged backgrounds—a five-year-old ALANA agreement seemed forgotten… Various other factions all had their issues, but their efforts didn’t seem to amount to more than a few drops in a bucket” (Wallace, 1997). It was time for a protest.

In Nancy Folbre’s The Invisible Heart, she explains the concept of equal opportunity and the basis by which it is and should be administered. Equal opportunity, she explicates is, “giving people incentive to try their best” and that “It cannot be consumed.” She goes further to say; “It must be constructed piece by piece by fostering human capacities for emotional and cognitive achievement. These capabilities are complicated and expensive to develop, because they require care- personalized, customized, sustained, and committed attention. However difficult it may be to measure the inputs and outputs, we know that human capabilities are enormously productive and intrinsically valuable” (Folbre, p. 157, 2002).  The students, in fact, were realizing this as well. Funding was being cut from culturally based RSO’s, ALANA representation was being threatened in the SGA, and most important, ALANA support and representation across campus was dismal at best.

On Monday March 3rd, 1997, a group of ALANA students organized a small rally on campus so as to distract authorities from their real plan. Small groups of two to three people began consistently sifting into the Goodell building until over 175 individuals had entered the Controller’s office- the takeover had begun (Wallace, 1997). As it was the sixth anniversary of the Rodney King beating, the day had significance in a multitude of ways. The original intention was to simply take over the Controller’s office, but because of the large turnout, many of whom had simply decided to take part in the protest right on the spot, the Controller’s office could not hold everyone and therefore, it was now the Goodell Takeover (Mahtowin, 1997). Carlos Iturrios, a freshmen student explained, “I was on my way to class when I passed the Goodell building and saw what was happening. I knew what the protest was about and right there and then I decided to sacrifice my classes and the conveniences of home to be with my fellow students and protest the Administration and Whitmore. The negotiations had started and all hopes were high” (Wallace, 1997). The building was full of students from different races, backgrounds, skin colors, each united for a unified cause- representation, support, and recognition.

Students from Amherst, Smith, Hampshire and Mount Holyoke would end up attending; two Amherst College students would even end up staying at the Takeover for the duration (Wallace, 1997). The planners of the Takeover had pre-arranged for a letter to be given to administration at the Dean’s office listing the student demands. This forced the administration to begin the first of 6 day negotiations (Wallace, 1997). Meanwhile, the workers in Goodell were forced to leave and the campus police shut down the building, including its telephone lines (Wallace 1997, Mahtowin 1997). An article from the Collegian Editorial Board, published March 4th read; “Yesterdays takeover of the Controller’s office in Goodell signals discontent with the Administration’s failure to meet their promises of 1992. Once again, the administration has proven to inadequately meet student needs…no other options are left open…We commend the protestors who took over the Controller’s office, for their actions and their effort to improve the University. It is important for all UMASS students to realize that the protestor’s demands, if met, will improve the overall University community for everyone – not just ALANA students.”(Editorial Staff, 1997)

As the first day transitioned to the second, the movement began catching additional steam. Various support groups and individuals began bringing in food and supplies; some even brought blankets and pillows for those planning on staying for the duration. Calls were being made via a pay phone and the manager of the campus radio station was able to facilitate a live broadcast from his cell phone to listeners campus-wide (Wallace, 1997). The support became immense by day three. Professors were even beginning to speak on the situation. John Bracey of the AFRO-AM studies department, and secretary of the Faculty Senate, had this to say to the students inside the Goodell building; “there is strength in numbers. Numbers can make the system slow down and pay attention to you…the institution says they’re committed to your concerns, so why not do yours first? And don’t feel that you’re being greedy by getting to the top of the list, or that you’re being selfish by having your demands met. You’re entitled to have your needs met.”(Chiu, 1997) Students had walked out of their 10:30am classes to show support and solidarity with those inside of Goodell.(Moynahan, 1997) Observers have described upwards of 1500 students outside the Goodell at peak hours, rallying and showing support for their fellow classmates.(Wallace, 1997) The students wanted, as Dickie Wallace, a graduate student protestor explained; “to really learn something about life.”(Wallace, 1997) Another student attending the takeover had this to say about his experience; “Even though it has not been easy, I can honestly say that this experience has educated me in so many ways about myself, others, and about life itself.”(Wallace, 1997)

The issue was that there still wasn’t any progress made by the administration at the end of day three. They had received two unsubstantial documents from administration that made no attempt to reply to the student demands; the letters simply stated that administration wanted to meet with a few designated student leaders. After meeting with the Goodell occupants, Ombudsman Robert Ackerman contacted Deputy Chancellor Marcellette Williams, the highest ranking campus administrator, to discuss further negotiations.(Chiu, 1997) Still however, by 10:00pm students had not heard from Williams.(Chiu, 1997) By Thursday, the movement had gained national notoriety. Articles in Jet Magazine, Workers World Newspaper, New York Times, Boston Globe, and the Daily Hampshire Gazette had all taken notice- not to mention news stations such as CNN (Burke, 1997). The negotiation process was painful and markedly slow, but the students’ moral was still relatively high. In fact, they were getting national audiences to tune in and listen to their issues, local support was felt throughout the occupation, and even the campus police were somewhat helpful. A student protestor, Monique DeLoaz recounted the fact that she was becoming increasingly sick due to a cold and the campus police brought in medicine for her to take, exclaiming “If the cops are this sympathetic to the cause, the administration must be in deep [expletive]”(Wallace, 1997).

On Friday, day 5, a representative from the UMASS news office declared that administration was 95% in agreement with student demands. Everyone knew that an agreement was nearer than ever. Students began writing testimonies, explaining why they were willing to give up their time and risk serious consequences. One, Jennifer Doe, wrote; “I am here for my dad. My mother is an alcoholic and addict who I have not have not spoken with in ten years. Yet her family is proud, for her family has never seen one of its own graduate high school. My father has only recently come home from a federal prison; April 15 will be the fifth anniversary of his homecoming. He has six children, the rest younger than me, who will graduate high school. My father is trying hard to make up to us the lost time. He works 60-80 hours a week to support us, and barely has the time to see us. Yet he is proud of me. I am supporting myself through this college and am also trying to send money home to my family so that they can have the nice things that I did not have when I was young and my father was in prison. I work 40-60 hours a week to keep fed and housed. In the summer I work 100 hours a week, three jobs, to pay for my education. I had to sell my grandmothers engagement ring and her mother’s necklace to pay for school. It is frustrating to look around and see people in the same situation as I, struggling to get out of this poverty. I want to see my brothers and sister go through school and learn and climb. I am scared that they will have to struggle as I have and not have that jewelry to sell. But they have me now to fight for them. The people in here are fighting for them, as I am fighting for the people in here.”(Wallace, 1997)

Administrators this day had offered the student negotiators an agreement that included amnesty for the students so they could not face prosecution for their part in the takeover. (Wallace, 1997) The students then contemplated whether the agreement was substantial enough for an end to the takeover, there were some who believed prolonging the Takeover would yield better results, but overall the students felt it was evenhanded (Wallace, 1997). The plan was now to walk out the next day. They had left Goodell at 2:30 pm, Saturday March 8th, to a crowd of joyous individuals, the scene was filled with dancing, shouting, hugging, crying- the culmination of emotions from a long and arduous process- one full of great strength and determination (Wallace, 1997) Many had spent over 125 hours inside of the building, together they had endured a sacrifice on behalf of students everywhere. Administration had caved.

The result of the Occupation was the “Living Document”- a list of 21 demands to be met with full force by administration. The agreement centered on ALANA representation, financial aid, diversifying campus faculty and staff, child care, and support for the ALANA office and ALANA individuals. The Living Document took in to account UMASS administration’s history of broken promises and half-hearted responses to student demands, and was worded in a way that could make administration more accountable and candid. The very first demand was to “Achieve and maintain an overall goal of 20% ALANA undergraduate students through recruitment and retention.”(Concluding Summary, 1997) What they in fact did was add the word “maintain” and in effect, hold administration accountable for upholding that percentage. On the Financial aid front, the students asked for the diversifying of Bursar office positions, “a process to dramatically reduce the number of holds due to outstanding bills,” and greater attention to helping students resolve financial issues.(Concluding Summary, 1997) They also called for increased publications to attract ALANA recruitment, hiring UALRC staff, and a dedicated budget for ALANA recruitment. In terms of ALANA and multicultural support, they asked for increased opportunities for students to study Irish, Asian, Native American, and Latin American cultures. Also, the hiring of a staff member to create a Native support program was included. The two last demands regarded creating dedicated “Executive-level administrative time…to fully discuss all unresolved issues,” and the forming of a subcommittee of the Faculty Senate Committee on the status of minorities, so that the progress of the student-administration agreement could be monitored (Concluding Summary, 1997)

The Goodell takeover had become one of the most successful protests UMASS has ever seen. Yet, many of the issues still persist. The Goodell Takeover had resulted in the CCEBMS (committee for the collegiate education of black and other minority students) office receiving $17,000 in additional funding in 1997 (McClarence, 2001). However due to Congress’ cap of financial increases in 2002, state legislators to cut increases to state funding to higher education (McClarence, 2001). Admission then cut funding for many university support programs; costing the CCEBMS program about $23,000 according to Floyd Martin, then director of CCEBMS (McClarence, 2001). In 2011, the Native American student services office had faced major budget decreases and was forced to move location for that very reason. Additionally in 2011, CEPA (center for education policy & advocacy) which aids many minority individuals, faced being demoted to a student organization because of such severe de-funding. Although the Goodell Takeover did not prevent these issues, nor did it fully fix the 1997 issues facing ALANA students, this paper should serve to argue that the Takeover’s highest success was immeasurable. That is, it proved that students can come together and organize for institutional change. People will take notice of the issues facing young people today and as long as people are willing to sacrifice for this institutional change, much is possible. This protest was a culmination of student solidarity, sacrifice and ardent activism. Many of the individuals from the Takeover are still in contact with each other today. There is a Facebook page dedicated to the movement, just search 1997 Goodell Takeover and you’ll find excerpts, poems, pictures, and testimony from those who knew the struggle best.

In the end, UMASS had seen a grassroots radical movement, unlike any other movement previous. Students could no longer sit back and remain marginalized while the campus elite sustained student concerns with insignificant response and urgency. A culmination of students, of all colors and nationalities, fighting for a common cause with professors and supporters from the outside world, was able to draw attention on a national level through a particular protest. A movement, rooted in anger and distrust, led to sacrifice and struggle, and then resulted in administrative accountability. Many lives were changed because of this direct action. Many students who had no prior inclination to join the Takeover, did so, and meanwhile earned an education not usually found within four walls and a chalkboard. The nerve of these college kids, to take over an administrative building, disregard authority and challenge the institutional elite- they were able to do something so monumental, the UMASS administration had to take a serious introspective look at itself. The 1997 six day Takeover of the Goodell administrative building was truly a movement focused on improving the Institutional Education system as a whole. It directly changed the lives of those courageous, radical UMASS students and to this day, with the advent of UMASS picketing codes, still strikes fear in the eyes of UMASS administration.

 

Works Cited

Burke, Mike. “Journalistic Junk.” The Massachusetts Daily Collegian [Amherst] 6 Mar. 1997. Print.

BG. “Takeover Illustrates ALANA Concerns, Says Robinson.” The Campus Chronicle [Amherst] 19 May 1996. Print.

Chiu, Lisa. “ALANA Options Abound.” The Massachusetts Daily Collegian [Amherst] Summer 1996. Print.

Chiu, Lisa. “Day Three: Little Pogress Made.” The Massachusetts Daily Collegian [Amherst] 6 Mar. 1997. Print.

“Concluding Summary to Discussion of the Signed Living Document.” The Campus Chronicle [Amherst] 19 Dec. 1997. Print.

Editorial Staff. “Five Years Too Late.” The Massachusetts Daily Collegian [Amherst] 4 Mar. 1997. Print.

Elliot, Michael. “Divided SGA Supports ALANA Voting Rights.” The Massachusetts Daily Collegian [Amherst] 22 Feb. 1996. Print.

Folbre, Nancy. “Robin Hood School.” The Invisible Heart. 137-58. Spring 2002 Print.

Golden, Tim. “Prop. 187 Approved in California.” Migration News December 1994 <http://migration.ucdavis.edu/mn/more.php?id=492_0_2_0>

Lugo, Michelle. “Organization Struggles for Survival.” The Massachusetts Daily Collegian [Amherst] 11 Oct. 1995: 5. Print.

Mahtowin. “Solidarity Wins Aid for Students of Color.” Workers World Mar. 1997. Workers World. 20 Mar. 1997. Web. 3 Apr. 2011. <http://www.workers.org/ww/1997/amherst.html>.

McClarence, Gyasi. “- ALANA Enrollment: Its History and Current Situation.” The Massachusetts Daily Collegian [Amherst] 15 May 2001: 3. Print.

Moynahan, William P. “UMass Amherst Sit-In Enters Its Fourth Day | News | The Harvard Crimson.” Harvard News | The Harvard Crimson. 6 Mar. 1997. Web. 8 Apr. 2011. <http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1997/3/6/umass-amherst-sit-in-enters-its-fourth/>.

“Report on the 1992 Alana Agreement.” The Campus Chronicle [Amherst] 27 May 1994: 6-8. Print.

Trefethen, Ian. “Opposing the UMass Picketing Code.” Editorial. The Massachusetts Daily Collegian  [Amherst] 13 Nov. 2003. The Daily Collegian. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <http://dailycollegian.com/2003/11/13/opposing-the-umass-picketing-code/>.

Office of Institutional Research: University of Massachusetts Amherst. 23 May 1996. Raw data. Massachusetts, Amherst.

Wallace, Dickie. “UMass Student Movement.” Z Magazine. May 1997. Web. 2 Apr. 2011.

Wolff, Robert. SPECIAL REPORT of the AD HOC COMMITTEE ON ADMISSIONS PRACTICES AND MINORITY RECRUITMENT concerning THE RECRUITMENT OF ALANA UNDERGRADUATES. Publication no. 02-012. Print. 02-012.

 

 

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