President Kaler's response to demonstrators in Morrill Hall on Feb. 9

February 9, 2015
U of M sign outside Northrop

The following response from President Eric Kaler was given to students who demonstrated in Morrill Hall on Feb. 9, 2015. The group advanced eight demands.

1. Provide the support necessary to help the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies thrive by renewing the senior fulltime faculty line, increasing the outreach coordinator’s position from 50% to 100% time, and hiring two more faculty in the next year with one additional faculty hire each year until the department reaches at lease eight faculty.

  • Allocations of positions in the college are made by the Dean, so that is not something the President and Provost can commit to today. We understand this is an issue that has gone unresolved for too long. The Provost and Dean Coleman will meet with you to work toward a resolution of this issue within a week.

2. Remove descriptions of race and complexion from UMPD crime alerts.

  • We understand that the use of race in crime alerts is harmful for members of our community, especially Black men and can serve to perpetuate racist stereotypes. We have been actively discussing this issue, including most recently at the February 5 Open Space event at which we had a very productive dialogue. We have received a wide range of input from people with varying viewpoints and there are valid, competing interests to balance. Public safety is a top priority of ours and we will change our approach to using suspect descriptions in crime alerts.

3. Reverse the decision to close PsTL by the 2016-17 academic year.

  • Dean Quam has personally met with each of the PSTL tenured/tenure-line faculty and discussed with each of them about the best possible future tenure home for them. Most of the faculty are choosing to go to the Department of Curriculum and Instruction or the Department of Organizational Leadership Policy and Development. They will have the opportunity to work with both graduate and undergraduate students in those departments. They will also have the opportunity to teach in the first year program for all of our undergraduates. Our first year program is for all of our 430 incoming freshmen, which includes TRiO students.  There is NO plan to alter our support for the TRiO students in our college. 
  • Dean Quam has also met with each of our P&A teaching faculty. Our HR director, Mani Vang, and I asked each of them to tell us about what they have taught and where they think they could best make a contribution to teaching in the future.  We have reassured these individuals that they are retained for next academic year and I expect they will continue beyond that time. 
  • We created three task forces 1) to work on relocation of faculty and staff (all three civil service staff have been guaranteed employment); 2) to work on continuation of a master's program in multicultural teaching and learning and 3) to work on continuation and strengthening of the first year program.  Two task forces have representation from faculty, staff and students.  Students are not on the group working with HR issues. 
  • The decision to close PSTL was appropriately the Dean’s decision. She consulted with many different individuals and groups over the past several years.  She had the support of the current department chair, Amy Lee, in making this decision.

4. Initiate a cluster hire of faculty of color as per the proposal put forth in 2014 by the Consortium for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, Gender and Sexuality Consortium (RIGS)

  • CLA is interested in pursuing the RIGS initiative and the Provost supports that. It’s a strong proposal that has a lot of merit for achieving our mutual goals.

5. Establish a program that recruits high school student from working-class neighborhoods of color in the Twin Cities.

  • We share your desire for a more racially diverse campus that attracts racially and ethnically diverse students from both the metro area and greater Minnesota. Among the initiatives we already have in place are the Presidents Emerging Scholars Program which aims to provide financial aid to for under-resourced students. A number of innovative recruitment techniques that begin in the 8th grade including the Multi Cultural Connections Outreach Program and the Northstar STEM Alliance. We are working on a new initiative that will do exactly this – connect the University with students in the Minneapolis and St. Paul Public Schools early and stay connected with them throughout college. Vice President Albert will meet with you to both connect you with existing programs and hear your ideas for more work.

6. Require all students to take at least one class offered in one of the three ethnic studies departments (African American and African Studies, Chicano and Latino Studies, American Indian Studies) or the Asian America Studies Program.

  • This is a conversation that needs to be held with the faculty within each college. Faculty determine curricular requirements. The provost would be happy to help facilitate these conversations, if needed.

7. Ensure at least one restroom in every building on campus is accessible to all genders.

  • The University maintains an inventory and map of gender-neutral restroom facilities across the Twin Cities campus (see this link on OED's website). Currently there are 113 inventoried gender neutral bathrooms on campus. The University recognizes that there are gaps in providing these facilities and is committed to filling these gaps. The University’s construction standards require the inclusion of gender neutral facilities in all new buildings and major renovations of existing buildings. 
  • By August, 2015, the University will assess the buildings that lack a gender neutral bathroom to determine whether the building meets the minimum bathroom fixture requirements by gender as required in the Building Code. For those buildings that exceed the minimum fixture requirement, the University will identify a bathroom that can be converted to gender neutral. For those buildings that do not exceed minimum fixture standards, University Services will work with the Office of Equity and Diversity to identify a prioritized building list for where to add a new gender neutral bathroom. The University will reallocate up to $250,000 in the upcoming capital budget process to assist with this effort.

8. Remove language from the admissions application that questions prospective students about their prior convictions and criminal offenses, as well as their history of expulsion, suspension, and probation in their former institutions.

  • This is a critical issue that we are working on. We have an ongoing process to examine how this question should change and we will commit to revising it as soon as possible with the assurance that it will be completed before the next admissions cycle in Fall 2015.

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