On Ethnic Studies:

Demonstrators and University Reach Accord

Hamilton Protest Ends, Faculty Searches Begin


The ethnic studies protest that disrupted the campus with building occupations, student arrests and a 15-day hunger strike by three students, ended peacefully Monday evening when the more than 100 protesters occupying Hamilton Hall vacated the building.

According to an agreement, the University will continue its development of programs in ethnic studies by appointing two new tenured faculty who will serve as directors of the Asian American Studies Program and Latino Studies Program. Also, the University will make a tenure track appointment in Asian American studies, which will occur after the director has been appointed, and will begin fund-raising efforts for a tenure-track appointment in Latino Studies. These faculty positions had already been developed or were being developed as part of the regular faculty processes for determining positions and curricula.

This is the first time these commitments and other improvements in ethnic studies have been assembled into a single curricular initiative.

"I appreciate the work of the mediators and all of those who participated in reaching the agreement," President Rupp said Tuesday. "I believe it is fair and workable. I know there were strong emotions involved here, and I respect that. Now I hope we can all move forward and continue to work constructively together."

After occupying Hamilton Hall for more than four days, the students on Monday voted to approve the administration's offer and at dusk marched out two-by-two chanting "It's Not Over"--but only after promising that disruptions to academic and administrative activities will cease. The students had demanded the creation of a department of ethnic studies--with its own budget, three tenured faculty, three full-time administrators and one visiting professor--to balance what they believed was an inordinate study of Western tradition in the Core Curriculum. The agreement contained no modifications to the Core Curriculum.

Throughout the protests, President Rupp stated Columbia's commitment to expanding the curriculum to include more study of ethnic traditions and non-European cultures. He and a majority of the faculty and administration disagreed, however, with the protesters on how that goal should be achieved. There was--to take the central instance--little expressed faculty support for an ethnic studies department.

As part of this week's agreement, the students who participated in the occupations of Low Library and Hamilton Hall, and who violated the Rules of University Conduct between Apr. 9 and Apr. 15, will not be expelled or suspended, nor will the graduation of any seniors be delayed. However, these students have been and are being identified and will be subject to censure for two years, which means any further violation of the Rules of University Conduct may result in expulsion or suspension. The University agreed not to press charges against the 22 students arrested during the Apr. 10 occupation of Low.

On Monday evening, minutes after students voted to accept the agreement and abandoned Hamilton, protester Margaret Berryman, SEAS'99, stood outside against a backdrop of chalk graffiti and handmade protest posters. "The vote was the most intense experience I've had ever," she said. "It was so intense in there."

The student movement for ethnic studies began to heat up during the first week in April, when four students announced they were beginning a hunger strike. A tent was set up near the sundial as the headquarters for the ethnic studies movement.

During this time, administrators continued to meet with students at all hours in an effort to reach an agreement, but to no avail. One hunger striker dropped out due to medical complications.

On Tues., Apr. 9, more than 100 protesters entered Low Library and held a rally in the Rotunda. They stayed the night, and took control of the building in the morning, sealing all the entrances. New York City police officers were ultimately called in, and 22 students were arrested. Security was tightened, and Columbia identification was required to enter campus.

The next day, on Thurs., Apr. 11, the protesters entered Hamilton and held a rally and all-night vigil. Again, the next morning, they took control of the building and sealed the entrances, closing off access to classrooms and administrative offices for 4 days.

At 6:50 P.M. Monday, the agreement was approved by 95 student votes, and a cheer went up inside Hamilton.

See also Statement on Ethnic Studies Agreement, April 15, 1996.


Columbia University Record -- April 19, 1996 -- Vol. 21, No. 24