Students of Color Present List of Demands to President

Photo by Rebecca King

Last Wednesday, Vanna Garcia, Kevin Hurtado, Domonique Jarrett and I met with President Peter Mercer and Kat McGee, director of Affirmative Action and Workplace Compliance, to discuss the racial climate at Ramapo.

As concerned student leaders of color on campus, we requested the meeting with President Mercer after nationwide violence and a series of protests sparked conversations on race and inclusion on college campuses and after our own campus held a town hall meeting that covered the same topics just last semester. Despite the administration's best efforts to have forums in which the campus community could talk about race and inclusion on campus, I believe that the College should make additional efforts to increase the current policies and infrastructures to best support students from marginalized identity groups. The best way to do this is by centering the voices of students of color. 

At the meeting with the president, I wanted a forum to speak candidly with him about students’ concerns regarding the College’s commitment to creating a safe environment for members of underrepresented and marginalized identity groups. In examining my personal experiences as a senior student at Ramapo, and that of other students of color, I realize that the College will need to prioritize the institutional needs and concerns of students of color that will help them succeed.  

To effectively address a number of the issues affecting students of color on Ramapo’s campus, Vanna Garcia, Kevin Hurtado, Brittany Jordan and I created a list of initial demands to present to President Mercer. Our list is by no means an exhaustive one, but by providing this list, it is our hope to sustain a dialogue and culture of race inclusion and institutional support for students of color at Ramapo. We plan on keeping our administration accountable and working to improve the College’s campus climate and I look forward to seeing the progress that is made to make Ramapo safer for all of its students, faculty and staff at our follow-up meeting with the president in a few weeks.

The statement and list of demands that were presented to President Mercer are as follows:

As a coalition of concerned students of color at Ramapo College of New Jersey, we have come together to express our thoughts on the racial climate in higher education, and more specifically on our campus. It is important to note that, as students, it is not our job to ensure that the policies and practices of Ramapo College work to maintain a safe, secure and unbiased campus climate for all of its students. This document, however, presents the demands of students of color on campus and reflects the adjustments that we feel should be made to the College.

List of initial timely demands from students of color and allies at Ramapo College:

  1. A thoughtful and carefully crafted statement distancing the college from the racist environments of other colleges and universities as incidents receive national attention.

  2. A thoughtful and carefully crafted statement in support of Muslim students, staff and faculty in light of nationwide issues of Islamophobia.

  3. Encourage completion of campus climate survey in Spring 2016 by all students in order to receive complete assessment of experiences with regards to race, inclusion and diversity on campus.

    1. Be intentional about reaching out to students from marginalized populations and student groups that represent those populations.

  4. Appoint a committee to follow through on the next steps from the campus climate survey in order to track and implement Goal 4 of the Strategic Plan.

  5. Investigate other methods for collection of data from students of color to supplement the campus climate survey, ie. course evaluations and focus groups.

  6. Address concerns of respectability politics and tone policing:

    1. From staff and faculty which cause students to feel uncomfortable protesting and engaging in other forms of political engagement.

    2. From staff and faculty which cause staff and faculty of color to feel alienated and ostracized when standing up for members of the Ramapo community.

  7. Research for job postings to include diversity statements that encourage women, people of color and people with disabilities to apply.

  8. Begin taking steps to implement new training programs and diversity education for all advising departments to ensure effective and culturally competent advising.

  9. A commitment to ensure that speakers brought by the College will be more diverse and representative of the identities of students of color.

  10. An investigation into the number of classes available in the Africana studies, Latino/Latina studies, Middle Eastern studies and Asian studies departments in comparison to previous years, and a commitment to strengthening these academic fields.