'Whose Diversity?': University of Minnesota group calls for action with delivery of about 30 far-reaching demands to administration

Independent student collective Whose Diversity? released a list of diversity-rooted demands to University of Minnesota policymakers Wednesday.

Group members formally presented their broad set of demands on the steps of Morrill Hall on Wednesday morning, ranging from curriculum changes to minority student recruitment.

The list was prompted by a number of things, but Whose Diversity? member Joanna Núñez emphasized the lack of action from University leadership following feedback about the institution’s diversity.

“We feel that the administration has again and again talked about diversity and has asked for the community to speak,” she said. “But again and again, the administration meets our concerns with what we feel are empty words.”

University administrators have been reaching out to Whose Diversity? since late January to set up a meeting with the group and discuss its concerns, but the group has yet to respond, according to a University statement.

Vice President for Equity and Diversity Katrice Albert, Assistant Vice President for Equity and Diversity Shakeer Abdullah and Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Danita Brown Young watched the group’s announcement Wednesday.

President Eric Kaler and other University leaders will review the group’s list and respond later, the statement said.

About one-sixth of the University’s student body is people of color, and about 4 percent of students are black. Albert announced an initiative in February to boost the number of black students on campus.

But Whose Diversity? wants more. Its list included about 30 demands, including more affordable housing, lower tuition and a restructuring of the University curriculum to include more study of minority groups.

Núñez said the list was intended as a concrete set of issues that the group would like to see handled by the administration, and she said members expect a written response from the University addressing it.

The list also requested all University buildings be equipped with at least one gender-neutral restroom and asked for more faculty members of color.

Students for a Democratic Society supported at least two of the list’s demands regarding tuition rates and University demographics.

SDS was “in solidarity” with the student collective in requiring that the University make efforts to ensure its percentage of non-white students increased to reflect half of the Twin Cities’ rate within one year.

SDS member Matthew Boynton said that if the administration makes a concerted effort, a year would be enough time to make that possible.

“It would require really a serious push by the administration,” he said. “What both Whose Diversity? and … SDS [are] trying to do is to really tell them they need to prioritize this now.”

Whose Diversity? also teamed up with SDS to request lower tuition rates to increase “accessibility for working class Minnesotans,” despite the University’s two-year tuition freeze for resident undergraduates.

“The administration owes it to the students and owes it to the public to make every effort available to lower tuition to a place where all Minnesotans can afford to go to school here,” Boynton said. “The tuition freeze was a good start, but it’s really not enough.”

Despite the list of demands and various demonstrations the group has made recently, Whose Diversity? member Tori Hong said the group bears no ill will toward the institution.

“What we do is not out of any anger or hatred of the University,” she said. “What we do really does come … out of the hope for the future of this institution and what it could be.”

Vanessa Nyarko contributed to this report.

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