After more than a week of occupying Presidents Hall to demand the administration increase its diversity funding and programming, a group of Seton Hall University students — calling themselves the Concerned 44 alluding to the percentage of SHU students who identify as students of color — has ended its sit-in after reaching a tentative agreement.
“… the Concerned 44 has concluded its peaceful sit-in of Presidents Hall,” said Interim President Mary J. Meehan in a letter Friday afternoon. “The University is committed to an ongoing dialogue. [We] will meet with representatives of Concerned 44 to clearly define the plan moving forward to create a more inclusive community at Seton Hall.”
The administration earlier this week agreed to some of the students’ demands, agreeing to hire a full time faculty member specializing in Latin American, Latino/a literature and culture; hire a director for the Africana studies program, and enhance both departments. (See the full list of student demands here.)
“We are committed to making immediate changes that are aligned with Seton Hall’s mission and dedication to provide a high-quality educational experience for all our students,” Meehan wrote in a previous letter this week (see the full letter below). “Faculty are prepared to make changes in academic programs and departments, recognizing that these changes require additional time for careful analysis and study.”
Students struck a more cautious note.
“…we have put the demonstrations on hold until further notice but are prepared to demonstrate again if progress is not made,” said student representative Chris Duran on Friday. Noting that while they consider it “a victory” that the administration came to the negotiating table, Duran said students are not convinced that SHU will fulfill its promises.
The student group is meeting with the administration on Monday “to discuss their response to our demands seeing that there is still no commitment by the university faculty or administration to a truly diverse curriculum,” said Duran.
The students have been occupying Presidents Hall since October 24, and on Tuesday marched from the school to downtown South Orange. The administration had warned the students earlier this week if they did not cease the sit-in — which students had initially agreed to limit to three days in accordance with University policy — they might be subject to disciplinary action.
Some community members have expressed support for the students, including the advocacy group SOMA Action, which released a statement Tuesday that said the group is “closely observing the manner in which the youth of this community are being treated and responded to by the Seton Hall administration” and said it hopes the University’s response “will reflect the values and ideals of the community in which the University resides.”
See Interim President Meehan’s full letter from Tuesday, October 30:
Dear Members of the Seton Hall Community,
The University’s leadership has been meeting on an ongoing basis with the Concerned 44 student protestors during the past week to address their concerns and offer realistic solutions. To date, the Concerned 44 have rejected all our proposed solutions.
The following is an update on the most recent meeting on the evening of October 29 with the Concerned 44. The executive committee of the Faculty Senate, SGA leadership, Interim Provost Karen Boroff, other senior University leadership, and I attended the meeting. The demands of the Concerned 44 have been circulated widely and are available online.
During the meeting, I once again informed the students that the University’s senior leadership has listened to their concerns. We are committed to making immediate changes that are aligned with Seton Hall’s mission and dedication to provide a high-quality educational experience for all our students. Faculty are prepared to make changes in academic programs and departments, recognizing that these changes require additional time for careful analysis and study.
Below are the thoughtfully considered and realistic responses to the students’ demands that we provided to the Concerned 44 today. This effort is a result of collaboration by the University administration, the senior leadership of the executive committee of the Faculty Senate, and SGA leadership.
October 30, 2018
The following is the response, on behalf of the University administration, the Provost, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and the Student Government Association executive board, to the demands of the Concerned 44.
The College of Arts and Sciences faculty, with the support of Dean Peter Shoemaker, will immediately begin a search for a full-time English faculty member specializing in Latin American, Latino/a literature and culture for Fall 2019. In addition, the Dean will immediately approve a hire for a director with a faculty appointment whose responsibilities are to direct and grow the Africana studies program, beginning in Fall 2019. The faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences also will begin immediately to plan with interested students the enhancement of Latino and Latin American Studies and Africana Studies, developing specific timelines. Future hires will be made as demand for seats in classes grows.
We also agree that our goal is for our faculty to proportionately reflect the students we serve.
We commit to a thorough review of the offices of EEO and Title IX compliance and to enhanced training for all members of the University community. This review will include recommendations to clarify and enhance disciplinary procedures. It will be completed, with recommendations implemented, by Fall 2019.
The University agrees to create a line item in the next University budget, funded with an additional $20,000 for student-planned activities during Black History, Hispanic-Latino History, Women’s History, and Islamic History months and other multi-cultural celebrations. This will be effective in the July 2019 (FY20) budget.
Interim Provost Karen Boroff has secured a commitment from the deans of all colleges and the executive committee of the Faculty Senate that will include student input in all full-time faculty searches. This is effective immediately.
These actions represent the culmination of many discussions among many constituencies this past week. The Concerned 44 shed a brighter light on issues that needed to be addressed. The University is committed to these actions and will immediately initiate them. Hazard zet Forward!
We believe that the actions listed above address the group’s primary concerns and are in the best interests of the entire University community.
The Concerned 44 were informed on Saturday that they had violated their original request to hold a three-day sit-in of Presidents Hall from October 24-26. This request was originally approved in keeping with the University’s Student Protest Policy. The group, unfortunately, violated its initial approval, continuing the sit-in. When I met with the students last evening, I once again informed them of this violation and requested that the group end the sit-in, or the students would be subject to disciplinary action.
We must balance the needs of all members of our campus community. It is important that we continue to provide a safe environment that is conducive to learning. I will update you as more information becomes available.
Mary J. Meehan, Ph.D.
Seton Hall University