February 12, 2016 Student Assembly for Power and Liberation
Statement given at the board of trustees meeting today;
“First, it is paramount to acknowledge that we are on Duwamish land, and the campus of Western Washington University is occupying Nooksack and Lummi land. As we work, we must continuously think about the legacy of colonialism upon which we stand.
“As a group of concerned students who have been consistently forced to respond to the events of last quarter, especially in defending and supporting specific students after they experienced rape and death threats at the hands of their peers at this institution, we continue to be worried about our own safety and that of our fellow students, especially Black students and students of color.
“We are here today because we have already followed the chain of command by going to the University President and university officials in regards to the threats and immediate safety needs of students. But Western’s University president and officials, who indeed represent the institution as a whole, did not take accountability or responsibility. They did not prioritize the needs and safety of students on this campus. So, we come to you after the structures set up by the university to protect us have failed. This failure of the institution shows that our discussion today needs to shift away from individual people to the collective responsibility of the people in positions of power in this room, especially our board of trustees, university president, the vice presidents, and other members of administration. As people with institutional power, it’s your responsibility on this campus to prioritize the safety of ALL students, especially those who experience violence at disproportional rates. We need you to recognize that safety doesn’t look the same for all students, nor does violence.
“Our safety not being regarded as a part of the “general” safety is violent. Continuously undercutting students via email and in the media is violent. Co-opting the narratives of students of marginalized backgrounds to justify your inaction is violent. Your “teachable moments” that depend on the intellectual and emotional currencies of marginalized students are violent. The denial of basic student needs, violent. Claiming constantly that you acknowledge the importance of space for marginalized students and for an education that reflects our experiences while denying us any material resources to realize that space and education—that is violent. Denying our humanity and belittling our pain is violent. Creating divisions amongst students is violent. Having to choose between our education and our safety is violent. Your complacency is violent. Your neutrality is violent. The silencing of our voices is violent.
“The university claims that it does not take political stances. However, your complacency is a continuously conscious and political decision that has resulted in a lack of safety for certain students and reoccurring trauma. Our actions today are a political response to the institution’s political stance.
“Our presence in this space will not suffice as addressing the violence that is on our campus. This is the beginning of confronting the systemic powers that perpetuate these violences. For these processes to begin on the most basic level, we demand an open apology. We ask you to meet on February 26th on 5pm in the Miller Hall Collaborative Space to further discuss our needs and demands on this campus.
“In 1968, Black students at Western were openly fighting and resisting the same systems of white supremacy, colonialism, and imperialism that we resist now—systems that this institution was founded upon and continues to manifest. We honor their words, their spirits, and their strength by leaving you with this quote: “When Western begins to make phony excuses and resist needed changes, we will be forced to look at Western as an enemy to Black and non-white people and, act accordingly. In short, there will be political consequences for political mistakes.”
“Closing with that, we are the Student Assembly for Power and Liberation. ”