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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

Occidental College Students Camp Out In Protest For Diversity

Their 14 demands include the resignation of President Jonathan Veitch, a new black studies major, and more diversity training. 

Occidental College students are camping out at the campus administration building to protest the school’s handling of diversity issues. 

“Friday is not the deadline for when we want to leave, but the deadline for when we want our demands met,” said sophomore Jesse Wong. 

Their 14 demands include the resignation of President Jonathan Veitch, a new black studies major, and more diversity training. 

“It’s been very tense because there’s been a lot of questioning — ‘What’s actually going to happen to us?’” said sophomore Chance Ward. 

Students have occupied the building for three days. Ward says they’ve at least captured the school’s attention, with responses from Veitch and the board of trustees. 

“Getting these responses — it’s the first step,” Ward said. “Usually the biggest thing in our way is the bureaucracy. We get these bureaucratic blockades. And we never know what channels to go through.”

Occidental’s vice president of marketing and communications, Marty Sharkey, says Veitch hears the students loud and clear. 

“He’s committed to taking meaningful action on the student demands. But he wants to do it with them at the table,” Sharkey said. 

Ward and many others say they’re fed up with microaggressions experienced on a regular basis. 

“People touching my hair and me getting angry, being called the N-word at parties. Characterized as aggressive,” he said. 

Sophomore Grace Kim chimed in, “I believe racism and microagressions Asian Americans face as the model minority stem from the same systems of power that oppress black and Latino communities as well.”

Ginny Wyatt is one of many white allies. She camped out on two mattresses pushed together, alongside four of her friends. 

“I feel like I was complacent in the overall system for so long in my life because I went to an all white high school, my parents are very conservative, and let’s be real — racist,” she said. “Branching out and starting my own life, I wanted to be a part of something that would take a stance against that.”

Students say they’re prepared to camp out for as long as necessary, sacrificing creature comforts. 

“I would much rather be in my room,” Wyatt said. “I haven’t showered in two days. I’ve missed all of my classes.” 

But Wyatt says the cramped quarters have a familial vibe. “It’s definitely a unifying force,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot about myself being a part of this, what I want to do with my life.”

“I don’t think there’s been an event where we’ve seen so many groups in one place,” said senior Mika Cribbs, one of the protest’s organizers. 

To accommodate protesting students, some professors are holding class inside and just outside the administration building. Students say they’ll stay as long as they need to.   

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