isolated incidents

Since April 15th, reports have circulated about an attack against a transgender student in a bathroom on CSU Long Beach’s campus. The attacker appears to have known this student. The attacker said the student’s name and asked if he was that person. When the student said he was, the attacker grabbed the student’s T-shirt, pulled it over his chest, and carved the word “It” into his chest.

Reports began circulating by word of mouth, and Liz, Abbie, Toby and I were reluctant to forward the information without the student’s express consent. We were concerned about the student’s physical and emotional safety as such a story spread, whether or not the student’s name was attached to reports. However, because police reports and blog posts have made this information widely available, it seems necessary to address the assumptions on which reports are based since they impact all trans and gender non-conforming people, as well as those who might be perceived to be trans and gender non-conforming, and those who count themselves as allies.

Most stories about this attack coming from the news media include some version of the following statement: “University Police strongly believe this was an isolated incident and that there is no additional threat to the campus community.” Queers for Public Ed has already addressed the danger of asserting that any crime motivated by racism, sexism, homophobia and/or transphobia (and more) is an isolated event, detached from the power structures in which it exists. But this bears repeating in this case, especially since many such attacks continue to take place on and around California campuses.

To assert that this is an isolated incident is only possible if one divorces it from the racist and homophobic attacks that took place at CSU Chico, CSU Long Beach, and UC Davis within days, not to mention the string of incidents that have occurred over the last several months. But as we have argued before, these events must be read as inherently connected, and as responses to the challenges to white, straight power and privilege expressed in the protests against the deprioritization of education and other public services in California. Though our analysis need not and should not stop at California borders. This last week Arizona has reminded us just how much oppression in education connects to structural oppression pervasive in the US and beyond.

Calling this attack an “isolated incident” also implies that this was limited to an attack by one individual against another individual. It ignores an additional target of the attack, the very existence and agency of trans-identified and gender non-conforming people. The word “it” has a significant history in enforcing systems of oppression based on race, gender and ability. Using the word “it” to label people who do not conform to racialized, gendered and abelist norms dehumanizes the people whose bodies challenge, or appear to challenge, these structures. And dehumanization questions the very value of lives, which in turn exposes those lives to violence and possible eradication. In the specific case of the CSULB attack, this mark of dehumanization targets a trans man’s chest, a place on the body that is subject to intense amounts of scrutiny and surveillance that serve to enforce the gender binary. To call this highly symbolic act an isolated incident is to erase the ways that this violence targets all trans and gender non-conforming people. This act of violence references historically and culturally significant words and acts that are not isolated, but circulate constantly and dangerously.

The statement from the CSULB police department asserts that “there is no additional threat to the campus community.” However, such an assertion can only be accurate if one believes that the campus community is otherwise absent of trans and gender non-conforming people, and even allies to these communities, and the various forms of violence that impact the community on a daily basis.* In Precarious Life, Judith Butler asks “What makes for a grievable life?” in order to ask ultimately “Who counts as human?” (20). Presumably the police statement was meant to assert that people on campus need not fear future physical attacks (a claim that is specious at best). However, separating this attack from the rest of the campus community, and those who might be affected either directly or by the lingering violence and threat that such an attack no doubt leaves, denies the possibility of trauma in the form of grief, rage, or fear. The repetition of this sentiment across multiple media reports expands the possibility of its meaning and reasserts that anyone who feels threatened by the possibility of attack or the emotional fallout of knowing a person attacked is not included in the “community” that is instructed – or even assumed – to feel unthreatened. In this way, the police statement actually reproduces the effects of the attack for a wider audience. It becomes, in effect, a different way of saying the word “it,” discursively granting humanity to some while denying it to others.

* It should hardly escape our notice that this attack took place in a bathroom, a gendered space in which the very architecture and structure of buildings implicates the University in oppressive and violent expressions of transphobia. (for more information about bathrooms, see the fabulous film by the Sylvia Rivera Law Project: Toilet Training.)

-Cynthia (with much thanks to Toby and Abbie)



On March 4th, students, staff, and community members attempted to overtake the onramp to the I-80 at the edge of the UC Davis campus.  In a field of blooming daffodils, protestors held firm in a two-hour standoff with dozens of police officers.  On the freeway behind the police line, miles of cars sat idle; behind the mass of protestors were the shimmering windows of the newest campus buildings, to the north a winter vineyard. As they approached the line of police, students were beaten with batons, tased, and shot with pepper balls. Some of these protestors held signs proclaiming their queerness — “Queers Bash Back,” “Not gay as in happy, queer as in fuck you” — and representatives of the campus LGBT Resource Center crossed police lines to advocate for students.  Those representatives were the first administrative personnel to attend a protest in the last few months on behalf of students — not to negotiate with them or give them instructions or call in police forces, but to help students in confrontation with the often brutal response of the state and its representatives.

Out west, protestors charged up a ramp in downtown Oakland and took over the 880 freeway.  They stopped traffic for an hour, weaving among the cars and chanting.  Video and images of the freeway protest surfaced that evening and in the days that followed, revealing both the grandeur of the spectacle and the very serious violence of the arresting police force who beat submitting protestors with batons. One protestor fell or was pushed over the freeway wall and suffered serious injury. When the arrestees were marched back down the ramp into the waiting paddy wagon commuters cheered their efforts, raised fists and peace signs.

Elsewhere on March 4th, from San Francisco to Selma, educators and staff walked out of classes and off the job, elementary school students waved signs and chanted, undergraduates blocked campus entrances and took over buildings and freeways.  Despite this national presence, the following week, as fallout from the Day of Action accumulated on the internet and in the newspapers, students at UCD who had not participated characterized the actions of the I-80 protestors as a “gay riot,” stemming from the defacement of the LGBTRC and the town hall meeting of the week prior. In contrast, the 880 takeover was criticized in the immediate aftermath as the death drive of “white anarchists, marching those with less privilege into personal danger and certain arrest.


Two months before, in mid-December, people inside Wheeler Hall at UC Berkeley were awakened in the early hours by police.  They were arrested (without an order to disperse) for trespassing after UCBPD and administrative officials had allowed them to stay all week.  Those students were taken to the Alameda County Jail — “Santa Rita” — 40 miles away in Dublin. Santa Rita is a “mega jail,” one of the state’s monuments to its own failures.  Set atop a hill but situated a half mile off the main road behind rows of eucalyptus, Santa Rita is also an example of the contradictory tactics of discipline – hyper-visible but shrouded, violent but orderly, aggressive but protected.  A 100 foot long ramp runs from the parking lot to the entrance, making visitors visible for a full minute as they make the long walk to the bulletproof glass façade of the main building.  Every twenty feet a trashcan reminds visitors that they must submit to the rules, that they may bring nothing with them and take nothing away. Photography is not allowed anywhere on the grounds.

Just past the edges of the Oakland flats, Santa Rita holds residents of some of the U.S.’s most blighted and ignored neighborhoods. A complex of squat, grey-walled buildings unravel in a giant X behind the main building, surrounded by razor-wired fencing taller than the buildings themselves.  As we waited all day under the grey sky, gunshots sounded from a firing range some distance away, perfectly audible.  While we were there to give rides to the 66 people arrested at Wheeler that morning, 3,000 other people waited behind the razor wire.  As the day wore on, mothers and girlfriends and brothers of those 3,000 accused lined up along the railing of the long ramp, waiting in the cold rain under umbrellas and plastic bags.

Officials at Santa Rita suggested that the presence of those waiting to give rides hindered the process of release. This tactic has emerged as basic jail protocol — at the Yolo County Jail in November students waited all night in near-freezing temperatures as the police deliberately released one Mrak arrestee every hour or two, insisting that if all those waiting would go home that everyone would be released, into the cold night in the middle of nowhere.  No one left then, and no one left Santa Rita that day in December.  Jail officials told the line of mothers and brothers waiting for hours in the rain that they would be able to see their loved ones only when the other students left. A brief skirmish between the two groups erupted and was quelled, but the separation remained palpable. Officials at Santa Rita purposefully instigated a confrontation between people waiting outside the jail in the rain for the same purpose, their fates administered by the same hand.  They did this to get the students to leave and to deflect the anger and frustration of the visitors.


Prisons named for saints, incidences named like the battles of the Civil War, by multiple sides with different powers and goals.  Each name reveals not only a set of priorities but a way of seeing.  The police and the administration and the media name these moments of protest by certain actions, generally in the cause and effect of the progressive and the past — “students occupying were arrested,” “those protesting hauled to jail.”  They name incidences by naming transgressions of existing law and its consequences.  Protestors name them for locations and for individuals: the Mrak 52, the Wheeler 66, the UC8.

To name the action at UCD a “gay riot” is not surprising, given the hyper-visibility of queerness when it is named, performed, advocated, or defended.  Queerness continues to produce discomfort and violent response, often misunderstood even by those sympathetic to it.  But to connect the actions at UCD on March 4th to the vandalism at the LGBTRC in this precise way is to miss something larger. Whether tacit or not, or cogent or not, the fact that the student protests at the UCs have within them a large number of those recognizably marginalized in the traditional language of identity politics must substantively be what produces the possibility of seeing a gay riot where there was in fact an anti-capital project. In a small town on a Thursday afternoon, the majority of the students in Davis saw queerness in relief and subsequently erased not only the presence and participation of many others but also elided the connection between “hate crimes” and a capitalist University structure that cuts their programs, raises their tuition, defunds their centers, and takes their money without promising anything at all. The “gay riot” elided the fact that protest has, for many, become synonymous with marginalized social identity and therefore may, in and of itself, generate hate speech borne not just out of hatred for types of people but out of fear of protest. In the East Bay, where a history of student protest and the unofficial segregation of the population by geography, race, and income has produced a different set of expectations about who can and will participate in civil disobedience, the erasure and the relief worked in the inverse.

The freeway is not merely a symbol of American wealth or mobility. That freeways are literally the mechanism by which bodies and goods are circulated and in which that circulation is regulated was the subject of the least romantic and most legalistic court battle over civil rights.  Through freeways as the conduits of interstate commerce, the federal courts wrangled out of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause a way of enforcing the federal Civil Rights Act within individual states. The practice of using interstate transportation to regulate bigotry produced some excitingly absurd opinions, the most memorable of which found Lake Nixon Club in Little Rock, AK susceptible to regulation for having a snack bar where 3 out of the 4 foods served contained ingredients coming from outside the state. By regulating the whites-only Club thusly, the federal government was allowed to desegregate it, making federal control over the interstate system the mechanism by which laws about civil rights were implemented in places where such implementation often caused extreme violence. These opinions are delightfully queer: securing the square peg of anti-racism into the round hole of interstate capital flow, where the ability to discriminate was tied not to abstract ideas of equality but to the distance of one’s club from the freeway.  To rush an onramp in protest of the privatization of education may very well be a gay riot, but not (solely) because gay people do it.  It forces us to ask different questions about what people are saying when they use their bodies to protest.  State violence often pits one group against another to defuse protest and expedite punishment, and this type of protest is a way to connect the discipline of the state to the privatization of the University, and vice versa. The ramp at Santa Rita is the road to the disciplinary action undertaken by the state when bodies and goods are not circulated according to their rules.  To connect these two different ramps in the metaphoric valences of capitalism is to begin to understand both the struggle and the divisive tactics of power.  To do so queerly means, to me, fighting the undertow of power that draws us inexorably into the denial of their connection.

Shannon Pufahl

(with thanks to Meredith Wallis and Tim Kreiner)


Beyond Change on Paper

Following the recent attacks on the LGBT Resource Center, many at UC Davis have sought to demonstrate that they are allies to targeted communities. The Activities and Recreation Center (ARC), for example, has a “Hate Free Zone” campaign going on right now “in honor of Principles of Community Week.” The ARC has “Hate Free Zone” signs posted, and their website offers a downloadable version of the sign “for your dorm or office.”

Though well-intentioned, the campaign is ultimately superficial: declaring a large public space free from “hate” does not make it so in practice. The posters may indicate a sincere desire for a campus free of oppression and discrimination, but the ease with which they imply we might become free from “hate” ignores the deep and pervasive ways that systems of oppression structure our lives and bodies, as well as our campus. More importantly, UC Davis already has a number of programs in place that actually educate students, staff, and faculty about the workings of systemic oppression and about concrete actions that can be taken to confront it. For example, for several years now the LGBT Resource Center has offered carefully constructed Safe Zone and Transgender Safe Zone programs. Unlike the “Hate Free Zone” campaign, these programs ensure that every participant receives the same basic information, and signs designating “safe zones” are linked only to individuals who have participated in the trainings, never to entire offices, dorms, or buildings. Safe Zone trainings used to be offered upon request, tailored to specific groups or classrooms, but the swiftly shrinking budget allotted to the LGBTRC means these programs can now be offered only a few predetermined times each quarter. Perhaps it is less expensive, and less trouble, to simply hang a few posters, but these signs should be understood neither as replacements for Safe Zones nor as guarantees that patrons will not experience oppression in these places. The “Hate Free Zone” campaign may be well-meaning, but its utter disconnection from broader education or structural change renders it ultimately ineffectual, and suggests a troubling failure to grasp the connections between visible acts of “hate,” larger systems of oppression, and the university’s de-funding of anti-oppression programs and departments.

This kind of superficial fix for questions of “diversity” and oppression is certainly not uncommon. Recently, UC President Mark Yudof gave an interview to representatives of various UC campuses. After Yudof cites the need to recruit more African-American students and faculty in the wake of racist incidents at UCSD, a UC Davis reporter asks if he would “look into” an affirmative action policy. Yudof’s reply: “I’m pro-affirmative action. Proposition 209 was a mistake. I’m in favor of giving financial aid to undocumented students. But we have a state law … the new admissions system pushes very hard for comprehensive review — that means your life is not summed up just by your SAT and your GPA. We’re hopeful that that will be helpful. We’re hopeful that more community college transfers [will apply]. … We have to obey the state law even if we don’t like it, and we could be called to task for not doing that, so I feel like I have one arm tied behind my back with these issues.”

Affirmative action policies are a key component in shifting campus climate and a crucial step toward confronting systemic inequality. Yet a retreat to affirmative action alone follows logic similar to that of the “Hate Free Zone” in that it focuses on individuals and superficial visibility rather than structural change. Recruiting students and faculty from historically underrepresented communities while simultaneously de-funding the resources that would support them on campus relies simply on numbers and bodies as representative of change. Certainly, increasing such numbers will create positive changes in the long run, but these changes will require significant energy and struggle from the students and faculty who make them — they will not emerge simply out of numbers on paper. Administrators and allies must strategize ways to take this burden off of marginalized students and faculty, and must think carefully about the logic of recruiting people into places where they are being directly and consistently targeted through racist and homophobic acts. Encouraging people to enter situations in which they are likely to experience violence does not undo that oppression, but recreates it. Individuals may make the decision to cope with racism and homophobia in order to access a UC education, but the university as a whole remains complicit with the barriers these individuals face if it does not take concrete and immediate action to remove those barriers.

Meanwhile, the actions Yudof hopes will get around a ban on affirmative action, such as expanding admissions requirements beyond standardized test scores, are actually more productive in undoing oppression than is promoting “diversity” through numbers alone. Whether or not affirmative action is legally restored, the university should continue to implement these practices and strategize ways to make comprehensive and structural change that moves beyond the limited efficacy of merely increasing numbers or hanging posters. To make these changes on the surface without attending to deeper inequalities in the very fabric of the university belittles the myriad ways that targeted populations experience oppression and obscures the complexity and pervasiveness of power and privilege.

— Cynthia & Toby


UC Davis – March 4th Video

In the middle of a long day of protesting at UC Davis, I stopped by the LGBT Resource Center to check in with folks there. One person said that there was a news report calling protesters “hooligans with rainbow flags” and that because of the rainbow flags it seemed that we were confused as to what the protest was about. I could not find the story to verify these statements, but hope that this video makes it clear to anyone who has any doubts: We are not confused. We know exactly what we’re fighting for.

Click here to see Aggie TV’s video coverage of the March 4th events.


Queers for Educational Justice

To download a pdf of this document, click here.

On February 27, 2010, the UC Davis LGBT Resource Center, the single publicly dedicated space for queer and trans people and activism on campus, was spray painted with anti-queer words and phrases. This is one of a series of violent incidents across UC campuses, including the “Compton Cookout” and a noose left in the library at UC San Diego, assaults on gay students at UC Riverside, and the emergence of swastikas in public and private spaces at UC Davis, among others. As we grapple with the overwhelming and traumatic effects of these incidents, it is crucial to attend to their historical and social particularities. At the same time, we ask for a broad view, one that sees these events not just as a series of individual occurrences over the last few weeks, but as symptoms of racism, classism, homophobia, and sexism that justify and inform the very structure of the UC system, especially in the context of a shift toward privatization. In fact, these interlocking systems of oppression persist precisely because their effects seem contained in individual, isolated actions.

We believe it is urgent that we reframe our understanding. Racism and homophobia are not just about a few “hateful” individuals; rather, these systems structure our everyday lives. For example, we must recognize how transphobia, ableism, and racism inform the material structure of our campus, which itself is built on stolen land. Very few buildings at UC Davis have bathrooms that can be safely used by gender non-conforming people and/or people with disabilities. Those same buildings can remind us daily that the university is constructed to make student gatherings and cross-campus collaboration more difficult. On a broader scale, recent proposals to replenish state funding for the UC by accelerating the privatization of prisons and by cutting other public resources (like health and human services) channel resources away from already disadvantaged communities. These many iterations of oppression are not discrete but cumulative injustices and they cannot be dealt with separately.

In public statements, UC administrators have repeatedly expressed their shock and astonishment about recent events. We want to suggest that feelings of surprise are symptomatic of a general lack of awareness of the connection between these events and systemic violence. They also indicate an ignorance of the everyday violence that is pervasive in and perpetuated by the UC system as it currently exists and the failure of institutional systems of reporting to meet the needs of students. In fact, astonished reactions suggest not that this violence is otherwise absent from our lives and campuses, but rather that those who are taken aback by such violence do so from positions of privilege that enable them to ignore violence that is not brought to their attention. Framing these events as singular and isolated enables surprised reactions and disconnects these events from a broader context of structural oppression.

We are not surprised that these actions have erupted in the midst of a financial crisis for the UC system, and for its students, faculty, and workers. We note that most of the students organizing against budget cuts and fee increases do so from marginalized positions, foregrounding broader questions of social justice and calling for the downward distribution of resources. In this context, recent violent acts are best understood as part of a larger backlash against modes of student organizing that threaten the privileges linked to whiteness, wealth, heterosexuality, and citizenship. Such events do not emerge suddenly or unexpectedly, but are intimately linked to more pervasive and naturalized systems of oppression. Focusing responses only on the punishment of individual perpetrators effaces the larger context out of which such actions emerge. Students who are already wary of the presence of armed security forces that have historically targeted people who are queer and/or of color, take the proposed presence of the FBI and increased surveillance of campus as a threat and fundamental misunderstanding of our experiences rather than a solution or a sign of support.

We also argue that the recent vandalism of the LGBTRC is not the only example of violence enacted against queer and trans people at UC Davis. Violence must be not be understood as only physical or verbal attacks on individuals; rather, we understand any practice that perpetuates or exacerbates marginalization as an act of violence. The university has systematically de-funded the LGBTRC, other queer and trans resources, and social justice oriented departments. This lack of financial and academic support indicates a disregard for the needs of queer and gender non-conforming students. One might even argue that the university’s negligence creates an environment that condones overt displays of anti-queer sentiment by communicating that queer and trans activism and scholarship are at best an extraneous indulgence and ultimately disposable in times of financial crisis. By putting students in this situation, the university is complicit in the violence and threats of violence that these students experience.

This broader violence is obviated through the drastic increase in fees, which disproportionately affects people from historically marginalized communities. The decision to transfer the cost of education from the state to the students contributes to the privatization of public higher education, ensures a rapid increase in student debt, and threatens more Californians with increasing poverty. It is also premised upon the false assumption that all students can and do rely on family support. Queer and trans students, for instance, might not have that financial backing, either because their family does not have the money or because their family has removed support after learning of their gender and/or sexual identity. Other students may make the potentially painful or stressful decision to hide those identities from their families or delay gender transition in order to secure the support they need to complete their education. These possibilities are further exacerbated for AB540 and other students without access to financial aid and thus expose students to further physical and emotional violence. In a culture pervaded by racism, homophobia, classism, and other oppressive systems, acts that do not work against marginalization must be understood as tacitly and violently sustaining the status quo.

We acknowledge, appreciate, and respect the ongoing and longstanding anti-oppression work emerging in the student resource centers and in many classroom spaces, and understand the current student and worker movements not as new starts, but as growing with and from existing struggles. Student critiques are informed by long histories of activism and scholarship, and the university as a whole must take these critiques seriously. But the work of educating the campus community must not fall on marginalized students and under-resourced organizations. For example, several students at the March 1st town hall in response to the vandalism at the LGBTRC called for more education about homophobia, transphobia, and racism on campus, and suggested mandatory anti-oppression training for all incoming students at UC Davis. We question the efficacy of pro forma required two-hour trainings and the strain this proposal would put on already underfunded resources like the LGBTRC and Cross Cultural Center, including underpaid and overburdened staff and student interns. We propose instead a list of actions that can and should be taken by UC Davis administration and the UC Office of the President immediately. We offer these recommendations not in competition with other contributions but as continuous with other queer imaginings of the future of the university and in solidarity with anti-racist and anti-privatization student movements more broadly.

Recommended Actions: How to Make UC Davis a Less Racist and Less Homo/Transphobic Place

In order to make UC Davis a less racist and homo/transphobic space, the university must commit itself to a series of large-scale structural, system-wide transformations. Such changes might include (but are certainly not limited to) a re-commitment to the master plan, a return to genuinely affordable fee levels, comprehensive financial aid (excluding loans), fair pay for all campus workers, becoming a sanctuary space for all undocumented persons, disarming campus police officers, disinvestment from military research, and the provision of a tuition-free education for indigenous peoples.

We recognize that these changes will take a significant amount of time and will require a radical rethinking of the purpose and structure of public education. If, however, the university would like to demonstrate its commitment to dismantling some of the racism and homophobia on campus, then we’d like to recommend a few steps that can be taken immediately. We look forward to engaging in future conversations with other individuals and groups invested in imagining a new version of the university that actualizes social justice.

Although our suggestions focus on changes that can be made at UC Davis, we believe important connections must be drawn between events across campuses and communities and between the efforts to respond to these events. We resist, however, recent attempts to fold the UC Irvine protests into other actions of “intolerance” from recent weeks. The 11 students who briefly stood to verbally disrupt the Israeli Ambassador’s speech challenged existing structures of power, and did so from positions of relative marginalization in the face of a powerful state actor. Given these unequal power dynamics, the students’ actions are not commensurate with other recent incidents, and we suggest that “intolerance” operates in proposals to expel these students, rather than in their dissenting speech acts.

Campus Space
The university must ensure that every building on the UC Davis campus has safe and accessible bathrooms for gender non-conforming people, people with disabilities, and people with children, among others. Students will not be able to focus on their education if they have to decide whether to be late for class while looking for a bathroom or be on time while risking discomfort, safety, and health complications. Similarly, staff and faculty must have access to safe and dignified restroom facilities without fear of harassment, judgment or violence.

The university must recognize the LGBT Resource Center, the Cross Cultural Center, the Student Recruitment and Retention Center, the Student Disability Center, and the Women’s Resources and Research Center as core components of the university’s mission. These centers make the campus a liveable space for many students and have a positive impact on the campus climate more broadly. Though all units on campus have had their funding cut, the centers function as a crucial, bottom-line safety net for the students most directly affected by the broader cuts, and their labor increases exponentially as students are less able to access resources elsewhere in the university. In order for these centers to continue and expand upon the vital role they play in the campus community, the university must provide each center with the funding and space necessary to support center directors, assistant directors, graduate student assistants, and undergraduate interns.

Academics and Curriculum
The university must re-commit itself to the robust funding of programs, departments, and graduate groups that directly and critically engage cultural and economic politics and the intersecting structures of race, gender, sexuality, dis/ability, and class. Rather than relying on the labor of marginalized students to conduct various kinds of anti-oppression workshops or to teach courses in the absence of tenure-track faculty hires, the university must provide full funding for the programs that place these lessons at the center of their curriculum, must require students in all fields of study to complete “diversity” requirements, must ensure that faculty are not reproducing oppressive structures in their classes, and must demand that all programs and departments instruct at least one required course that connects their field to its real life impacts on historically marginalized communities.

The university must strenuously reject any proposals involving differential fees for different UC campuses or programs of study. Especially worrisome is the current proposal for the March 23-25 Regents’ meeting to remove the word “public” from policy for setting fees for professional schools. Such plans perpetuate the racial and economic segregation of our university system, indicate that UC administration views education merely in terms of direct monetary value, and designate some knowledges as more valuable than others. Maintaining the public core of the UC is all-important.

The university must revise the format of all demographic surveys that are distributed with the purpose of assessing the needs of students, faculty, and staff. Specifically, the university must stop requiring people to identify their gender and race according to designated categories; instead, the university must provide a space for self-identification on all forms that ask a person’s gender and/or race as well as a place where a person can elect to indicate their sexual identity. If university decisions regarding recruitment, retention, and funding will be based on the data collected from these surveys, then the university must make an effort to ensure that their data more accurately reflects the campus community.

Frequently, due to a lack of direct knowledge of student experiences, administration relies on statistics that translate the student resource centers’ work into the number of students served to quantify its impact. The university must reject a tendency to reduce student experiences and concerns to statistics. We are too often confronted with a demand to produce a significant number of students to justify the time, expense, and labor of organizing in the service of marginalized groups which, by definition, may not show up in statistical analyses. The university must prioritize availability of resources and structural support as determining factors in the recruitment and retention of marginalized students. Moreover, because racism, homophobia, and other oppressive systems harm everyone, not just those belonging to targeted groups, material support for dismantling these systems benefits the campus as a whole.

Recourse / Accountability
The administration must determine a system for hearing and recording student concerns with racism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression. Students who confront their professors’ homophobia or racism in the classroom, for example, risk serious repercussions involving grades or classroom dynamics. Students should be able to access an advocate who can both work with students in these situations and record these events to establish patterns. The administration should put this in place only under the guidance of the student resource centers and should release a statement explaining the system chosen and the rationale behind it.

Public education is an important part of dismantling systemic oppression but is not the only part. Public education must be valued alongside other public services, not funded at their expense. This funding crisis is an opportunity to rethink what we expect from the state, not to choose some services over others.

Toby Beauchamp
Abbie Boggs
Cynthia C. Degnan
Liz Montegary