Ohio State administrators sign statement in support of those fighting racism

Ohio State administrators and student activists drafted and signed a cooperative statement Sunday, proclaiming support and solidarity for and with those committed to creating an inclusive community and confronting racial discrimination.

The letter’s signing followed negotiations with student protesters who had organized a sit-in at the Ohio Union on Friday evening. The student group, named #OSU2Mizzou, had organized not only the sit-in but also a march and rally earlier in the day.

The statement was signed by Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer Sharon Davies, Vice President for Student Life Javaune Adams-Gaston and #OSU2Mizzou organizer Lauren Todd, a fourth-year in pre-health sciences. The text of the letter explicitly acknowledged and supported a prominent student protest group active at the University of Missouri.

“Today, Concerned Students and allies at The Ohio State University engaged in direct action to support #ConcernedStudent1950 at the University of Missouri, which highlights the struggles of black and other marginalized people on college campuses across the nation,” the letter stated. “In response to these actions, we, the undersigned, stand in solidarity.”

The student activist organization Concerned Student 1950 has organized protests on the University of Missouri’s campus since September and has remained active through recent events, including the prominent resignation of the university’s president, Tim Wolfe.

OSU President Drake released a statement before the events organized by #OSU2Mizzou on Friday regarding the recent events at the University of Missouri and at other colleges. The statement emphasized the opportunity to reflect and learn, and it denoted the important role played by universities in confronting racial discrimination.

Drake later attended the rally organized by #OSU2Mizzou and marched off the Oval with the students.

“It was important to (Drake) to go down and hear from these students,” Chris Davey, a university spokesman, said. “The university is committed to engaging on these issues and hearing from these students, and doing what we can to move forward.”

On Saturday, following negotiations and the sit-in organized by #OSU2Mizzou, the shared letter was released with a small statement from OSU.

“After attending Friday’s event, administrators from the Ohio State Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Office of Student Life worked with students to craft a shared statement that would express support for national efforts to address bias and racism and our continued commitment to ensuring that the Ohio State community is welcoming to and inclusive of all,” the letter stated.

The sit-in at the Union began at about 6 p.m. and lasted until 1:30 a.m. the next day. Upstairs, organizers of the #OSU2Mizzou rally met with university administration officials and demanded that a letter by the university must be released to show solidarity with Concerned Student 1950 at the University of Missouri.

#OSU2Mizzou also wanted a list of tentative demands to be met in the future by OSU. Some demands included that Ohio State University Police be demilitarized and Undergraduate Student Government and University Senate seats be allocated to selected representatives from underrepresented communities of race, sexuality and gender. Additionally, the students demanded that the university double the percentage of tenured faculty, full-time professors, associate professors and students of each ethnic minority by the start of the 2020-21 school year.

While the organizers were negotiating, supporters stood on the staircase leading to the upper floors, some sharing personal experiences with racism and reading poems aloud. A trombonist freestyled while the crowd clapped, sang, and chanted slogans of solidarity with student activists at the University of Missouri.

One student brought a speaker and played songs from Kendrick Lamar’s latest album, “To Pimp A Butterfly,” such as “Alright” and “How Much a Dollar Cost,” two politically driven songs about racial inequality in the United States.

The rally leaders periodically came back from their talks with the administration to update supporters. After a couple hours of waiting, the protesters sat in front of the administration doors to further show that they would not move until their demands were met.

Rally leaders read aloud the proposed drafts of solidarity written by the university to the crowd of protesters and asked for input.

“I feel like the letter is missing what tangible actions [the administrations is] going to do because I was here in 2012, and this sounds like lip service again,” said one protester, standing up. “After this letter, what’s going to actually happen? I want to see that included, so we can say ‘six months, six years, look what you said.’”

One dissatisfied student at the sit-in argued that the intentions of the rally were misplaced. She argued that the whole point of the events organized by #OSU2Mizzou was to show solidarity with the students at the University of Missouri, not to push their agenda to OSU’s doors.

“We have not actually taken the time, in my opinion, to actually discuss, as a group of people, what we want as a university,” she said. “We have not also given the university the opportunity to actually get something done. We need to allow our university the chance to actually do something before we come up here and act like we’re gonna bust down their door.”

Her opinion was met with applause and snaps of approval from some protestors.

The sit-in drew to a close after a final round of drafting half an hour later.

The shared letter, which was released later that day, concluded by stating, “Students have immense power to change the world. Together, we are committed to moving forward in the fight for justice with the help of all concerned Buckeyes.”