On February 25 at 11:30 a.m. the Tacoma campus walkout kicked off with President of the UWT Black Student Union (BSU) Reggie Howell stepping up to provide a statement to the people outlining the format for discussion. Also articulating the demands that the BSU had come up with in agreement with UW Seattle’s BSU, yet some more in particular to UWT. Preceding the demands was a brief reminder of I-200 which appealed affirmative action; framed as a way to provide equal opportunity access for students, in terms of the UW inevitably had a negative impact on acceptance of students of color. At the Tacoma campus over 100 people came out to the grand staircase and stood in the cold and rain for their chance to speak or to hear the words of others.
The demands as stated by Howell were, “[one] equitable access to higher education, not merely equal opportunity access to higher education…two both the President of University of Washington and the Associated Students of the University of Washington (ASUW) to write public statements in support of repealing I-200 so further addressing how I-200 contradicts University of Washington’s core principles of diversity and its core values.” Going to the third demand Howell stated, “during this time the highest paid employees of the University of Washington have also been receiving more money and more on their salaries. So we would like to see that money put more in our diversity resources programs, anything that develops and welcomes the minority students to the University of Washington.” Vice President of the UWT BSU Fleciah Mburu whom proceeded to go on to the fourth demand saying, “we’ve realized as a black student union…there is lack of…addressing black history month…we felt that the diversity resource center and other departments did not…hold any events or programming…so one that was one of our demands… to get more events happening.” Mburu gave the fifth demand, “a more ethnically diverse faculty on our campus that at a minimum represents the diversity of the state of Washington. She spoke of how out of all the teaching faculty on campus only four are African American or Black. Howell provided the remaining demands which were to divest from prisons and fossil fuels, transparency of the UW budgets and investments, and lastly more art on campus in accessible and frequented locations that is more representative of a broader and more diverse population.
Following the demands, the academic advisor of BSU Dr. Adam West spoke to the crowd and thanked everyone for coming out. Dr. West said to the people, “when I look at you guys it does tells us that there is a concern on this campus, there have been people who want to suggest that there are not real problems on this campus, there are real problems on this campus and I think our voices here are really to direct attention to that.” Dr. West spoke in length about the issues we are facing and making change. Following this faculty and students went up and spoke.
As the event was about to close Interim Vice Chancellor Bill Kunz was noticed standing of to the side of the crowd. Asked to come forward many questions were directed at the Vice Chancellor. Questions about faculty positions, faculty pay, the specific demands and what’s being done to bring about equity for all on the UWT community. The one thing that the Vice Chancellor did say that received applause rather than more questions was, “I’m trying not to make excuses, there’s a lot of work to be done, and I’m trying, that’s all.” BSU President Howell advised the crowd once questions for the chancellor were failing to cease that the BSU would organize a more appropriate event for questions and answers with the Vice Chancellor about these issues at a later date.
Now in regard to what comes next, posted on the Facebook event page following the walkout was a statement to thank all supporters and to plan the next steps. As stated, “Moving forward it is time to hold the University of Washington accountable to responding to our demands effectively and appropriately…We ask members of each school to schedule meetings with their top administrator sometime within the next week to: 1) Ensure they have received the demands 2) Have clarifying discussions, proffer solutions, and develop timelines upon which the Administration will begin to respond to these timelines. 3) Please post notes and action items from your meetings here[the event page] until we have developed a better system for communication and coordination.” As Dr. West had said this is, “not just for one day, not just for today, not for a few moments, but really something that should be ongoing, and hopefully resolved in a way that is beneficial to all of us.”