BURLINGTON, Vt. – A group of Champlain College students held a sit-in during a faculty and staff meeting Monday afternoon to protest what they say is a failure to properly address issues of race on campus.
Students said professors made students of color feel ‘targeted’ or ‘tokenized,’ and alleged that some students used hate speech during class discussions.
“There was a lot of racially ambiguous events happening on campus again and students felt faculty and staff weren’t addressing the issues properly,” said Hannah Short, a student who helped organize the sit-in. “We took it upon ourselves to create solutions.”
Last year, signs from a national white supremacist campaign were posted around the Champlain College and University of Vermont campuses. Champlain College student Jasmin Spiers said Vermont’s reputation as a welcoming place hasn’t reflected her experience.
“The state promotes itself as somewhere that’s so liberal and progressive and passionate towards all people,” Spiers said. “Yet somehow, when we walk around not only the campus but the Burlington area and wider Vermont area, we have to still deal with racism wherever we go.”
Students introduced a ‘SNAP Change’ initiative at the sit-in intended to make students and faculty more aware of actions that make students of color uncomfortable.
“Right now, the only thing I’m focusing on is seeing a change in their attitude toward conversations that are brought up in the classroom,” said student Shelsea Henry. “They have to hold themselves accountable and the students in the classroom that are making others feel uncomfortable.”
Senior Vice President for Academics Laurie Quinn released the following statement after the sit-in:
Champlain College honors the students who were present at our Faculty Senate meeting today to raise awareness and voice concerns about diversity, equity and inclusion on our campus, particularly in classrooms.
Our faculty leadership welcomed the students and those in attendance listened respectfully. After the students left the meeting, our faculty discussed their commitments as teachers and explored opportunities for putting those commitments into action.
Champlain is committed to advancing its priorities for diversity, equity and inclusion and will continue to actively engage all members of the community in the ongoing work to enhance the Champlain experience for all students.