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May 22, 2017

Students Protest FIJI, Present Petition at "We Demand" Rally

Several multicultural organizations co-hosted an inaugural rally for UChicago United, a campaign that aims to make the University campus more accessible and accommodating to minority students.

The organizations leading the rally, titled “We Demand,” were the African Caribbean Students Association (ACSA), Arab Student Association, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan (MEChA), Organization of Black Students (OBS), Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), and PanAsia Solidarity Coalition.

Around 50 people attended the rally, which was held outside Levi Hall, the University’s main administrative building.

During the rally, second-year MEChA member Maya Ruiz described the circumstances leading to UChicago United’s formation. The campaign grew out of a letter penned by several multicultural organizations in response to a construction-themed party held by Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) on Cinco de Mayo. Ruiz stressed, however, that FIJI’s party did not represent a unique incident. 

“What FIJI did was not an isolated misunderstanding. It was just one event in a long and continuous history of racism and exclusion that runs deep into the culture and logic of this University,” she said.

Ruiz referenced e-mails exchanged by brothers of Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) that were leaked in February 2016 and included several racial slurs.

“Black, Palestinian, and Muslim students shouldn’t have to endure the pain of racist, xenophobic, sexist e-mails last year only to have the university step farther away from the fraternities today,” she said.

Another organizer then read UChicago United’s 10 core demands to the University administration, which were published as an online petition later on Friday afternoon. The first of these demands was formal recognition of all Greek organizations as registered student organizations (RSOs).

As third-year MEChA member Alyssa Rodriguez told The Maroon after the rally, recognition of fraternities as RSOs ensures that the University’s Bias Response team can set guidelines governing fraternities’ behavior and take disciplinary action if infractions do occur.

Other demands included the creation of University-funded cultural houses for black, Latino, and Asian students and a pre-orientation program specifically for minority students. A comprehensive set of demands focused on the diversification of the Core curriculum, to be achieved through the establishment of a “Diversity and Inclusion” graduation requirement, expanded coursework in humanities and social sciences, and the creation of civilizations sequences covering the Caribbean and Southeast Asia.

Two demands were met with particularly boisterous cheers: a call to the University to hire administrators specifically tasked with running the Bias Response Team, and a request that the University suspend the faculty senate vote on the Picker Report, to be held today, and retain the 1970 Disciplinary System for Disruptive Conduct.

After the demands had been listed, second-year OLAS member Ayling Dominguez read a statement issuing a deadline for the University’s response: this Friday, May 25 at 5 p.m.

The rally finished with a chant, led by first-year ACSA member Ayomikun Idowu: “The people, united, will never be divided.”

Correction on May 23, 2017, 9:25 p.m. CDT:

This article originally misidentified MEChA member Alyssa Rodriguez as a member of OLAS.

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