ASU’s macabre decision to return to in-person classes on Aug. 20, along with the University’s "Community of Care" branding, is not only irresponsible, but it is an act of violence. This decision has been made knowing that a percentage of students, faculty and staff will become ill, face potentially life-long health complications or die.
While 2020 is an exceptional year in many ways, in one way it remains the same: ASU is unwilling to create a safe environment for the most marginalized members in our community.
We, the Multicultural Solidarity Coalition, are a group of students, faculty and staff, a majority of whom are femmes of color, who have been asking the University to provide spaces and services to support marginalized people on campus. We are part of a long tradition of students organizing against injustices, from the DREAM Act to SB1070 more than 10 years ago.
Since 2016, President Michael Crow has told us that a multicultural center is not part of the New American University vision, despite ASU’s claims of inclusion.
We were told our proposal is one of 200 letters that Crow has received in response to his June 1 letter, and that "all proposals matter." While some administrators have expressed interest in our proposal, they have rejected our demands to make ASU a sanctuary university and to defund the ASU police.
We were told in July that the University cannot designate spaces specifically for marginalized communities on campus because "the entire campus should be perceived as a multicultural center." This argument is made from a color-blind perspective. We’re unsafe and being harmed, yet there is no formal avenue for us to meet with Crow.
We are not customers or disposable workers. We inherit the memory of former students who have stood up against oppression. We do not accept the false dichotomy between serving the needs of students and serving the institution. ASU’s repeated dismissal of these issues has given us no choice but to take to the streets, which we will do on Aug. 30 at 6 p.m.
Our proposal, with more than 5,000 signatures, is the result of years of grassroots organizing. It asks the University to recognize race and other marginalized identities, address the hostility toward these communities by creating a safer environment, increase services and provide a physical space for marginalized communities. It is a provocation and an invitation to create an environment that is safe for all.
The poor handling of our proposal echoes ASU’s decision to re-open at this stage of the pandemic. These choices reflect ASU’s failure to listen, act and uphold its charter. They are made without our safety in mind. We stand by the letter generated by the Arizona Community of Care Coalition in calling for a reconsideration of in-person classes.
A decision genuinely based in care would prioritize human life over budgetary concerns. Branding ASU’s reopening as a "Community of Care" is a way of gaslighting everyone who sees the reopening as unsafe. We cannot accept administrative decisions that work actively against people’s interests, especially in matters of life and death.
The University must meet the needs of the most marginalized among us during and after this pandemic. Crow cannot continue to defer his responsibility by forming committees, promoting campaigns of "raising awareness," publishing performative statements or implementing uncritical diversity and inclusion trainings that serve only to protect the ASU brand.
ASU must recognize and address its structures and practices that are uncaring, inequitable and unsustainable. Our proposal embodies our vision of a true community of care and is a step toward creating an ASU that actually actually upholds the University's charter. The Multicultural Center is already coming into being because we are here; we are already doing the work. We ask you to imagine what that might mean for you.
To continue this conversation, join us for a virtual town hall on Aug. 28 at 6 p.m. on our Facebook page.
Multicultural Solidarity Coalition
Zarra Tekola, Miranda Bernard, Miriam Araya, Lexie Gilbert, Kelly Baur, C.A. Griffith and Justine Hecht.
Editor’s Note: The opinions presented in this letter to the editor are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. This letter to the editor was submitted by the Multicultural Solidarity Coalition.
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