Student protesters scrap sit in for strategic conversation after university response

Students on Farfield Way at Wednesday's "Rally for the People".  (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

The Wilbur Cross sit in promised by student protestors at Wednesday’s “Rally for the People” will not go forward following a public response from University of Connecticut administrators, according to organizer Eric Cruz Lopez.

“This fight is a marathon and not a sprint, so we have to be strategic about how we spend our energy and how we fight back. We will be moving in a way that we will be able to respond to events in a timely matter in either a direct action, which includes a sit or an occupation, or via another letter or response,” Lopez, an undocumented fifth-semester secondary math education major, said.

“A Message to UConn Students Regarding Wednesday’s Gathering,” sent on behalf of Michael Gilbert, Vice President of Student Affairs and Eleanor Daugherty, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, was intended to reiterate UConn’s commitment to diversity in all programs, campuses and settings, university spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said in an email.

The message was sent to students and staff in addition to over 16 national, state and local news media outlets on Wednesday at 4:55 p.m., said Reitz.

Over 500 students attended the “Rally for the People” Wednesday, Nov 9 in front of Wilbur Cross as a show of support for undocumented immigrants, people of color, Muslims, women and the LGBT community following the election of Donald Trump, according to the Daily Campus. Lopez said that student organizers put forward a set of four initial demands at the peaceful protest:

1) That the university release a statement in support of the rights of undocumented students, people of color, Muslims and the LGBT community by 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11.

2) That UConn will become a legal sanctuary for undocumented students and their families by the end of the calendar year.

3) That UConn will release an action plan for what will happen if an undocumented student is deported, including how the university will handle their credits, financial aid and any money they have paid for tuition/room and board if they are forced to leave mid-semester.

4) That UConn will divest from products made with prison labor, which financially supports mass incarceration and the criminalization of people of color.

While the message to students was a step toward “Rally for the People’s” first goal, Lopez said the university needs to recognize that doing more of the same is not enough. Lopez said he and other student activists on campus are drafting a letter of response to the university over the weekend.

“It’s a show of complacency that they think they’re doing amazingly even though we had over 500 come out to tell the university that they don’t feel safe on this campus,” Lopez said. “The policies and actions the university has taken have not changed any of this, so saying that the university will keep doing the same thing it has always done shows that the university will not change to protect students of color and other marginalized communities.”

UConn’s director of Diversity & Inclusion, Joelle Murchison, is currently working on a university action plan for the deportation of undocumented students, as discussed with students at the rally, said Reitz.

Gilbert and Daugherty were not available for comment due to the Veteran’s Day holiday.


Kimberly Armstrong is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kimberly.armstrong@uconn.edu.