Students react to the election; University reacts to the students

An email was distributed on Nov. 14 by student organizers affiliated with Connecticut for a Dream, an organization that supports undocumented students on campus, to articulate demands they had for the UConn administration in supporting marginalized students on campus.

Students participate in the "Rally for the People" to protest the election results on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

The points, published in a Letter to the Editor in yesterday’s edition of the Daily Campus, urged for: 1. “A press statement to support undocumented students, marginalized communities, and communities of color” by Dec. 1; 2. An action plan released by the University, also by Dec. 1, on systems the university will create to support aforementioned students; 3. Creating a legal sanctuary for undocumented students, refugees and their families at UConn and in Mansfield by the end of the calendar year; 4. A divestment from products on campus created by prison labor, with no deadline stipulated.

“We need to organize now,” the email’s author and seventh-semester Human Development and Family studies major Farzana Zubair said. “Undocumented students have a lot to fear and there is a real concern for their safety once Trump becomes president. We want to hold UConn accountable and keep the dialogue going to protect these students.”

UConn has issued two emails in response to student concerns, one on Nov. 10 following the “Rally for the People” protest hosted on Nov. 9, and another on Nov. 16 recognizing these groups and urging that students should, “accept the outcome.”

“These emails are telling us the mission statement (of UConn) again,” fifth-semester physiology and neurobiology and health and human rights Eeman Abbasi, who spoke at the rally on Nov. 9, said. “We can read. We can find that. It juveniles us in a way that makes it seem like we don’t know what we are doing. We do know, and that is why we are upset.”

The most recent email sent by President Herbst said, “A number of questions have been raised by members of our community regarding possible changes in public policy resulting from the election, and the effect that could have on our students, particularly those who are undocumented. I have asked the appropriate university offices to respond to inquiries that have been received and assemble information that may be relevant and helpful to our students.”

“I guess President Herbst sort of responds (to the demands) in talking about undocumented students,” Zubair said. “I am not a big fan of her saying the demands are being sent off to the ‘appropriate offices.’ You are the president, you should be the one working on it. You and your vice presidents and the entire faculty and administration should be working together. It should not just be Student Affairs.”

“I felt the university kept it pretty neutral on the issue and I thought that was great,” seventh-semester management major Gianna Bodnar said. “I think they feel the same way we do. We have the right to speak out and speak our minds. But they said it in a nice way to ensure we maintain the UConn community.”

When reached for comment, spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said, “Those discussions are in progress.”

Not all students saw these protests as constructive.

“Every student has a right to free speech, but I was disappointed by the negativity of the protests,” Bodnar said. “I feel that it is our duty as American citizens to stand by our elected leaders and have faith that they will fulfill their duties as Commander-In-Chief.”

“I find the message and the leadership of the protests at UConn both hypocritical and needlessly biased,” third-semester Political Science major Sean Chilson said. “I went to the protests to hear what the students had to say, and to me, the general message being promoted was one of unity. Then, however, the leaders began to announce who was and was not allowed to hold the signs and be at the front of the march. They requested for no white students to be at the front holding the banners and big posters. They said that they specifically wanted students of color, women in color in particular, to be the ones at the front lines, serving as the face of the protest. This is what I found extremely unsettling and the most hypocritical.”

Abbasi said that students will keep fighting until there is safety for all ensured on campus.  

“Will it be easy? No,” Abbasi said. “Is it necessary? Yes. Will we fight for it? Absolutely.”


Elizabeth Charash is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at elizabeth.charash@uconn.edu.