Seattle U Students Occupy Office, Demand School To ‘Decentralize Whiteness’

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Blake Neff Reporter
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A group of students at Seattle University have taken over a university dean’s office, saying they won’t leave unless the dean resigns and the school grants a set of demands that would heavily politicize the humanities curriculum.

Matteo Ricci College is one of eight schools at Seattle University, and focuses on the study of humanities. But the students who have taken over dean Jodi Kelly’s office say the college’s current curriculum is utterly stifling, and they have published a lengthy list of demands for changes.

Chief among their demands is an order for the school to adopt a new curriculum that “decentralizes Whiteness and has a critical focus on the evolution of systems of oppression such as racism, capitalism, colonialism, etc.” The curriculum should be taught by “professors of color and queer professors” and should place particular emphasis not on traditional educational concepts but instead on “racism, gentrification, sexism, colonialism, imperialism, global white supremacy, and other ethical questions about systems of power.”

One of the protesters, 22-year-old Fiza Muhammad, told The Stranger this demand was necessary to undermine Matteo Ricci’s current focus on the Western canon, which she dismissed as the work of old, racist, sexist white men.

“I can count on one hand how many people of color I’ve read in the four years that I’ve been here,” she said.

The demands also request a substantial amount of re-education for professors, so they will be more prepared to deal with “microaggressions” on campus.

“We demand that every faculty member in Matteo Ricci College undergo a training from an anti-racist network in Seattle, such as The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond,” the list says. Henceforth, classes must incorporate the “dismantling of micro-aggressive tendencies in students and educators” and should also “provide space to discuss how readings may be problematic.”

Muhammad said these demands were necessary because currently professors at the school “call [her] aggressive and emotional” when she complains to them.

Seattle University is a Catholic school, and Matteo Ricci College operates a special program with several local Catholic high schools that allows for students to begin college-level work in high school and then graduate after just three years of undergraduate work. The occupiers demand an end to this special relationship, arguing it excludes non-white and low-income students. They also demand the school “stop using the bodies of students of color to advertise diversity.”

Lastly, the students want Kelly to resign and be replaced by somebody more amenable to their agenda.

The occupiers appear to have come equipped to stay awhile, with The Stranger reporting they showed up with pillows, pizzas, and even a speaker system for blasting out Beyoncé’s new Lemonade album. They also erected a homemade poster displaying the “House Rules” of the occupation, such as:

  • This space centers Trans folx, differently-abled people, womxn of color, people of color + Queer folx!!!
  • This is a healing space. We are here to transform a previously violent space into a celebratory one
  • We all agree on the critical race theory definition of race, privilege, etc.

Kelly and other Seattle administrators had already been working to address student demands, with Kelly issuing a statement Tuesday offering to review the school’s curriculum without making any specific commitments. Students apparently found these concessions insufficient, which sparked the occupation on Wednesday. As of Thursday afternoon, the occupation was still ongoing.

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