After President Raymond and the Haverford administration’s egregious letter in response to the murder of Walter Wallce Jr and their inability to respond and lay out an action plan to enact the changes that BSRFI has called for in their Open Letter to the Bi-Co Community, BIPOC students on this campus have had enough. That is why we have been disrupting the order at Haverford College and initiating a general strike. The strike doesn’t end until the administration lays out a timeline towards these goals that we can hold them accountable for. Until then, don’t cross the picket line.
President Raymond responds to the open letter. In her response, President Raymond refuses to make a commitment to taking an active role in police and prison abolition.
After meeting with President Raymond, Professor Helen White, other student allies and Senior Staff at the college, BSRFI immediately updated the community of their disappointment in the action taken by Senior Staff.
Haverford College announces new initiatives they are beginning to support their mission for equity, justice, and anti-racism. Many of these initiatives have still not begun.
President Raymond spoke to prospective students of the college at the Have-A-Look event for FGLI + students of color. The Have-A-Look program was eventually cancelled before the scheduled end of the event as a result of the students who coordinated the program expressing their discomfort in continuing to advertise the college to students of color after the response by administration.
Two days after the murder of Walter Wallace Jr and while Haverford students were in jail after being arrested by the Philadelphia Police Department for protesting police murder, President Raymond and Dean Bylander send their response to Haverford College students. Students of color mobilized a response almost immediately, drafting letters to send to the president directly and planning a sit-in on Founders Green that evolved into the subsequent march and strike.
View full timeline here.
Dear President Raymond and Dean Bylander,
We would like to start with an acknowledgement that the campus of Haverford College occupies land that was cultivated by Lenni Lenape people for over 10,000 years. As students at Haverford College, we inherit a legacy that includes the displacement of Lenni Lenape people in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Ontario. This involved the forcible removal that worked in concert with acts of disenfranchisement and genocide that reduced the local population of Lenni Lenape from 20,000 to 4,000.
Let us clearly acknowledge the college’s contribution to these violent histories and acknowledge our responsibility to build a fuller understanding of the implications of these histories. We must recognize the ways in which our privileges have come at the cost of the oppression of others, and we must discern our own responsibilities in addressing these injustices following the lead of Lenape, Nanticoke-Lenni, Ramapough Lenape, and other Lenni Lenape tribes and nations. Moving beyond this acknowledgement and following in the work of Megan Red Shirt-Shaw, a Lakota person, on what institutions of higher education should do respective of the Land Back movement, we demand that Haverford College return institutional land back to Native nations. If institutional land cannot be returned to Native nations, Haverford College should provide free higher education to Native students on their traditional homelands as landbased reparations. Currently, less than 1% of the student body identifies as Native and the College lacks any Indigenous studies courses or faculty. Haverford cannot continue erasing the existence of Indigenous communities of the past or the present.
We, the students of color at Haverford, are responding to the egregious email you sent to the student body Wednesday afternoon. Your email is a continuation of a long tradition of anti-Blackness and the erasure of marginalized voices that have come to characterize the experiences of students of color at Haverford. We are also deeply disappointed and angry that the administration has learned nothing from the protests that ensued after the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and so many more at the hands of police – a time in which President Raymond reassured Haverford’s commitment to anti-racism as the national conversation turned to abolition. It is through an abolitionist framework that we choose to operate out of and implore you to begin doing so as well.
In your first correspondence addressing Walter Wallace Jr.’s death, you begin your email by rightfully noting the grief and exhaustion of Black students on this campus. Yet immediately you undermine our rightful anger, minimizing the importance of protest while placing boundaries on how students can engage with their communities in Philadelphia. Although you claimed your email was to protect us, who are you trying to protect? The image of the college? You have proven to us, yet again, that your gestures are nothing more than a performative attempt to placate the anger of Black and Brown students at Haverford.
The statements, "protesting will not bring Walter Wallace back" and "now is not the time" are unsympathetic, counterproductive, and insensitive. For someone who claims to be “dedicated to anti-racism and social justice,” these unexamined assertions actively harm the Black community, not just on Haverford’s campus, but in all of our communities. In choosing to not actively support (e.g. increasing COVID-19 testing, offering transportation, providing guidelines on how to protest safely, etc.) students who want to protest for Walter Wallace Jr., Breonna Taylor, and all of the Black lives taken by police officers, you are not only silencing our voices and preventing us from protesting the violence enacted on Black people, but actively stopping us from reinforcing the dignity and humanity of Black lives by showing up for community members down the street. By doing so, you are actively trying to suppress our anger. Furthermore, in your email, you offered us a vigil and community worship space as an alternative to protesting. When we only participate in the recognition of Black lives after death, we end up perpetuating the death of Blackness itself. Instead, we should be celebrating, upholding, protecting, and defending Black lives during life too. So, now, we ask you, if now is not the time, when will be the time for Black lives to matter?
Your push for us to rely on the U.S. electoral system to make necessary structural and institutional changes so that Black lives can truly matter is negligent of the history of policing and structural racism in this country whose foundation is based upon settler colonialism, slavery, and Indigenous genocide. No elected official can undo the violence Black and Brown people have suffered and continue to suffer since America’s conception. Believing that participating in the electoral system is capable of "making tragedies like this a real thing of the past" contributes to the liberal logic that the electoral system is the solution to marginalized peoples' oppression when, in fact, it is and has proven to be the opposite. Our current governor and the mayor of Philadelphia are Democrats; yet, Black Philadelphians have not been protected under elected liberal officials like them. While we will continue to vote, electoral politics will never actualize racial equality and the end to police violence—only abolition will.
In the follow up email, you attempted to apologize and clarify your first statement. In doing so, your overall message of “not our intention” was an act of gaslighting. You both need to take accountability for what was said — and meant. The harm your emails caused and the message that you conveyed about the value of Black lives can’t be undone through an emailed “apology” while you continue to advocate for silent protests and performative vigils. Although you can apologize for the harm you caused, it simply does not mean anything without action and meaningful, material change. At the sit-in last night, you heard many of your Black students speak about their frustration and disappointment. Quite frankly, this campus has failed its Black students (especially Black women and Black nonbinary people), its students of color, and its FGLI students– the very people whose labor is the backbone of this campus. These emails were just one more way in which you and this institution neither feel nor understand how tired, angry, and ready for change we are.
This campus runs on the physical and emotional labor of FGLI + students of color through our (usually multiple) jobs, extracurriculars, and classes. In this pandemic, that labor has intensified in unimaginable ways, especially as the institution relies on our leadership to do the bare minimum of supporting student needs. In addition, the majority of the staff members that allow Haverford College to function are BIPOC, and frankly, the college has not done enough for them. It was disrespectful and irresponsible that President Raymond and Dean Bylander’s email centered the goals of the college in maintaining order over the emotions of the BIPOC students after another death of a Black person at the hands of the police. We are no longer asking for inclusion or diversity since that gives more power to the institution. Instead we will disrupt that order.
We will be going on a strike from our classes, our jobs (which we need), and any extracurricular activities.
This campus can’t run without BIPOC. This is not just a reminder that we are valuable to you on campus, but that our lives, minds, and bodies matter, both on campus and in our communities. An apology prompted by our frustration and anger is not enough. A realization of your insensitivity after harm ensued is not enough. We need and demand visible institutional change.
I. We demand removal of President Raymond as “Chief of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” Haverford must, instead, hire a BIPOC Chief Diversity Officer– vetted by students and faculty of color on campus– who is committed to their interests rather than the college’s.
II. We demand that you follow in the footsteps of Swarthmore College and cancel classes on Election Day and provide paid leave for college employees.
III. We demand academic leniency for BIPOC and/or FGLI students who are traumatized by the effects of COVID and constant police violence in their communities. During a deadly pandemic, nation-wide insurrections against police, and intense political instability, BIPOC and FGLI students have been expected to be able to return to business as usual in regards to academics. Classes are not a useful distraction from the horrors of police homicide, the devastation of COVID-19 in Black and Brown communities, or the shattering of financial security for low-income people. Haverford's non-committal stance encouraging professors to be lenient has been flatly ignored by many professors on our campus. The Committee on Student Standing and Programs (CSSP) issued several academic warning letters following the spring semester of 2020, though each had no regard for the mass loss experienced by predominantly Black and Brown students.
IV. We demand that the school encourage and protect student participation in supporting direct action. Rather than further alienating Black students on our white suburban campus, we are calling on Haverford to encourage student and institutional involvement in the abolition work done by activists on and off campus. This can be done in several ways:
V. We demand the institution recognize and resolve that the increased surveillance and policing amongst students in regards to COVID-19 primarily affects students of color, who have always been more prominently surveilled by the campus community.
VI. We demand Haverford honor and credit the work of Black women driving institutional change instead of taking credit for their continued labor and erasing their contributions. This includes the work from BSRFI, BSL, ALAS, SWOL, SALT, and AOCC.
VII. We demand that the school creates a framework to deal with problematic professors and generates spaces of accountability– the honor code is not enough and it never has been. We also demand adequate support and protection for both tenure-track and contingent faculty of color, whose expertise is often minimized or ignored and whose labor is exploited.
VIII. We demand that the school continue to pay the students who are participating in the strike. Our supervisors should not be pressuring us to return to work during this time and POC staff, especially in the Dining Center, Facilities, and the Coop, should be paid overtime for the duration of the strike.
IX. We demand that no student, staff or faculty partaking in the strike face financial, academic or professional retribution, or penalties of any kind. If the institution is as devoted to anti-racist work as they claim to be, they would continue to pay students who are taking this principled stand by refusing to show up for work. Recognizing that Haverford has long betrayed the trust of students of color and FGLI students on campus, however, we are taking steps to ensure that dining facilities are not overwhelmed, people will be able to access food and groceries, and students on work-study can receive payment through the Bi-Co Mutual Aid Fund. We encourage students not on work study and who have money to spare (this includes reaching out to family and friends) to donate to the Bi-Co Mutual Aid Fund and help establish a robust network of mutual aid for the Bi-Co Community and beyond.
X. We demand that the Bi-Co stop its violence against disabled students. Through purported academic rigor, the weaponization of academic forced leave, a wheelchair unfriendly campus, and inaccessible, white-dominated mental health services, disabled students are continuously pushed out of our community. Many BIPOC students who are disabled, impaired, and/or neurodivergent face violence from professors, administrators, and CAPS faculty. This can be countered through:
A. A more representative CAPS staff, whose practice is informed by the racial and economic origins of mental illness and the acknowledgment of structural disparities in diagnoses and healing services.
B. The abolition of mandated reporting of mental health details to police, CPS, and/or administrative authorities.
C. No requirements for verification or documentation from “a licensed professional” for academic and housing accommodations as this is exclusionary to low-income, BIPOC students.
D. Consequences for professors who neglect necessary accommodations for students.
E. Campus Safety should never be called during a mental health crisis, unless the student expressly consented prior.
XI. We demand more robust aid and support for queer and trans students of color. Our retention rate of said students is deplorable, and many are forced to drop out or take extensive leave. Many of our QTPOC students experience frequent sexual harassment and assault. The honor code and Honor Council has either dismissed or declined to seek justice for these assaults. Workable action includes:
A. An increase of LGBTQ+ CAPS therapists
B. Reserve hours for LGBTQ+ students with said therapists
C. Holding both professors and Committee on Student Standing and Programs (CSSP) accountable to providing academic leniency when students come forward about working through trauma
D. Provide an alternative or concrete reform to Haverford’s Title IX procedure that does not include policing.
XII. We Demand that the college terminate all relationships with the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD), and actively work toward police and prison abolition. This demand was previously made by BSRFI in the Open Letter and yet continues to be ignored by the administration. Therefore, in addition, “The colleges will also divest, both in and of themselves, from any partnerships that may exist, with companies that rely on prison labor.” The PPD exists solely to protect capital and perpetrate terrorist violence against those whose trauma and oppression the capitalist system profits from. If the college truly supports the health of Haverford students and Philadelphia citizens, whom the college continues to exploit on numerous fronts, then it is in its best interest to end all relationships with PPD. It is unacceptable that we are forced to repeat ourselves on this front, especially in light of the egregious harm PPD has brought to Haverford students in recent weeks and long before.
The strike will continue indefinitely until the demands have been met and there is institutional change.