UVM staffer launches hunger strike for diversity demands
Protesters at the University of Vermont hosted a rally and a hunger strike in an attempt to force the school to meet a list of social justice demands in “solidarity with black lives matter.”
The “Done with the Bulls—- Rally” was hosted Tuesday by a student activist organization called “No Names for Justice,” and is intended as a response to “It’s ok to be white” flyers that appeared on campus last year.
"A UVM staff member...announced they would be going on hunger strike until UVM meets all of the demands presented by No Names for Justice last semester."
“On Friday, February 16th a UVM staff member, John Mejia, announced they would be going on hunger strike until UVM meets all of the demands presented by No Names for Justice last semester including an additional 10 demands that they presented,” the description page read. “It is time for our demands to be met, no more bulls—- emails, no more bulls—- meetings.”
“THE TIME IS NOW!! YOU WERE BORN FOR A TIME SUCH AS THIS!!” the organizers continued. “Bring pans, instruments, anything that makes noise!! Bring posters, banners, anything that takes up space!!”
According to The Vermont Cynic, Mejia is a staffer at the school's Office of Student and Community relations, and began his hunger strike last Thursday.
“I am on a hunger strike until the list of demands that I gave to UVM and the City of Burlington are met,” Mejia told the publication.
As previously reported by Campus Reform, several members of the Black Student Union stormed the UVM president’s office in September of last year, issuing a list of 10 demands including "mandatory diversity training" for all faculty and fraternity/sorority members.
A list of additional demands has now been posted online by Mejia, including calls for the “installation of a fourth flag pole at the Davis Center to permanently fly a Black Lives Matter Flag,” as well as funding “for 4 full-time positions to offer ongoing Examining White Identity and Racial Aikido Trainings for all interested staff and faculty.”
Mejia also wants the school to triple “the staff of the Mosaic Center for Students of Color and its operating budget;” increase funding “for anti-racist events on campus from all sources including but not limited to Training & Professional Development, University Program Board, all named lecture series;” and implement an “ongoing and intensive training of UVM police in anti-racism and implicit bias on a semester basis” along with “the permanent installation of a Black Lives Matter flag installed at UVM police headquarters.”
“At the end of the day, you are either on the side of justice or on the side of injustice,” the staffer wrote. “I am asking you right now to chose.”
Students echoed Mejia’s grievances during Tuesday’s protest, voicing their support for the activist demands and urging the administration to “step down.”
UVM President Tom Sullivan issued a statement in response to the protests later in the day, underscoring that the university “has a strong, visible, and ongoing commitment to diversity, racial equality, and inclusion” and noting that “We consistently speak out against racism, injustice, and bigotry on our campus and communicate frequently with concerned and impacted members of our community.”
Sullivan also noted that the administration “[appreciates] John Mejia’s passion for racial equality both on campus and in the city of Burlington,” adding that “we are concerned for John’s health and wellbeing” and “are offering John health assistance and support as John makes personal choices regarding these issues.”
Despite those professions of support for Mejia, however, the statement conspicuously omitted any pledge to meet any specific demands. Instead, Sullivan recounted the university’s “significant progress” and directed readers to a website with updates on UVM’s ongoing efforts to “promote diversity.”
Spokespersons for the University of Vermont did not immediately respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment.