Did The UVM Student Protests Demanding Racial Justice Reform Succeed?
Earlier this year, University of Vermont student organization NoNames for Justice pushed the school to address issues of racial justice reform. With the semester drawing to a close and graduation just days away, I spoke with two of the group's leaders about what — if anything — they feel has been accomplished.
First a little context.
Back in September 2016, a Black Lives Matter flag was stolen from a flagpole on the University of Vermont’s campus. Since then, student-lead organization NoNames for Justice has been working diligently to create what they hope to be a cultural shift on campus.
By April 2017, UVM students handed administrators a petition with about 450 signatures, demanding justice for the theft of the flag and updated diversity curriculum, which would later become apart of the official list of demands.
As the movement progressed, the group gave focus to two demands: The renovation of diversity courses (or D1 classes,) and mandatory diversity training for staff.
Diana Allos, a senior at UVM and NoNames for Justice leader says, these demands came from personal experiences that she and fellow classmates, including co-leader Angie Crespo, had in and out of class.
"There were so many things happening for all of us at that time," said Allos, "Angie [Crespo] and I were in a classroom where there was a series of bias incidents that started from one but is directly related to one of the demands we have now."
Which brings us to this semester.
It’s been a year since Allos and her peers gave the petition to administrators, and some students feel that progress is taking too long.
"We’re just tired," she said in late April. "And even just like the smallest things, the amount of effort you have to put in to get it done is not proportionate to what you’re getting. It’s still things that need to be done, don’t get me wrong. I’m still gonna push but I want to go into a room and just scream sometimes."
Not all hope is lost, though.
Angie Crespo, a UVM senior and NoNames for Justice's co-leader, says that one of her proudest moments came during a protest where the leaders were able to see first hand, the support they had the UVM community.
"[It was] the most included I've ever felt on this campus. And for me, that was the most beautiful thing ... I want my people to feel like they belong — this is theirs." — Angie Crespo
As far as how slow progress is going, UVM Associate Professor of Education, Cynthia Reyes says she gets it.
She understands that students are eager to see change, but wants them to know that it takes time.
I reached out to the administration for comments but they are holding off on media interviews while they remain in discussion with students.
For leaders like Allos who will be hanging around Burlington after the spring semester ends, they are working on developing a mentorship program for underclassmen to continue to the fight.