Seattle U students vow to continue sit-in until dean resigns

For the past week, a group of Seattle University students have been occupying a campus building home to offices of the Matteo Ricci College to demand the ouster of the college’s dean and a more diverse atmosphere at the school.

Students say dean Jodi Kelly is an impediment to the radical changes they want to see at the humanities-focused college, which include creating a “non-Eurocentric, interdisciplinary” curriculum and more diverse faculty. The university’s president has rejected the calls for Kelly to be removed from her position. On Tuesday students and faculty packed into the occupied Casey building to hear from organizers of the Matteo Ricci College Student Coalition.

“Our demand has always been a liberatory education,” said Fiza Mohammad, a senior at Seattle U. “We are truly hungry for a decolonized, transformative education.”

Mohammad said she and other students enrolled to the college under false pretenses and that they want the university and college to live up to its promotional materials. The group has vowed to continue occupying the building day and night until its demands are met. So far, the university has allowed the students to stay in the Casey common space. Offices in the building remain open. 

The coalition, which is organized primarily by women of color, has also accused Kelly of being a racist.

“Dean Kelly personally perpetuates much of the violence embedded within MRC. This has been reported, emphasized, and driven home by students, staff, faculty, and alumni,” said a recent statement from the group. A lengthy petition outlining the MRC Student Coalition demands has received over 1,000 signatures. Students have been giving regular updates on their activities via social media using #DearDeanKelly.

Seattle University president Stephen V. Sundborg said in a statement that he rejected the calls for Kelly to be fired, but said the university would work in the other ways to address student concerns.

In a letter addressed to me as president and distributed widely to the university I found certain language, especially the words “our racist dean,” when referring to Dean Jodi Kelly, runs counter to our values of respect and dialogue and to the Code of Student Conduct. I ask that we avoid treating anyone in our community this way. I have made it clear that the university will not accept the demand for the resignation of an academic leader. We have shared the proper established channels for bringing complaints and other concerns forward so that they can be addressed in a way that respects the rights of all. The policies and procedures we have in place are the best way to address complaints and grievances. I have also made clear that the university, in keeping with our policies, does not intend to publicly respond to personnel matters.

The students have brought forth other significant concerns relating to curriculum, climate and cultural competency within Matteo Ricci College. We have outlined specific measures we will take to address these with the professional insights of external consultants and the active involvement and participation of concerned individuals. These are the essential principles for the best way forward.

As president of Seattle University, I sincerely apologize on my behalf and on behalf of the university for what has been the experience of some of our students when it comes to race, class, gender and disability in aspects of the university’s academic and social life. I hope my apology is embraced and accepted as intended. We have taken a number of steps to address these concerns, from forming the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusive Excellence to conducting a climate survey. We know there is more work to do and are moving forward deliberately on the recommendations of the task force in order to realize our ideals and aspirations.

The Seattle U occupation joins a wave of student activism targeting administrators around the nation and has attracted some national attention. Members of the Southern Poverty Law Center and City Council member Kshama Sawant recently spoke to students inside the occupied building .

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21 thoughts on “Seattle U students vow to continue sit-in until dean resigns

  1. House rule #3 talks about transforming a previously violent space into a celebratory one.

    Fine. But when I read that, I can’t help but think about the extraordinarily “violent spaces” our government and its military created with their regime change activities in the Mideast and north Africa. Bet the people there would like them transformed into celebratory — or at least safe — spaces again.

  2. “We are truly hungry for a decolonized, transformative education.”

    If I rolled by eyes any harder they would pop out the back of my head.

  3. Yikes. I hope SU politely but firmly advises these students that their demands will never happen. Give them fair warning before expulsion for trespassing and likely violating a number of college rules.

    The curriculum I am sure was never a secret on enrollment and I am also confident that there are ample opportunities to study areas and authors outside of the western ‘Canon’.

  4. Dear spoiled children,

    You chose to attend a Jesuit college.

    You are behaving disgracefully and perhaps worse is the behavior of the President, that apparently exist without spines.

    If it is so horrible there, please return any scholarships please so that kidsmore worthy can use the money.

  5. Wait… waiiiiiiit. Wasn’t choosing this college with its established curriculum elective? How can you demand something of a private institution that you chose to attend? Isn’t that like enrolling at The Citadel in SC and then demanding a less militaristic atmosphere?

    • You can go on youtube and search Trigglypuff, a particularly bothered SJW(Social Justice Warrior).

      There is a chunk of this generation that wants and always will see themselves as permanent victims…to that I say…enjoy it.

    • Datadriven: Put both/either or in your search engine (I had to). Absolutely hysterical results for Trigglypuff and SJW is a Social Justice Warrior who is not always in favor of social justice for anyone other than themselves. Great post, Patrick. In fact, I sighed when I read the article but my faith in the sanity of humanity has been reinstated with ALL of the foregoing posts.

  6. “Members of the Southern Poverty Law Center… spoke to students inside the occupied building.”

    Ironically, the SPLC is currently celebrating its 45th consecutive year with no minorities in leadership roles.

    With 300 employees and more than $300 million in cash on hand, the Executive Suite of the SPLC is as lily-white today as when the company opened for business in 1971.

    Even the “Teaching Tolerance” wing of the SPLC, which purports to promote diversity in the K-12 classroom, has been led by “whites only” since its inception in 1991.

    Talk about a “Eurocentric curriculum.”

  7. Maybe you shouldn’t have gone to a private Catholic school in the Information Age when you can find out everything you could ever want to know and more about it beforehand to make an informed decision about whether or not it aligns with your beliefs? I don’t know.

  8. They’re aiming too low. They should demand that all white men everywhere resign, starting with Vladimir Putin (he’s a white man, right? over in Russia, or someplace, right?). They should also demand to be educated whether or not the Pope is a white man, because if he is, he’s obviously a racist and should resign, too.

  9. “…she and other students enrolled to the college under false pretenses and that they want the university and college to live up to its promotional materials.”

    Can the students produce the promotional materials that misled them? How about the admissions representatives that communicated the false pretenses? So far their sit-in has been nothing more than name-calling and she-said, she-said.

    Evidence and facts would go a long way in earning my empathy for their demands.

  10. I feel like they have a legitimate beef. The solution to a multitude of problems starts with education. Why would kids not want a voice in what that means? Many of you seem to be worse whiners than these kids, and I get that some of your responses are intended to be amusing. But there’s no reason to attack these kids who seem to be participating in a normal part of college: activism. Protests and sit-ins have long been employed to get messages across. Why does that matter so much to you, or threaten those of you who are dismissive?

    The college president had an appropriate response. The kids have a legitimate gripe. Since their sit-ins address institutional racism and not Jim Crow laws or Vietnam they’re suddenly lacking legitimacy? Get over yourselves.

    • Yawn… They chose the program at a Jesuit university.

      Critical Race Theory is a cancer, the same students will next want a “Safe space” so they can isolate their ideas, so they are not challenged.

  11. First of all, how many of the protesters are students and how many outside agitators?
    Secondly, students are no more partners in the administration of a college than an employee in a corporation or an inmate in an asylum.
    Sit-ins are fine, but the administrators have a school to run.

  12. I went to SU with the help of a combo of 5 scholarships as well as student loans. While there I applied for every merit scholarship that came along and was able to travel to France and Ireland with SU as a result. (Note to students: Some of the scholarships I applied for had no other applicants, so apply for everything!) I greatly value the education I received at SU which included the concept that studying ideas and beliefs not your own has great value. I’m disturbed that the students want the dean fired for speaking the title of a book when recommending the book (by a famous activist) to an activist student. Censoring speech because certain words offend you means you’ll not read a great deal of literature about historically important events and people. Sad.