Hamilton College: Follow the Leadership of Black and Non-Black POC

David Wippman and Board of Trustees of Hamilton College

Hamilton College has continuously failed to support and protect BIPOC students on campus with lackluster responses and lack of transparency to the Hamilton Community. With the surge of racial incidents in the world, it is more evident than ever that Hamilton College does not have the proper systems nor proper leadership to carry out diversity and inclusion initiatives. We seek for President Wippmann and Board of Trustees of Hamilton College to carry out the demands listed by BLSU in order to foster a safe and inclusive community:

  1. Abolition of the Advisory Council - The current Advisory Council will be abolished in its structure and membership, to be recreated following the guidelines below. All students currently part of the Council shall maintain their positions in the recreated version of the Council. Other faculty and staff members will be eligible for the new Action Council.

  2. Formation of an Action Council - The Advisory Council in its current form will be ended and replaced with an “Action Council” with vested decision-making authority over diversity and inclusion efforts at Hamilton College. The purpose of this new Action Council shall be to act as more than an advisor to the President. The Action Council will produce and implement equity programs and policies on a rolling basis, in an effort to integrate students into the institutional process by which Hamilton makes its diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and policies. They shall submit and vote on a budget every year for the pledged $200,000 per year after public review and opportunity for testimony and discussion. The Action Council shall also review, submit, and vote on new policies to be proposed to the Office of the President and the Board of Trustees. The Action Council will be privy to seeing budgets for all diversity and inclusion budgets and will be able to make proposals for changes. All proceedings will be public and have opportunity for written and oral testimony from members of the Hamilton community.

  3. Procedures and Composition of the Action Council - Both the Hamilton College Black and Latinx Student Union and the Hamilton College Feminists of Color Collective will be active members of the Action Council that is to be created. We also encourage invitation and participation of other cultural and identity-based student organizations so long as they consent. Active membership means there are at least two representatives for each organization at every Council meeting, each organization has full veto power within the Council should any official collective group recommendations be made, and the Council is co-chaired by three co-equals: one staff member chosen by administration, one faculty member chosen by faculty council members,and one student member chosen by the cultural and identity-based groups part of the Council.

    1. The first meeting of the Action Council will include a portion to discuss and define binding community agreements for procedures and behavior to promote productive discussion and minimize opportunities for miscommunications. A majority of chosen student representatives and majority of staff and faculty participants must approve of these agreements.

      1. This will be a living list of agreements, meaning they may be amended as needed and determined by the Council, with all amendments approved by a majority of chosen student representatives and majority of staff and faculty participants.

    2. The Action Council’s official members shall be as close as possible in proportion to an equal split between students, faculty, and staff, while ensuring that all relevant parties are adequately represented.

      1. Each student organization shall be responsible for determining its own process for deciding who shall become a member.

      2. Individuals who have or do repeatedly demonstrate behavior which makes other members feel uncomfortable or targeted on the basis of their race, gender, sexuality, ability, faith, age, or other identity shall be removed from the Council.

    3. The meeting minutes from Action Council meetings shall be made publicly available except in circumstances where privacy rights would be violated or a ¾ majority of the Council votes to enter a closed session. Non-members may be allowed to attend non-confidential portions, and procedures must be created to allow them to make their voices heard within the Council.

    4. The College will submit biweekly reports for discussion, review, and input on the development of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. The reports will be made available at least 24 hours before biweekly prescheduled Council meetings.

      1. The College also commits to making publicly available these biweekly reports.

    5. A process will be developed for any student, faculty or staff member, or alumni to submit both written and live oral testimony to the council.

  4. Listening Sessions Focused on Listening - The “listening sessions” are genuinely focused on College staff listening to students’ experiences using deep listening practices. Students must be given space just to express their feelings without fear that they will be told by staff that their experiences are invalid or that their proposals are poor. Thus, staff should not respond to students’ experiences with anything other than responses to direct questions, validating students’ concerns, and factual clarifications. The function of this space must be primarily to have students safely share their experiences and desires, while other spaces like the Action Council can be used to sort out disagreements. The process will be made clear to all participants by both us and facilitators.

    a. To better ensure that students who take part in these listening sessions feel as though their insights are genuinely valued, students and faculty on the Action Council will be facilitators of the listening sessions.

  5. Apology to Prof. Haley and Black and non-Black students of color - President Wippman and the Board of Trustees shall make a written, public statement of apology to Professor Shelley Haley and Black and non-Black students of color, to be released to the entire Hamilton community, for the exclusive nature of the Advisory Council, violation of consent in claiming the participation of campus organizations in their plans, and lack of acknowledgement of concerns in their responses to the respective parties.

    Please note that this is not the full list of demands. Full list of demands can be found on the BLSU instagram @blsu.hamilton

    Petition by
    Clinton, New York

    To: David Wippman and Board of Trustees of Hamilton College
    From: [Your Name]

    Dear President Wippman, Dean Martinez, and Dean Genao-Homs,

    I am a [class year] student, and I am emailing you to express my extreme disappointment with your response to the needs of Black and non-Black students and faculty of color at Hamilton. The exclusion of Professor Shelley Haley and leaders of the Black and Latinx Student Union and other cultural and identity-based organizations from the Advisory Council casts significant doubt on the purpose, power, and makeup of the group. This is an unacceptable way for Hamilton to pursue racial justice initiatives and demonstrate its commitment to BIPOC on campus.

    That is why I am urging you, as a student at Hamilton, to listen to and follow the proposals from the Black and Latinx Student Union found in the steadily growing petition.

    These proposals will ensure that impacted students and faculty are actually prioritized by new policies and programs. Anything less than sharing decision-making power with impacted communities on campus will result in failure for racial justice programs.

    The past three weeks have been the culmination of built-up mistrust from years of inaction and inadequate administrative responses. You have a chance to rectify some of this by agreeing to BLSU’s reasonable, actionable proposals and partnering with students for change.

    Black Lives Matter,