Saint Louis University has commissioned a sculpture to be erected on campus that administrators say they hope “captures the spirit and importance” of a weeklong “Occupy SLU” protest last fall on the urban campus that decried oppression, racism, racial profiling and police tactics.
For six days in mid-October, community activists refused to leave the St. Louis campus in a protest intended as an extension of the summertime riots that had wracked nearby Ferguson over the police shooting of Michael Brown.
Three social justice groups – Tribe X, the Metro St. Louis Coalition for Inclusion and Equality, and the Black Student Alliance – took over the campus and lived in tents around its clock tower.
Flying an upside-down American flag, they gave speeches and “teach ins” on topics such as “conscious awakening, systematic oppression, white supremacy, and students’ responsibility to the community,” according to a YouTube video that documented the demonstration.
The demonstrators left only after the university agreed to all 13 of their demands, one of which was a “mutually agreed upon commissioned artwork.”
That agreement has now been dubbed the “Clock Tower Accords” by campus leaders of the private, Jesuit university, who recently announced they have “commissioned renowned African American artists and sculptors Kyle and Kelly Phelps to design a sculpture that captures the spirit and importance of the demonstration and encampment at Saint Louis University on October 13-18, 2014.”
In an email to The College Fix, university President Fred Pestello said the university does not have a decided design or a designated spot yet for the monument.
“Once we have final agreement on the nature and size of the sculpture we will begin to consider a location. The most obvious place is somewhere near the clock tower where the encampment took place,” he said.
The university brought both artists to the campus shortly after the October sit-in.
“They took a tour of the campus and looked at pictures and videos of the protest. They talked to a number of people and then returned home to being to consider what type of sculpture might best capture that moment,” Pestello said.
Artist Kelly Phelps said he could not disclose any plans he and his brother have for the proposed sculpture.
“I cannot give specific details about the monument until the board/committee(s) meets to finalize specifics about the site, initial cost, and the physical description of what this monument will ultimately look like,” he said in an email to The College Fix. “The committee(s)/board will choose from (several) different options and configurations that we presented that best suits the needs of the space, cost, and needs from the community.”
Neither Phelps nor Pestello would disclose an estimated cost of the proposed sculpture. Pestello told the university community he expects it to be completed in 12 months.
The sculpture is one of a handful of the 13 demands that could come at a high price tag for the university. Other major budgetary demands agreed to include the establishment of both a community center and a K-12 bridge program, the appointment of a special assistant to the president for diversity and community engagement, and an increased budget for the university’s African-American studies program.
Pestello said the university has not established or estimated a budget for the 13 initiatives.
“There is no ballpark figure,” Pestello said of the money the university will spend on the “Clock Tower Accords.”
Other “accord” promises include the establishment of a diversity speaker series, sponsorship of a national conference on racial equality hosted by SLU, and additional college workshops for area students in disadvantaged neighborhoods, among other agreements.
College Fix reporter Nathan Rubbelke is a student at Saint Louis University.
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