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Swarthmore College activists issue demands, strike against ‘institutional anti-blackness’

Student activists at the small, private (and pricey) Swarthmore College last week began a strike from “most college-related activities” until the school officials fully meet their demands (emphasis in the original).

Led by the Black Affinity Coalition and Swarthmore Strike Coalition, The Phoenix reports the strike is dubbed “No Longer Minding the Light,” a play on the institution’s motto (and Quaker saying) “Minding the Light.”

The former gave advanced notice of the strike in a letter to administrators and faculty, noting students involved will “not be attending class, or completing assignments” until all demands are agreed to.

“[S]tudents are protesting Swarthmore’s historical lack of concrete action concerning institutional anti-blackness and the unsustainability of this semester, specifically the unrealistic expectation to continue to operate as if we are not amidst a pandemic and a racial crisis,” the letter reads.

Linked in the letter are the specific demands, which begin with a recognition that the college “resides and operates on stolen land from the Lenni Lenape.” The BAC also notes it “bear[s] witness to Swarthmore[’s] longstanding history of racism, violence and continual oppression of Indigenous people.”

The demands include:

[N]o punitive actions and/or repercussions for the students involved, whatsoever. This means no student can get a failing grade this semester or “be hindered from completing their degree plan in any way.”

“[T]hat Swarthmore fully fund workshops on cultural competency and intersectionality that are mandatory for all first-year and transfer students beginning with the 2021-2022 school year.” Such trainings “should be taught by marginalized people.”

“[T]hat Swarthmore hold a first-year/transfer orientation solely dedicated to Undocumented/DACA students.” Because “many of the activities and resources discussed” at international orientation “do not address their specific needs.”

“[A]n audit of the Financial Aid Department by an independent institution to investigate the ways BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, People of Color] are treated in comparison to their white counterparts.”

“[T]hat Swarthmore faculty across every department incorporate and center the work of Black, Indigenous, Disabled, and Queer writers, scientists, and activists beginning with the 2021-2022 Academic year.”

[That] “Black faculty are properly credited and compensated in times of injustice and unrest when this institution demands from them additional emotional labor and expertise.”

The BAC said in an Instagram post the strike’s goal wasn’t to “disrupt leaning” at Swarthmore but to “disrupt its regular programming.”

The average cost of attendance at Swarthmore (before aid) is over $70,000.

MORE: Swarthmore student paper: Mandate critical race theory for graduation

MORE: Swarthmore students upset they got in trouble for office sit-in protest

IMAGE: Vector Art / Shutterstock.com

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 15 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.

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