BERKELEY, Calif. – Students in the Black Student Union at the University of California Berkeley issued a list of 10 demands, and a deadline for meeting them, to school officials because they feel isolated and oppressed.
“If we do not receive a written response from Chancellor (Nick) Dirks addressing in detail each of our individual demands as they were presented, by 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, we will understand that the Chancellor has not prioritized the dire needs of Black students on this campus,” according to BSU press release quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Among the demands is a call for the university to rename a building after Assata Shakur, “a former Black Panther and the first woman on the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists,” according to the news site.
“To the students, Shakur is no terrorist. She’s a victim and ally who gives voice to their pain,” the Chronicle reports.
To everyone else, Shakur is a cop-killing monster.
According to Wikipedia:
In May 1973, Shakur was involved in a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike, in which she was accused of killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster and grievously assaulting Trooper James Harper. BLA member Zayd Malik Shakur was also killed in the incident, and Shakur was wounded. Between 1973 and 1977, Shakur was indicted in relation to six other incidents—charged with murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, bank robbery, and kidnapping—resulting in three acquittals and three dismissals. In 1977, she was convicted of the first-degree murder of Foerster and of seven other felonies related to the shootout.
Shakur was incarcerated in several prisons in the ’70s. She escaped from prison in 1979 and has been living in Cuba, in political asylum, since 1984. Since May 2, 2005, the FBI has classified her as a domestic terrorist and offered a $1 million reward for assistance in her capture. On May 2, 2013, the FBI added her to the Most Wanted Terrorist List; the first woman to be listed. On the same day, the New Jersey Attorney General offered to match the FBI reward, increasing the total reward for her capture to $2 million.
Shakur, whose real name is Joanne Chesimard, is also the grandmother of slain rapper Tupac Shakur, according to Rolling Stone.
Other demands include hiring nine people – two black psychologists and special advisers to recruit and mentor black students and athletes – as well as the establishment of an African American Student Resource Center, the Chronicle reports.
The Daily Californian reports the students first presented their demands to Dirks and Claude Steele, the executive vice chancellor, in mid-February, and followed up with a meeting with Steele and the university’s “vice chancellor for equity and inclusion,” Gibor Basri, in March.
Dirks wrote in a letter to the union that the university is hiring a full-time person to focus on recruitment, and a student-athlete advisor for black athletes.
“Too many students have told us about being excluded from study groups, ignored during class discussions … and feeling, in a general sense, vulnerable, isolated, and invisible,” Dirks wrote, according to the news site. “This is something we deplore.”
The letter came days after the BSU deadline, and didn’t address the union’s 10 demands specifically, as it requested, which of course prompted a terse response in a BSU press release.
“(T)he response we received did not adequately address our concerns – rather Chancellor Dirks circumvented having to directly respond to each of our demands as we had requested,” the BSU responded.
Basri told students he plans to draft another proposal to present to Dirks in about a month, but now’s not the time to commit to their specific demands.
That didn’t sit well with the BSU, which requested another response from Dirks this week.
Their plan is to launch protests if they don’t get it.
“Our goal is to mobilize more support,” BSU member Cori McGowens told the Daily Californian. “We want to make sure black students understand they’re not alone.”
Black students represented about 3 percent of Berkeley’s incoming class this year, according to the news site.