Waterman Takeovers

In the First Waterman Takeover, students occupied the UVM administration building demanding commitment to a larger minority presence on campus. A week later, the Waterman Agreement was signed with President Lattie Coor's agreeing to a timeline for hiring minority faculty and recruiting more minority students. 1

A second document outlines The Second Waterman Takeover: After Lattie Coor resigned as UVM’s president, George Davis was appointed as the new head of the University on July 14, 1990. President Davis inherited a university that had not only charged racial issues, but overwhelming financial difficulty as well. In an interview in Vermont Quarterly, President Davis recognized the position that the University was in, and stated that, “We always have to work harder than other places. There are times when adversity seems greater for us because we don’t have as full a tool kit as many others-and yet there is that combination of will and determination and mutually reinforcing collective commitment that allows triumph to happen.”

Seemingly eager to proceed with efforts to help diversify the campus, President Davis was asked to sign the 1988 Waterman Agreement, but he declined. In response to this denial and to the mounting tension on campus, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved a plan for combating institutional racism. In addition to this, in January, the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity developed a Multicultural Student Retention Plan, which outlined a four-fold purpose that was:

1. To retain multicultural students 2. To promote a positive experience for multicultural students while they are at UVM 3. To enable multicultural students to make good educational choices 4. To insure the success of multicultural students matriculating at UVM

Their mission was, “To implement a plan to create the necessary changes in attitudes, procedures and support services to insure the intellectual and interpersonal growth of multicultural students at UVM.” President Davis then agreed to sign an alternative plan to the original Waterman Agreement, but in early in the Spring 1991 semester rescinded on his original promise to sign this alternative agreement.

Throughout the 1990–’91 academic year, racial tensions increased on campus until April 22, 1991, on the 3-year anniversary of the signing of the 1988 Waterman Agreement, when 22 students and one faculty member, Marla Lyng, who was an associate research professor in the Animal Science department, again took over the President’s Wing of the Waterman Building. A personal perspective was offered to the campus and the community in an essay written by eight of the occupying students: Karl Jagbanhandsingh, Christina Keith, David Kim, John Kusakabe, Lynn Pono, Lisa Razo, Allen Urgent, and Josh Mitsuo Weiner. In the essay, the students expressed their desire to create a intellectually free, comprehensive educational system at UVM that would take into consideration the diverse composition of the United States, and try to reflect that composition in a non-Eurocentric, all-encompassing global perspective. The students also gave the administration a list of 18 demands that they felt would help increase racial awareness and minority presence on campus. Although drafted and rewrote several times, the final 18 points that the students demanded were:

1. Curriculum • We demand an ALANA Studies Department (African, Latino, Asian, Native American) to address people of color in America. • We demand an African Studies Department • We demand a Caribbean, Central and South America Studies Department • We demand an Asian and Pacific Islands Department • We demand a Native American (pre-Columbus) Studies Department Staffing Each department should have no less than eight people of color and the Chairperson of each department must be a person of color. These courses will be cross-listed in the catalogues under the appropriate departments. (E.g. an African American literature course would be in the ALANA Studies Department and cross-listed in the English Department.) 2. An investigation by a representative committee on all cases of faculty, staff, and administration of color who have left, been fired, or let go. This committee shall include majority representation of people of color chosen by faculty, staff, and students of color on campus. The chairperson of this committee shall be elected by the committee as a whole. Full legal costs will be paid for by the University for those who wish to press a case. 3. The reinstatement and tenure for Marla Lang. 4. Tenure granted to Mbulelo Mzamane. 5. We demand the education of all faculty and staff on issues of racism and on the history of people of color in the United States. 6. An increase in faculty of color in every department. If qualified faculty of color are unavailable in a particular field, then the University must establish a graduate and Ph.D. program specifically for people of color in those fields. If there is an absence of a specific group or groups of color in a given field, then those groups shall be the focus of the aforementioned program. 7. A significant increase in ALANA student scholarship. 8. A clear policy of hate crimes stated in the Cat’s Tale. 9. Voting members of the search committees who will be chosen by students, staff, and faculty of color. These people will be involved from the beginning of the selection process. 10. Provision of space on campus for a display which would educate the campus on issues of racism. 11. Publications and advertisements put out by the University will reflect the true representation of people of color a UVM. 12. The removal of the Ira Allen statue. No monuments of racists on campus. 13. Community responsibility for community action on campus. No police on campus. Security on campus may not carry guns. 14. Billings Student Center and the Library open 24hrs/day. Community access to these facilities on campus. 15. University commitment to cultural diversity will be concretely evident in budget expenditures. As such, we demand that there be no further spending of the University funds until the issues of racism are resolved and the needs of the people of color are addressed. A freeze on all capital budgeting projects. Specifically, the Stafford Building. 16. The removal of Marriott from campus. Marriott is a multi-national racist corporation that has monopolized the food service on campus. At SUNY Binghamton this year, Marriott used racist decorations of offense to the Asian community to adorn their dining halls. They have not divested from South Africa. 17. An increase in pay for the staff which is higher than the increase in the cost of living. We also want adequate medical and health insurance guaranteed for the staff. 18. No action taken against the occupants of Presidents Row.

These demands were issued by the students from the balcony of the President’s office, to a crowd of supporters that had gathered outside the buildings, as well as to University and local press. On April 23, President Davis climbed a ladder into his office to speak with the students, and pushed back the deadline for removing the barricades that held them inside. Although seemingly an innocent act, Davis’ act of climbing the ladder gave support to the students because he had been forced to deal with them in an embarrassing and awkward position.

On April 25, approximately 30 students began a hunger strike in support of the protesters in the Waterman building. Also, President Davis issued a campus wide letter in which he stated his position on the Waterman occupation. President Davis announced, “…I have decided that the use of force is not the way to resolve the current situation under the current circumstances; Thus I will not have the students occupying the President’s wing forcibly removed, nor will I have the barriers removed. While the students remain unlawfully occupying the President’s wing, I will not engage in substantive negotiation with them on diversity issues. As soon as they leave the wing, however, I am prepared to sit down and begin serious negotiation with them—and with members of the University community as a whole—on issues surrounding specific concerns, and to talk about the future of multiculturalism at UVM.”

That same night, after a concert at Burlington’s Memorial Auditorium, the rock band Living Colour held an impromptu rally in front of the Waterman building to show support for the protesters and to bring their supporters outside together to show the administration an unified front.

The next day, April 26, the College of Education and Social Services passed a resolution stating that, “We urge President Davis to change his current position and begin immediately to meet with students to obtain a settlement of the current situation.” Later in the day, former Black Panther Dhoruba Bin-Wahad arrived at UVM to show his support for the Waterman occupants and to rally the rest of the campus to their side. Then, on April 27, with the campus in a state of disarray, a group of students performed a skit outside the Waterman Building that depicted disgruntled UVM students killing President Davis. Mounting tensions and emotions flared on April 29 when a separate group of students took over the Registrar’s office in a show of support for the students in the President’s wing. After four hours the students left the office. President Davis stated that they left on their own accord, but the students said that they were threatened with forcible police removal if they did not leave the office immediately.

The following day, President Davis announced that the Provost’s Office had developed an “Academic Plan for Cultural Diversity,” and that it had been delivered to the protesters in hopes that this plan would alleviate the grievances of the students in the Waterman building and bring the affair to an end. Later that day, at a Faculty Senate meeting, President Davis defended his anti-negotiation stance by saying that his basic reason for maintaining his position was due to his belief that program proposals and identification of new positions and the like needed to emerge through a process that was normal and conventional with respect to University governance and process and in a neutral space. The Faculty Senate then passed an informal resolution recommending that Davis negotiate with the students. Also, the Staff Council voted to recommend that Davis set a deadline for the students to leave and if they did not, to carefully remove them. Davis refused to do either. That afternoon, students tried to prevent the Board of Trustees from leaving their meeting in the Living and Learning complex by sitting in front of a bus. The Trustees eventually were able to leave, but the act proved to the campus, administration, and community just how dedicated these students were to the cause of diversity, and how far they were willing to go.

On May 3, a majority of the students that were on hunger strike were forced to eat due to an increase in medical seriousness. Two days later, with no end in sight to the occupation, the Burlington Free Press published an opinion letter that stated what many on campus and in the community were beginning to fear, “If UVM leaders agree to a new cultural diversity plan, their promises will look to the people of Vermont - whose University it is - like the result of coercion, not commitment.” The next day, in a campus wide memorandum, President Davis described the student’s method of occupation as coercion and intimidation, and also restated his opposition to any type of negotiation while the takeover was still underway.

Almost two weeks after the original occupation, on May 9, President Davis stated that the nature of the occupation had changed and he had decided to no longer rule out the use of force to remove the students from the wing. Immediately following, on the morning of May 10, student supporters of the protesters began construction of Diversity University, a collection of tents and shanties built on the Waterman green. Students declared that the site would be one of alternative education courses to make up for UVM’s lack of cultural diversity.

Two days later, on May 12, at 5:30 A.M., 56 police office burst through the barricades and into the President’s Wing. Inside, they arrested eight students and one faculty member, and outside, eleven other students were arrested. The eight students and one faculty member, Marla Lyng, pleaded not guilty to unlawful trespass. The eleven students who were arrested outside of the building were charged with disorderly conduct and also pleaded not guilty. The students who were arrested and charged with unlawful trespass were: Karl Jaghandhansignh, Christina Keith, David Kim, John Kusakabe, Lynne Pono, Lisa Razo, Alan Urgent and Joshua Weiner. Those arrested and charged with disorderly conduct were: Marcy Allen, Red Bear, Hoon Chong, Stephanie Daniels, Elango Dev, Michael Greifendorf, Jane Hensley, Brian Klassen, Stephanie Lind, Marcos Montalban and Meghan O’Rourke. Classes began at Diversity University after the arrests. Internal UVM trials of the nineteen students were held, resulting in fines and probation. Two students were expelled for academic reasons.

Finally, on May 14, in an act of frustration that was gripping the entire campus over, four UVM shuttle buses were destroyed by fire. 2

1 http://www.uvm.edu/~diversit/?Page=history.html 2 https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&ved=0CD0QFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Flist.uvm.edu%2Fcgi-bin%2Fwa%3FA3%3Dind0504%26L%3DCWPS%26E%3Dbase64%26P%3D90227%26B%3D---MOQ1113249923cacffc59053bbb0bcec7f7e074e5cbad%26T%3Dapplication%252Fmsword%3B%2520name%3D%2522The%2520Second%2520Waterman%2520Takeover.doc%2522%26N%3DThe%2520Second%2520Waterman%2520Takeover.doc%26attachment%3Dq&ei=oBkVUcLqOYWN0QHv2IHYCw&usg=AFQjCNGlDDQmjxDirOc8NgH7_UMyp-nEKg&sig2=FEsROAND0iRyghclwuyiig&bvm=bv.42080656,d.dmQ