Permanence, not ignorance—the movement to secure Ethnic Studies at K
By the Students of M.E.Ch.A
Each year, the Kalamazoo College Board of Trustees dedicate just a few days to meeting directly with students. Friday, a group of students capitalized on this narrow window of access. The group, assembled by M.E.Ch.A, initiated a silent action meant to communicate the need for Trustees’ support in securing Ethnic Studies as a permanent fixture in K College curriculum.
As it stands, the Ethnic Studies program is funded through a two year development process meant to define curriculum and introduce the program to students and administrators, the first class in the program being offered this spring.
Even this initial developmental phase is a remarkable accomplishment, the result of students’ tireless effort for the cause. This sincere dedication to encouraging diverse representation and critical race analysis in academia demands more, though, and Friday’s action serves as call for just that: permanence, not ignorance. Students need assurance that the program and the perspective they have fought to have recognized will not be silenced again. That assurance will come in the form of a comprehensive endowment for the program—enough funding to move Ethnic Studies into the status of an official area of studies at Kalamazoo College. To do that, we need support not only from students but from those with the power to award the funding necessary to secure Ethnic Studies’ place in the institution.
On Friday, students demonstrated this request. We waited for the Trustees at the door to their dinner with the Student Commission. Our presence was met with curiosity that quickly transitioned into support and encouragement from many of the trustees. Supporters of Ethnic Studies on Student Commission were then able to continue the conversation into dinner which was also served by many supporters who embellished their catering uniforms with buttons containing the same phrases that resonated throughout the night: permanence, not ignorance. The message was thus impossible to ignore but communicated with respect to the Trustee’s time and purpose on campus.
However, this was not the only movement meant to increase student access to administrators. In the same weekend, Student Commission President Darrin Camilleri presented a letter to the Board requesting a student be seated in the influential group. It’s all a part of the same dialogue: students are demanding their voices be heard. When an entire student body is calling for more access to and accountability from administrators, let Friday’s action serve as a reminder that we have the right to demand the most from our education and that as students we have the responsibility to shape this institution into a community that represents, welcomes and celebrates all our identities.
Friday’s action is about more than Ethnic Studies. This student action was about students demanding more from the institution, taking our education into our hands and insisting that our voices be heard by those with the ability to turn our ideals into institutional reality. Securing the Ethnic Studies program is one manifestation of such a realization.