Letter to the Editor

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.

Pizza’s Kitchen: Changing My Mentality on MEChA

By Emily Pizza

The first time I heard of MEChA, I heard them loud and clear.

This was mostly because they were walking through campus with a megaphone, preventing me from sleeping in on my day off. When I asked other people about them, most replies were “Oh, it’s just MEChA, making a big deal about nothing again.”

From what a lot of people seemed to think, MEChA was just a large angry mob that wanted to cause trouble. And, being the ignorant first-year I was, I just went along with it.

Last Friday when I heard about MEChA’s call to action, I decided I wanted to observe. I wanted to know first-hand what this group was about. I can easily say what I saw shattered my perceptions.

When I walked in, the group, who had been waiting for other students to arrive, eagerly greeted me and invited me in. Although I preferred to stay on the sidelines and watch, they didn’t seem bothered by an outsider’s presence, which at this point I still considered myself to be.

The white board in Hicks 110 was covered in drawings, from random smiley faces, to a tree with the caption “El Abuelo de la Amistad.” Or, for those of you that can’t read Spanish, “The Grandfather of Friendship.”

I began to realize how tightly knit these students are when one girl would walk around and kiss the others around her with her lipstick covered lips and they allowed the red mark to stay there for the rest of the evening.

The room also became musical as more students came in. One student tried to teach others how to make birdcalls, which the group quickly decided to call “mating calls,” a joke that continued throughout the evening.  Others would join in together, singing songs in Spanish loudly and cheerfully.

Finally, one student pulled out her phone and played “Timber” by Ke$ha and the whole group cheered as the familiar melody played.

As I saw the way the group huddled around each other I realized something that I think a lot of people don’t:  If these students hadn’t been planning a protest, if they had just been hanging out together, no one would have thought of them as a separate or a challenge to the status quo. This is a group of Kalamazoo College students.

The members of MEChA listen to music, laugh, hang out with friends, and attend the same classes as other Kalamazoo College students. We all go to the same college, exist in the same bubble, and attend the same events, yet we all bring our unique perspectives and offer something new and vibrant to our community.

In observing last week’s protest, I have come to a better understanding of what MEChA is and whom the students are that make up this group. As Kalamazoo College students, those who participate in MEChA are in the same boat as anyone else, but may just have the nerve to try and go against the current.