ProtectUMD, a coalition of several University of Maryland student organizations, wrote a letter with nearly 70 demands to this university’s administration that they believe will protect the most “vulnerable students.”
The letter was drafted after an organized walkout of hundreds of students from this university on Nov. 17, where members of the community were able to voice their concerns after recent hate crimes and “stand by the marginalized groups that are often overlooked or whose opinions are not valued as highly,” according to the event’s Facebook page.
The letter was signed by 25 multicultural, LGBT and political groups, who called on the administration to implement policies “to protect communities vulnerable to persecution and discrimination as a result of the upcoming U.S. presidential administration’s proposed policies,” the letter read.
The letter listed demands ranging from increased diversity training for the Student Government Association and Greek organizations to the creation and implication of a dean of students to work closely with student groups and better represent the student body.
Individual student communities also contributed their demands to the letter, including designated prayer rooms on the campus for Muslim students and a removal of Columbus Day from university materials for the American Indian student community.
“ProtectUMD’s list of demands is a comprehensive agenda for the UMD community to rally behind as a way to amplify the messages of all the different groups under one common voice,” said Michael Brennan, president of Our Revolution UMD, formerly known as Terps for Bernie.
“It is very important going forward that we do not allow identity politics [political positions that emphasize the interests and needs of different groups] and its divisive nature to stop us from working together, and that’s why we signed on,” the sophomore government and politics major said.
Many students who signed the letter said its goal is not just to advance their respective organizations’ interests, but also to help the community as a whole.
“I want to be very clear; this is not about a single organization’s involvement or a particular population’s demands being more important than others,” said Lauryn Froneberger, president of this university’s NAACP chapter. “These demands are from all of us, and we all hope to see these changes made, because if we don’t advocate for ourselves and our peers, who will?”
SGA President Katherine Swanson also signed the letter and said she plans to draft legislation on issues affecting undocumented students in the spring, as the SGA’s legislative session ends on Wednesday.
“As always, we plan to work to make UMD a safe campus for all, and I will be doing my best to communicate with these students about what they need and how I can serve them best,” Swanson wrote in an email.
Our Revolution plans to push the letter’s agenda by supporting groups of the marginalized student community, Brennan said.
“There are many issues here where we would like to see the specific communities take the lead in terms of action and education, and we will stand with them to amplify their own voices,” he said.
This university’s administration received the letter and is in the process of reviewing the students’ requests, said university spokeswoman Crystal Brown.
“We take very seriously the concerns that have been expressed,” she said. “Our unwavering commitment is to provide a safe, inclusive environment for all faculty, staff and students.”