On Nov. 23, ProtectUMD, a coalition of student groups and marginalized community members, released a list of demands to the University of Maryland administration. The demands address certain communities’ needs while seeking protections for students who have traditionally faced adversity and discrimination based on their identity.
These demands come after a university-wide walkout of hundreds of activists and university community members. Students took to the campus to march and express their frustrations, not with the election, but with the divisive and oftentimes threatening atmosphere it has created. The walkout and list of demands both signal a collective decision to turn frustrations into actions, and for that, we commend the student activists behind the effort.
But we call on these activists to take another step toward cohesion and specificity to make their demands more actionable.
The list, hosted on a Google form that allows anyone with the link to pledge support or add to the demands, runs about 68 items long. The topics run the gamut from highly specific and urgent to vague to already fulfilled. While the list contains feasible, structured appeals such as raising minimum wage to match Prince George’s county’s and creating physical spaces for Latinx and undocumented students, many other items fail to meet this standard. For example, demands calling for “increased discussions” or “recruitment practices” leave too much to the imagination and detract from the urgency and clarity of other requests.
Furthermore, demands calling on student groups to rethink their decisions and priorities — as well as to institute diversity training — reach beyond the administration’s control. Items insisting on scholarships “for students of marginalized communities” and a statement of intent to protect marginalized students released by university President Wallace Loh are fulfilled by existing policies and actions. These demands work further to blunt the impact the list could have.
We fear the administration, bombarded by unreachable or previously achieved goals, will turn away, and ignore the issues ProtectUMD has worked to bring to the university’s collective conscious.
ProtectUMD’s effort to enact positive change can transform this university for the better. Their efforts thus far represent a powerful dedication to the university community. This editorial board recognizes the courage involved in taking a stand and speaking truth to power, but encourages the groups behind ProtectUMD to refine their mission and work on a granular level with student groups to foster acceptance and inclusion and most importantly, maintain their commitment to keep the administration accountable.