January 15, 2021
 

 

Dear President Fithian, Chief Wykes and Chairman Gillman,
 

On January 6th, 2020 the United States witnessed a despicable attack on the capitol by white supremacists. That evening, President Fithian released a statement that read, “Communities like ours endure because we embrace differences in perspective, are committed to non-violent, law-abiding expressions of dissent, and work together to find common ground to resolve differences and find solutions.” This week, the executive boards of the Black Student Union and Undergraduate Student Council released our collective statement on the delayed condemnation of white supremacy and anti-Blackness in our country and institution. We urge the board to listen closely to the three-part video series that detail our thoughts and our concerns.

To date, we have gathered the support of more than 300 students in the #NotYourToken campaign, nearly 600 students in our October 2020 protest, more than 8,000 students, families, staff and alumni signing our original petition and most recently, have the commitment of nearly 450 students to withhold tuition for the Spring semester due today.

The growing plight of the COVID-19 and racial pandemic is disproportionately impacting low-income families, students with disabilities, Black, Indigenous and students of color, international students as well as others from marginalized backgrounds. We, the student body and our families, are joining together to address and hold our University’s leadership accountable to the new realities these crises pose.

Clark University prides itself as an institution committed to justice and equity, though these efforts have failed to meet the needs of our most marginalized students, especially in the wake of extreme financial hardship and systemic oppression revealed by the ongoing pandemics.

In its recent fundraising campaign, Clark surpassed its $125 million goal, apart from its over $400 million endowment, increases in tuition as of March 2020 and assistance from the federal CARES Act. While we acknowledge initial promises to invest $1 million in DEI efforts and an additional $2 million in financial aid for this year, we know that the University has the capacity and responsibility to provide further, long-term relief for students and families.
 

As a result, we urge the University to fulfill the following demands:
 

  1. Support Black Students - Disarm University Police and redistribute 18% of their existing department budget towards resources for Black students in addition to resources that already exist.
     

  2. Prioritize Student Affordability - Reduce tuition by 50% for the 2021-2022 academic year and institute a tuition freeze for future years so long as the global health pandemic persists. Such a measure would be a step in bridging the intergenerational wealth gap brought by systemic inequities and the long-term effects of the global recession and health pandemic.
     

  3. Budget Transparency & Representation - Reinstate our Undergraduate student representative on the primary Board of Trustees meetings and create a public comments section for members of the Clark community to speak directly with the board.



Support for Black Students

  1. University Police to stop carrying automatic, semi-automatic weapons and batons.

  2. Freeze all hiring of police officers, including off-duty Worcester PD officers and allocate funds intended for hiring, body cameras and other such equipment towards resources for Black students, faculty and staff; resources include but are not limited to: Black mental health practitioners, the hiring, retention and advancement of Black faculty and staff (as stated in the POC Collective open letter) and financial aid awards for Black first-generation, international and/or low-income students.
     

Reduce tuition by 50% and waive all fees for the duration of the crisis.

  1. All students, regardless of financial aid status, are asked to pay only 50% of their cost of attendance and all fees (orientation, International Student Servicing, lab, studio art, theatre fees etc.) are waived. 

  2. There must not be any deductions to existing financial aid or refunds.

  3. The University must recognize the long-term effects of this crisis and institute a freeze on tuition, housing and meal plan costs as well as waive late fees for as long as necessary.

  4. Tuition relief must not come at the cost of payment, benefits, or services for any staff, faculty, or students.

  5. The University must waive deposits for all incoming students and returning students as long as the global health and economic crisis persists.
     

Transparency and Representation

  1. Release a budgetary breakdown annually of university revenue, investments and spending to students and families and host subsequent semesterly open forums to answer questions related to the University’s spending.

    1. Students and families must be notified of scheduled budgetary votes with at least a 1-month notice, prior to the vote(s).

    2. Institute a public comments section for all Board of Trustees Meetings.

    3. Reinstate our Undergraduate student representative on the primary Board of Trustees meetings.

 

We recognize that funding decisions are complex, especially during this crisis and that many of the University’s operating costs continue. We want to affirm the University’s commitment to provide classes at no cost during intersession, and we understand that student tuition is a part of the University’s operating costs. However, given the University’s endowment, fundraising capabilities and other revenue sources, we also know that there should be enough resources to continue paying staff and faculty while providing a tuition reduction to aid all students.

 

We hope the University recognizes that the decisions it makes during this time will greatly impact current students and incoming students, and will ultimately shape our future engagement with and perception of the University post-graduation.

 

In light of this global crisis and its effects on our community, hundreds of Clark University students will be continuing to engage the University around these issues through call-ins, email campaigns, and through media outreach. Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to further conversations. 

 

With Power,
The Black Student Union and Clark University Undergraduate Student Council