This #TBT is to an important but unfinished chapter in University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s history. We continue to fight for fair distribution of resources and socially conscious policies that increase higher education access for African American and Latina/o students, faculty and employees.
La Casa Cultural Latina was established in 1974 but in 1992 Latina/o representation among students and faculty greatly lagged behind the 11% Latina/o Illinois population. Additionally, the administration was unwilling to set aside any resources for a Latina/o Studies Program. Undergraduate and graduate students appealed repeatedly to the administration to no avail. With no other options, 150 students occupied Henry Administration Building on May 5th, 1992.
Here is a documentary of the 1992 Protest. Short on time? Begin at 14 minute mark.
Students reported police’s “brutal treatment” and use of stun guns, pressure points and billy clubs. The “unnecessary and excessive force” at this entirely peaceful occupation in protest of University policies. The protest was a peaceful assertion that Latina/o concerns could no longer be brushed aside but resulted in 3 student arrests. They were held overnight.
The IMC reported in 2002 that nearly 10 years after the protest, most of the 13 demands had not yet been met.
Some of the demands included:
- Increased Recruitment in Latina/o Communities & Retention
- Increased Recruitment & Retention of Latina/o Faculty and Administration
- Removal of Chief Illiniwek
- Establishment of & Resources for Latina/o Studies Program
Today, we know that recruitment and retention of Black and Brown students still lags behind and resources are not being promised to increase efforts.
The “1992 protest” took place prior to the University’s graduate employee’s most recent labor organization (GEO, established and affiliated with AFT, IFT and AFL-CIO by 1995). Yet, this is the history of a struggle GEO is still invested in today. We stand alongside student groups who fight for equitable resources, representation, and access to the university itself. Racist and classist recruitment strategies, as seen at the University of late, further marginalize African American and Latina/o communities, resulting in a student body that is not representative of the Illinois or the nation as a whole.
When we compare UIUC student body demographics to census data from Illinois and the entire U.S., we must ask ourselves, each other and especially the University whether enough is being done to close the gap. We think not.