University of California Berkeley’s Black Student Union has released a list of demands issued to the administration, including the renaming of a campus building for fugitive cop-killer and FBI-designated terrorist Assata Shakur.
BSU’s demands follow the hanging of effigies depicting lynchings at various locations on campus in December, BSU member Cori McGowens told the Daily Californian.
The ongoing dialogue between BSU and Chancellor Nick Dirks has focused on efforts to improve recruitment and retention of black students at the university – currently about three percent of the student population. The demands include creation of a resource center for black student development, hiring two full-time black admissions staff members, hiring two black psychologists who understand “the racially hostile campus climate at this university,” increased funding and an initiative to increase the number of black students, faculty and senior staff.
But it is the demand that Barrows Hall – named for a former UC president and anthropologist, and which houses Ethnic Studies, Women’s Studies and African American Studies – be renamed for Shakur that is raising eyebrows.
Shakur, whose real name is Joanne Chesimard, was convicted in 1977 for the 1973 murder of New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster during a traffic stop, where, during an altercation, she took the officer’s gun and shot him twice in the head as he lay on the ground.
Shakur, a member of the Black Liberation Army, escaped from prison in New Jersey in 1979 and resurfaced in Cuba in 1984, where she was given political asylum. The BLA is credited with killing more than a dozen police officers in the 1970s and 1980s.
Shakur, placed on the FBI’s Most-Wanted Terrorist list in 2013, is the aunt of late rapper, Tupac Shakur. There is currently a $2,000,000 reward for her capture.
“If we do not receive a written response from Chancellor (Nick) Dirks addressing in detail each of our individual demands as they were presented, by 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, we will understand that the chancellor has not prioritized the dire needs of black students on this campus,” BSU students wrote in a press release.
Tuesday’s deadline passed, with a spokesman for the chancellor saying a letter sent last week outlining projects already in the works to assist black students would stand as Dirks’ response, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. As to renaming a building for Shakur, “No comment” was the response.
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BSU members, angry that the administration failed to answer each of their individual demands, has vowed to press on.
“We will persevere until we get what we need and what we deserve,” said Gabby Shuman, co-chair of political affairs for BSU, calling the situation on campus “an emergency … requiring immediate attention.”
McGowens told the Chronicle that “trying to excel academically is immensely difficult while coping with the issue of antiblackness on campus.”