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Student leaders suspend sit-in, reach agreement with UCLA administrators

After coming to an agreement with the university, student leaders suspended their sit-in at Murphy Hall. (Seth Van Matre/Daily Bruin)

By Kalani Seymore

Feb. 17, 2022 5:07 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article misspelled Christopher Ikonomou's name in a sentence.

This post was updated March 1 at 6:51 p.m.

Students’ 16-day sit-in is now over.

Student leaders decided Wednesday morning to suspend their 16-day sit-in at Murphy Hall after reaching an agreement with UCLA administrators regarding their demands for increased accessibility and education equity. The protestors had planned to occupy the hallway in front of Chancellor Gene Block’s office until the administration agreed to expand hybrid learning options for all classes and accommodate students with disabilities and immunocompromised students.

Student representatives from the Disabled Student Union, Mother Organizations coalition and the Undergraduate Students Association Council reached the deal with UCLA Wednesday morning, said Samone Anderson, the Afrikan Student Union chairperson.

On Saturday, Block and Monroe Gorden Jr., the vice chancellor of student affairs, agreed to write a joint letter in support of hybrid education that will be sent to UCLA faculty with resources to provide online options, said Christopher Ikonomou, a DSU member and third-year communication student.

Ryan Factora, a retention coordinator for Samahang Pilipino and second-year human biology and society student, said administrators also agreed to a private external investigation of the UCLA Community Program Office’s leadership. Student workers claim the CPO has a history of misconduct and abuse toward student workers of color, and Anderson said lawsuits were filed against the CPO’s director and associate director.

[Related: Mother Organizations coalition members call for firing of CPO leadership]

UCLA spokesperson Bill Kisliuk said the university is glad students and administrators have come to an agreement, adding that administrators look forward to continuing to work with students to improve diversity, equity and inclusion on campus.

Student leaders expressed excitement to be home and end their sit-in.

“I’m honestly overwhelmed with joy, this is a really big moment in history,” Anderson said. “We got a lot of wins.”

Student representatives also said UCLA administrators agreed to all of the demands that fell under administration jurisdiction as determined by shared governance. 

Shared governance is a distinctive feature of the University of California system where University faculty, represented in the Academic Senate, are given a voice in the operation of the University. Student leaders will now move their attention toward the Academic Senate, which has the power to address the DSU’s remaining demands regarding universal hybrid access and eliminating in-person attendance requirements.

Ikonomou said Block promised to write a letter with Gorden in support of the proposed Lily Shaw Disability Cultural Center, to honor former USAC Facilities Commissioner Lily Shaw, who passed away in 2020. 

Related: [Student advocates hope to establish Disability Cultural Center on campus]

Ikonomou added that Block has committed to beginning a process for ensuring accurate closed-captioning for recorded lectures and hiring an Americans with Disabilities Act compliance officer through the UCLA Title IX office rather than UCLA Student Affairs. UCLA currently does not have a permanent compliance officer whose role is to ensure the university follows nondiscriminatory practices related to disabled students.

Related: [Student leaders raise concerns about UCLA’s lack of permanent compliance officer]

The DSU’s demands for removing punitive attendance requirements and mandating livestreamed and recorded lectures across all courses remain unmet because of shared governance in the University, Ikonomou said.

The Academic Senate will write a letter to the protestors on why they rejected their unmet demands, Ikonomou said. The letter is expected to explain why mandating these policies would violate academic freedom. Academic freedom according to the University requires teaching be assessed by reference to professional standards that are set by the faculty in the Academic Senate as a whole.

The protestors said they would determine their next steps after receiving the Academic Senate’s response, adding that they are considering meeting with the UC Board of Regents and President Michael Drake and pursuing Universitywide advocacy and a civil lawsuit to support the DSU’s remaining demands.

“This is bigger than just UCLA,” Anderson said. “This is an issue all throughout the UC system (and) all over the country.”

Although the university did not meet some of the student leaders’ demands, Ikonomou said student leaders decided to end the sit-in to focus on their own mental health and next steps in the movement.

“We need to prioritize our well-being,” Ikonomou said. “We need to be able to protect our bodies and make sure what we’re doing is truly for the best of our movement.”

Ikonomou said while the group’s strategy will change, students will still continue their advocacy for their demands to be met going forward.

“I really hope that if this protest shows anybody anything, it shows people that students are powerful,” Anderson said.

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Kalani Seymore
Seymore is a campus politics contributor. He is also a first year student at UCLA double-majoring in political science and business economics.
Seymore is a campus politics contributor. He is also a first year student at UCLA double-majoring in political science and business economics.
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