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Marquette professors continue to support sanctioned student demonstrators

Professors Dr. Stephanie Rivera Berruz and Dr. Julissa Ventura spoke at a press conference regarding the administration's response to the New Student Convocation protest.
Emily Files
Professors Dr. Stephanie Rivera Berruz and Dr. Julissa Ventura spoke at a press conference regarding the administration's response to the New Student Convocation protest.

In August, ten students at Marquette University protested the lack of resources and institutional support for students of color. Since then, the administration's conduct hearings stripped some students of their respective leadership titles within student organizations like the student government, the Latin American Student Organization, and the Black Student Council.

Dr. Stephanie Rivera-Berruz, an associate professor of philosophy and the co-director for the Center for Race, Ethnic and Indigenous Studies, and Dr. Julissa Ventura, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Policy and Leadership, were two of a handful of professors who rallied behind the student demonstrators who sanctions were placed against.

“I think there’s almost a misunderstanding from the university that this is happening in a vacuum, right? That students just woke up that morning and decided to go protest convocation. And the truth is that there’s a lot of history behind that and a lot of things that have happened that lead students to take that action,” said Ventura.

Ventura explains that promises were made, primarily to Black students in 2020, that the university did not keep. Marquette’s Urban Scholars Program, a program that offers partial and full scholarships to low-income first-generation students, has grown from four to five students a year to nearly 40. With around 100 Urban Scholars now on campus, there is only one staff member to support them. Marquette has announced that the program will get a second staff member next school year.

A position that Marquette has left vacant is the director for Black Student Initiatives. Ventura says this position cannot be filled as the university needs to funnel more resources or institutional support to retain staff members. According to Ventura, the university also has frozen cluster hirings that were initiated to decolonize academic spaces.

“It’s not clear why we’re not getting faculty hires, but it is clear that we are not getting them. And that’s what’s been very largely communicated to us as faculty,” said Rivera-Berruz.

The two explain that while these positions go unfilled, the emotional and institutional support for students of color falls on the numbered faculty of color at the predominantly white institution. Outside of that staff support, many students turn to student-led organizations such as the Latin American Student Organization, Black Student Council, and Marquette’s Living Learning Communities.

“This is an institutional-wide problem. It’s not just the problem of a handful of faculty of color,” said Rivera-Berruz.

The professors elaborate that while the university was championing their most diverse incoming class, 30% of students of color, they punished current students of color who stood in protest of the lack of institutional support at the university.

“So the question that we are interested in asking is, how are you going to support these students after you’ve recruited them? How are you going to retain them? How are you going to support their well-being? Because judging from the climate we have right now, that doesn’t really feel like a very honest support,” said Rivera-Berruz

Marquette Provost Ah Yun updated a statement regarding campus climate and hires to support students of color on Oct. 19, stating:

“We have been working in earnest to improve our campus climate, particularly with respect to ensuring we have appropriate staff support for our students of color. The Division of Student Affairs is currently in the process of hiring four vacant positions in the Office of Engagement and Inclusion and is working with a dedicated recruiter to ensure a strong candidate pool. Each of those positions supports first-generation students and students of color on our campus. Additionally, a new staff member will be added to the growing Urban Scholars Program next year, as planned when we expanded the program.”

Rivera-Berruz asks the administration to repeal the student sanctions and apologize on behalf of the entire university for the harm caused to those students, as well as the revival of cluster hiring and fulfilled roles in the Center for Intercultural Engagement.

“I’ve only been here for four years, but students of color have been protesting for more resources, for more support, for many, many years. I would like the administration to take some responsibility. They’re holding students accountable. Who’s holding our administrators accountable?” said Ventura.

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Cait Flynn was an assistant producer for Lake Effect 2022 to 2023.
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