Students stand for solidarity

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Chris DeGusto/ News Editor

At 1p.m. on Monday afternoon, students of Suffolk University gathered in front of 20 Somerset to protest in support of solidarity. Members present held signs, tapped on makeshift drums and chanted aloud to the onlooking crowd and students emerging from classes in the Somerset building. The protest by “concerned members of the Suffolk community” called “Stand Up Suffolk,” lasted for roughly an hour. Students rallied for the university to fulfill a list of demands set forth on the organization’s website, which has 42 signatures as of late Tuesday night.

Maya Smith, a junior sociology student and employee of Suffolk’s Office of Disability Services, as well as one of Stand Up Suffolk’s organizers, talked about the protest in an interview with The Suffolk Journal on Tuesday night.

“A change needed to happen, if not for my own sake then for the countless people on our campus who deal with being treated with disrespect and bigotry every day,” said Smith. “I’m really hoping that the administration, faculty, staff and student body will be open to creating a more tolerant, accepting and inclusive campus.”

Smith’s reasons for protesting stem from issues within the classroom involving sexist, racist, derogatory and discriminatory comments from multiple professors that she said she had experienced at Suffolk in the past. Smith said that she wants her story to serve as an example for members of the Suffolk community to see what the Stand Up Suffolk movement is speaking out against.

Just a little over a week before the protest, Suffolk University became the subject of controversy and media frenzy when a Suffolk sociology major’s blog post went viral of alleging discrimination after a professor reportedly commented on specific words and said that it was not her “language.”

On Oct. 27, Tiffany Martínez posted on her blog “Viva Tiffany” an article entitled “Academia, Love Me Back,” which highlighted an assignment that she had received back from her senior seminar professor, in which she said she was accused of not writing her entire paper.

Chris DeGusto/ News Editor
Chris DeGusto/ News Editor

The post has caused a significant response within both the Suffolk community and world of higher education, including Monday’s rally.

Ben Shopper, a sociology major at Suffolk spoke to The Journal Monday in a post-rally interview about how talking to media sources means that the issues being fought for has still not been resolved.

“It would be great if we didn’t have to have this conversation because we would have moved beyond this point,”said Shopper.

He elaborated to discuss how reporting certain issues to higher administration does not always ensue change, and the repetition of asserting that there is a problem at Suffolk is ongoing.

“#SUS is a group of concerned members of the Suffolk Community outraged by the current state of our university,” the organization states on their website. “We are organizing to share our stories, to support solidarity across campus, and to empower our students to speak out against injustice.”

Junior government major, Senator at-Large for Diversity in the Student Government Association, McNair Scholar, Suffolk Black Student Union member and an organizer for Stand Up Suffolk Phyliss St-Hubert commented on the rally while protesting students were chanting “stand up Suffolk,” behind her.

“We want students to know that you can share your stories, there are students that support you, that it’s [discrimination] been happening,” she said.

She explained that a list of demands has been formed by the group, including training for faculty on diversity, racial bias and representation within the higher administration.

“For students who are transgender, it’s really unfortunate that we’re basically forced to out ourselves to the class,” political theory major Sabs Young said in a post-rally interview with The Journal on Monday. “We want our pronouns respected.”

Young said that there have been multiple occasions where students have been forced to correct a class on the pronouns the student wished to be used, and in turn have to out themselves to the class even if they do not want to, in order to make this correction.

Chris DeGusto/ News Editor
Chris DeGusto/ News Editor

“There’s not enough queer faculty and or staff to help facilitate, or just be there [for queer students],” said Sarah Simi Cohen, a student double majoring in psychology and sociology to a  Journal reporter on Monday.

Protesters chanted other phrases throughout the protest such as, “Students unified can never be defeated,” and “who’s school? Our school.”

Matthew Brenner, a senior finance and global business major commented on the protest in relation to Martínez’s viral blog post in an interview with The Journal on Monday.

“I think that every student that is protesting right now thinks that the teacher accused this student of plagiarism because of her race,” said Brenner. “In my opinion any teacher has a right to call any student out for plagiarism if that’s what they think they did.”

Jake Seibel, senior management major commented to a Journal reporter at the rally as well correlating the protest to the viral blog.

“If you have an issue with a professor, I would rather you go one-on-one with that professor,” he said.

Sheikh Nasher, a sophomore double major in public relations and sociology, service scholar for the Center for Community Engagement as well as McNair Scholar, commented upon Stand Up Suffolk in a post-protest interview with The Journal.

“I actually know Tiffany Martínez, I admire the work she does. The incident that took place with her is not a new thing, it happens everywhere in a campus. I have experienced it myself,” he said. “There was an incident where I was told to ‘get deported’ [last year].”

He stated that he is a permanent resident, but was mistaken for an international student who could not work off of campus.

Martínez, who was present at the protest declined to comment.

Nasher explained that the incident involving Martínez has triggered negative remarks about the university.

“There’s a reason why we all need to stand up right now. It’s not only about people of minority. People shouldn’t be making assumptions and accusing people for something they didn’t [do]. That’s what really matters here because we are an extremely diverse campus,” said Nasher. “For the one incident that took place last week, we had open house [for students], and I had [parents] coming in making nasty comments about ‘this school is racist,’ ‘the faculty professor is racist.’”

He stated that educating people is what really matters, and hopes the university takes steps to facilitate better relationships between students and professors.

Smith also said that the systematic institutional discrimination isn’t just present at Suffolk, but in campuses across the nation, but hopes that Suffolk will begin to “act proactively,” upon these issues.

“At the end of the day, the people who run #StandUpSuffolk are student leaders who love this school. We love it so much that we refuse to let racism, sexism, transphobia, or any kind of discrimination plague our campus,” Smith said.