An estimated 300 people donning masks and signs marched across campus on September 9 in peaceful protest of recent racist incidents involving members of the Santa Clara community and demanded concrete, immediate action to address long-standing issues of racism on campus. The march, which started on Palm Drive in front of the Schott Admissions building and ended with a rally in front of the Jesuit residence on Franklin Street, coincided with Scholar Strike, a national movement to protest racism in higher education and law enforcement.
Michelle Burnham, professor of English, says the protest was a collaborative effort organized by members of the recently-formed SCU Racial Justice Coalition consisting of staff and faculty. “The turnout was tremendous—somewhere between 300, maybe 400 people came out,” she says. “We were really surprised because of the air quality. There were lots of students, faculty, staff, members of the community.”
There wasn’t a formal plan for the rally that followed the march, Burnham says, but it was uplifting to see people spontaneously step up and speak. “The main theme was how long this has been going on, how frustrating it is to have these reports that lay out a pretty clear set of demands and not have them acted on,” she says, referring to four so-called Unity movements starting in 1985, the 2016 Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, and Campus Climate surveys that indicated a consensus among people of color of not feeling safe or welcome at SCU.
In addition to the appeals for University administration to swiftly act on these persistent demands to increase diversity and equity for people of color at SCU, protestors also came out in support of Danielle Morgan, assistant professor of English, following an August incident on campus involving Morgan, her family, and SCU Campus Safety. The incident is under investigation. As recounted in a viral Twitter thread, Morgan’s brother was asked to leave campus and followed to her home adjacent to campus, where officers demanded identification and proof that she lives there.
In an interview with America magazine about Jesuit universities’ response to racism and implicit bias, Morgan referenced the inaction of school administrators to these issues. It’s no longer acceptable to offer vague assurances about finding solutions to on-campus racism, she says. “I think my experience demonstrates that there is an urgency here. Campus administrations all across the country need to be making daily moves to rectify these kinds of situations so that this doesn’t happen again.”