Travel Ban Protest Led to Several Confrontations with Administration
Cal State LA students protesting Trump’s travel ban voiced their discontent throughout campus
February 13, 2017
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On February 7, the Muslim Student Association and the Black Student Union held a Travel Ban protest, voicing their disagreement with the Trump Administration’s policies against immigration. The protest, comprised of hundreds of students, traveled throughout campus, moving through buildings with active classrooms.
Third year Communication Studies major and participant of the protest, Mariely Pozuelos, told the University Times, “The time for action is now. Especially now at the beginning of the presidency and must continue until the end. Justice and righteousness will always prevail over ignorance. We just have to push hard enough.”
Many students were upset when the fire alarm was pulled in multiple buildings while the protest was moving through King Hall, Fine Arts, Biology Sciences and Salazar Hall buildings. “It’s not fair for the students who want an education to be forced out of classrooms. I’m paying for my education to learn and I’m unable to do so because of these protests” said Joe Rodriguez, a Political Science major.
Chief Rick Wall told the University Times that pending a hearing, the students responsible for pulling the fire alarms would face suspension or expulsion and be subject to a criminal investigation by the Los Angeles police under penal code 148.4. Wall stated that, “We encourage students to express themselves lawfully. There is a great deal of responsibility that accompanies free speech and there is no free speech right to pull a fire alarm or take actions that jeopardize the safety of others.”
The protest organizers first voiced their concerns at one of six ‘Democracy in Action’ events hosted by the University administration. The event, featuring Political Science professors Dr. Martin Adamian and Dr. Scott Bowman, had an audience of roughly 250 students and faculty members. Adamian and Bowman focused on Supreme Court precedent which Trump based his executive orders on as well as the ways in which citizens can legally fight those orders.
During the Q&A session, protesters including student leaders and faculty members, used the opportunity to make statements rather than ask questions. Muslim Student Association leaders, which could not be reached for further comment, stated during the event that “Our list of demands will be sent to you, and we will issue a statement on behalf of the three organizations.” Dr. Octavio Villalpando, Vice Provost for Diversity and Engaged Learning, stated that they “will work with every single one of you to help you exercise your right to learn.”
As of Thursday, neither a statement nor demands had been issued by the student leaders of the protest. Robert Lopez, Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs, told the University Times that “The administration has not received any demands. The remarks made by Dr. Villalpando reflect the views of the administration.”
A couple Trump supporters sporting their “Make America Great Again” hats stood outside the protest circle and were confronted by protesters yelling “Nazi”. One anonymous Trump supporter, a Mechanical Engineering major, stated “On this campus, those who support Trump are not against the protesters. We want an open dialogue and peaceful activity.”
After the walkout, students ended their march at the Golden Eagle Statue to engage in dialogue with each other. Some students brought up concerns of the lack of campus resources such as limited counselor assistance with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at school. Zamaria Gomez, a student activist involved with campaigns against budget cuts and for undocumented and transgender rights, expressed that there was a student-counselor ratio of 1 counselor for every 3,000 students, as well as a long waiting period to receive counseling.
Gomez also said that they felt triggered by the Dean of Students, Dr. Jennifer Miller, when they were unexpectedly contacted by Miller through their personal email and misgendered them while addressing previous concerns that they had advocated for. Gomez, expressing their frustration at being unable to change their name and gender with the school, then looked to Miller and demanded answers.
“As far as I’m concerned, the ball’s in the court,” said Gomez. “I don’t want to hear from you, I just want to change my name.”
Several students in the crowd voiced their concern that Miller was standing outside the crowd without actively participating in the conversations. Previously, during the walkout, student protesters had noticed Miller speaking to campus police and had chanted “Dean of Students, talk to the students, not the police,” for several minutes.
“I appreciate your presence but you are not showing solidarity by just showing up here and standing,” student Corinne Baptiste told Miller. “I don’t think it’s enough.”
However, some students such as Ana Sofia Lopez spoke in support of Miller. Speaking of her personal experiences with Miller, Lopez said she is grateful for the dean. “She can’t do anything out here at the moment. She is the Dean of Students and she is here for us,” said Lopez to the crowd.
In a statement to the University Times after the incident, Miller said, “I appreciated the opportunity to listen and learn more about our students’ concerns. I feel confident that we were able to clarify and discuss my role and interest in hearing from our students as Cal State LA’s Dean of Students.”