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Students and faculty unite in front of Mills Hall for rally against budget proposals

In the past few weeks, Mills College students and faculty have been fighting against the curriculum and budget cuts proposed in October. On Nov. 18, those who are against the cuts took a stand in front of Mills Hall.

Concerns from several parts of campus, ranging from the feelings of marginalized students to the treatment of Mills’ adjunct faculty, came up at the rally.  Union spokesman David Buuck and student Nazanin Szanto led the rally, saying it was a space for everyone to come together in solidarity with adjuncts, marginalized students and anyone affected by the possible cuts.

“We’re here today because we want to discuss a united enemy and fight the cuts and make some noise about how we’ve all been affected by the cuts,” Szanto said.

Members of the Mills adjunct bargaining committee, English professor Stephanie Young and chemistry lecturer Sandra Banks spoke at the rally, advocating for the importance of adjuncts and explained the challenges they are being faced with.

Banks, who has taught at Mills for over 30 years and has taught 100 courses, said that she has taught a wider variety of courses than even the tenured track faculty. However, despite this long track record with the College, she is hired on a year to year contract with no guarantees that she will be hired again next year.

“The College will not commit to hire me for more than a year at a time,” Banks said.

Young elaborated on the importance of adjuncts by saying that they have been essential to the growth of the College.

“The College has grown because its adjuncts have grown; that’s how it’s been able to be profitable,” Young said.  “This is not the moment they get to balance a 20-year-old structural deficit on our backs again.”

Students from a variety of departments also spoke about the experiences of marginalized students. Malu Davis spoke about his experiences with the dance department to both stand in solidarity with them and to address certain issues in the department with regard to transphobia.  He believes a way to help students who feel marginalized is to hold conversations with the dance department to better understand how to fight these issues.

Nia Fitzpatrick also represented the dance department, saying in order to make the program more diverse, the College should be doing outreach at schools in East Oakland.

Ariana Cruz-Sellu also spoke saying professors need to receive a fair wage; however, she is conflicted over how to support these causes of curricular cuts and adjuncts when her voice has been silenced continuously in the past.  She spoke about the dance department’s issues with “heavy-handed” cultural appropriation during classes and performances.

“‘Take Back Mills’ is a rhetoric that I have heard being used, but understand that for many of us, Mills was never ours to begin with,” Cruz-Sellu said.

Cruz-Sellu also said that the school needs to have conversations about accessibility and how we can create more opportunities for students, particularly because the student body is 60 percent first generation college students.  In order to make accessibility for students of all socio-economic backgrounds, she said the College must make all departments financially accessible and emphasized that the administration must support and meet the needs of students, staff and faculty.

“If we are are not speaking against injustice, we are complacent in that justice,” Cruz-Sellu said.  “If we allow others to be oppressed by a system until their pain aligns with our own, we are no better than those we’re working tirelessly to condemn.”

Buuck went through the list of current majors that are being proposed to become concentrations.  He spoke against these changes, saying that calling them concentrations would not acknowledge the students’ hard work put into them.

“You should be able to go out and say [you] majored in this, not that [you] went to Mills and concentrated for awhile,” Buuck said.

Representing the language department, Tiara Jackson stated that the transition from separate languages into concentrations under an umbrella major is detrimental to the programs. She said that homogenizing language is like lumping all students of color together and that it denies the unique parts of those individual languages.

ASMC Vice President Erin Clark told students that they can always come to their student government to voice their concerns.

“This school is not even my whole focus in life, but the students that come here have made such an impact on my life and they are so important to me that I don’t want to graduate without everyone feeling comfortable with sending their children here,” Clark said.

In addition to the student speakers, a sign was hung from the walls of Mills Hall with the President’s $502,256 salary in 2013 posted on it.

President DeCoudreaux was not in attendance at the rally.