Urgent 2nd Day of Protect AFAM Occupation of President’s Hall at Seton Hall University

For updates, see the Instagram account: @protect.afam.shu
Dear Members of the Seton Hall Community and Fellow Community members,
Last night President Joseph E. Nyre, sent an email to the Seton Hall community blatantly misrepresenting the current situation; and what has been happening to the Africana Studies program and its students. President Nyre had time to formulate an email to send to the community but has yet to find the time to acknowledge us in our fight for Africana Studies with a meeting at the least. Our demonstration and ongoing actions are in direct response to the lack of urgency, transparency, and acknowledgment of the reoccurring attack on the Africana Studies program and the mistreatment of Black faculty, staff, and students.

For months, we have been seeking to discuss the development of the Africana Studies Program into a department and having full-time tenure track professors with respective disciplines in Africana/Black Studies. For months we did not receive a message or response from President Nyre or the University’s Provost. In fact, President Nyre directly said to us: “I do not respond to demands,” when asked about his position with regard to the program in December 2022.

We have asked the administration repeatedly if they would comply with our demands and have not received a direct answer. Instead, we receive empty sentiments such as “we hear you,” the use of condescending rhetoric, and continued pushback. We had our first meeting, after waiting several weeks, with the Dean’s Office of Arts & Science in early December of 2022, and have reached the end of the semester with no progress, no true acknowledgment, and transparency.

The Protect AFAM collective hears the university loud and clear. As tuition-paying individuals of the institution it is our academic right to continue to fight and advocate for equitable education. How can the University say they were meeting with the collective in good faith when every statement and action is in direct benefit of the university while we as a collective are left with continued pushback?

The program’s only full-time professor and program director was forced out of the university, and our administration has failed to recognize the severity and urgency of the situation. An open letter of his departure has not been transparently communicated on behalf of the University. The lack of fundamental resources and professors has made it impossible for students to fulfill their majors and minors efficiently and adequately. The university was able to doctor a website with their understanding of progress to share in their letter, but they are still unable to accurately update the course catalog to reflect the requirements of aspiring majors or minors. This is a fight Seton Hall has seen before dating back to the 1970s.  

In response to Seton Hall University’s protest policy, we have highlighted direct portions that have immense censorship embedded within them and arbitrary restrictions and regulations targeted directly at students for expressing differing opinions about the University.

III. Policy –      

A student planning a protest or other public demonstration on University Property must contact the Dean of Students office (973-761-9076) for information, guidance, and permission. A Student Protest Application must be submitted to the Dean of Students office for review and approval at least five calendar days before a protest or demonstration is expected to occur. No student protest or other public demonstration shall occur on University Property without prior authorization from the Dean of Students. This includes but is not limited to, any public meeting, gathering or activity to express views, disagreement, or support regarding a given subject such as a march, parade, protest, picketing, or sit-ins.

** If you are a student at Seton Hall University and have ever spoken publicly in opposition to the university, you are in violation of Seton Hall University’s protest policy. **

–       The University reserves the right to designate the time, manner, and appropriate areas for protests or other public demonstrations on University Property. No student protest or other public demonstration will be permitted to occur overnight on University Property. The directives of university officials must be followed at all times.

**The University reserves the right to have students protest in areas that benefit their representation of them, as seen with campus demonstrations before. **   

Excerpts outlined in the Student Application Form.

–       STUDENT PROTEST APPLICATION Completed application MUST be submitted to the Dean of Students Office for approval at least five (5) calendar days prior to the date of the student protest or other public demonstration. This includes but is not limited to, any public meeting, gathering or activity to express views, disagreement, or support regarding a given subject such as a march, parade, protest, picketing, or sit-in.

Excerpts from the Student Acknowledgment portion of the application form.

–       As the responsible student organizer of this student protest or public demonstration, I understand that I am responsible for this event and hereby agree and affirm that the safety of participants, observers, and other members of the University community, as well as the continued operations of the University, are of the highest importance. I understand and agree that during any protest or other public demonstration, participants must respect the rights of others, including those with whom they disagree.
** Seton Hall asks that ONE student takes full accountability and responsibility for an entire protest/demonstration**

The students occupying the President’s Hall are being heavily surveilled and getting photographs taken of them while sleeping, and without consent. A security guard named Trace Herzog stated that he received orders from Sergio Oliva, Head of Security, and Monica Burnette, Chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, to take repeated photographs of students.

Lastly, highlighted in President Nyre’s email, “As a community of Great Minds, we are called to engage in the great conversations, challenges, and debates of our time. We all have gifts, ideas, and voices we can — and should — employ to find solutions to issues that are meaningful for our university and society.” As highlighted by President Nyre, he believes it is the responsibility of Great Minds of the University to be engaged in “great conversations.” Therefore, it is vital for Seton Hall University to acknowledge Africana Studies as a reputable and essential discipline. Further, they must move beyond acknowledgement to action. It is imperative for the students, faculty, and community members to amplify all BIPOC voices, without fear of administration threatening disciplinary actions.

Seton Hall University needs to understand that Africana Studies is not a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion certificate or initiative, we are students worthy of a degree that holds weight.

The Protect AFAM Movement 

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