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Students and faculty look back on Baker 70

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The "Baker 70" protest inside Baker Center in February 2017. File photo by Heather Willard

One year after 70 people were arrested in protests at Baker University Center, a tight-knit group of students and faculty gathered Thursday evening to listen to speakers and discuss diversity issues on campus in Schoonover Center.

For Carla Triana, President of the International Students Union, last year’s protest at Baker Center was personal. Triana was five years old when she crossed the United States border with her family on Thanksgiving Day in 2000. In the coming years, she would attend a predominantly white high school, all while her parents frequently told her to keep quiet and to not tell her story.

“I didn’t really have a childhood,” Triana said. “I was forced to grow up fast.”

Triana became a U.S. citizen at the age of 18, and said her decision to attend the protest was largely influenced by her past experiences and the new opportunities her citizenship provided.

“I did it for the little Carla that didn’t have a voice back then,” Triana said. “I did it for the undocumented students, the international students, the DACA students who might not have the opportunity to stand up for themselves. My whole life, I was always scared. I needed to prove that I was capable, that I had a voice.”

Thursday night’s event, which took place one year after last year’s protest and subsequent arrests, was organized by Students for Law, Justice and Culture and the Ohio University LGBT Center.

Francisco Cintron, a senior studying history and the vice president of the SLJC, said that SLJC had been focused on Ohio U’s controversial interim freedom of expression policy in the last several months, but had also discovered a lack of discussion on campus that focused on the motivation of the original protest, namely issues with immigration and Muslim discrimination.

The event featured four speakers, each of whom posed questions to the audience about activist communities, using privilege to make a difference and faculty responsibility in representing underprivileged students on campus.

Iris Virjee, a junior studying urban planning and sustainability, was the first to speak about her experiences at Baker last year.  

“We huddled around on the Baker floor while the officers gathered around us like sheepdogs,” Virjee said, “We sang ‘we gon be alright’ and we were. Cops don’t beat upper middle class white college students.”

Virjee expressed her frustration with the university’s handling the original events and the conversations that followed.

“As long as the university would rather criminalize us for who we are, we cannot be complicit in this and there can be no peace,” Virjee said.

The majority of the speakers highlighted their experiences of being arrested last year. But delfin baustista, Director of the Ohio U LGBT Center, offered a faculty perspective on the event.

“We claim ‘Diversity is You,’ we claim Bobcat family,” baustista said. “We failed. We failed you as faculty and staff. Accountability is needed. OU needs to stop fearing black, brown and queer voices, women’s an  immigrant voices, international and accented voices. As students, you are not checks. You are not statistics. You are people.”   

 

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