Hunger strike, deliberations continue to stew

Ken Eisinger

Hunger strikers showed no signs of ending their standoff this weekend after rejecting University administrators’ responses to protest demands in a tense meeting Friday afternoon.
Tempers flared and the meeting escalated into a shouting match as the four headband-wearing protesters expressed discontent over the administrators’ responses, which would devote more resources to the Chinese program.
University President Mark Yudof, Executive Vice President and Provost Bob Bruininks, College of Liberal Arts Dean Steven Rosenstone and several other senior administration officials attended the meeting. The exasperated officials gasped and sighed throughout the meeting. After an hour, they declared the meeting an impasse and stormed out.
A follow-up meeting is scheduled for Friday with Associate Vice President of Minority Affairs Nancy Barcelo.
Members of the Chinese program, Progressive Student Organization and several University cultural centers are fasting to protest understaffing in the Chinese program. The program has two tenured professors and two temporary professors to teach 21 majors and pre-majors. CLA is extending offers to candidates for a third tenured professor to begin teaching fall quarter.
The protesters demand the Chinese program — which is currently a program within the East Asian Languages, Literatures and Linguistics department — be recognized as an independent, equal department. The hunger strikers also demand the University advertise for a fourth tenured professor for the program.
University officials did not meet the students’ demands. The meeting focused on the appointment of a fourth tenured professor. Issues of equal treatment and departmental independence were not discussed.
To convince the students to end the hunger strike, University officials prepared a written response to highlight past and present investments in the program. Included in the statement were:
ù In September 1997, Rosenstone approved a third tenured faculty position in the program. Two candidates have already turned down the position and the college is awaiting an answer from a third candidate.
ù In February, Bruininks allocated to the program an 18.1 percent budget increase. The change will take effect in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 1998.
ù In response to the strike, a $50,000 China Studies Scholarship Program was established Thursday to increase enrollment in the program.
The written response said the appointment of additional faculty will be considered in the future as enrollment increases to justify the investment.
“There are lots of other departments in the college that are also increasing in the number of majors,” Rosenstone said. “I also have to worry about protecting the students in those programs. And that’s hard.”
Protester Ben Ridgway said he was not impressed with the administrators’ response. “I feel like the student scholarship is a bribe to ignore the fourth position,” Ridgway said. “It’s not necessarily what we were asking for in the first place.”
Continuing its strike over the weekend, the group decided that students who were feeling dizzy or lethargic would drink juice and soup broth so they could continue to study and work.