Many institutions strive to portray diversity; however, often enough they do very little for their minority populations. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was once and still continues to be one of these institutions. Being a predominantly white university, for many minority students it often feels as if we are the other on campus. More importantly, it seems as if we have to constantly demand to be represented.
At 12:30 p.m. on May 5, 1992, minority students had enough of feeling like they didn’t belong on campus. As a result, a demonstration broke out at the Henry Administration Building. During which, Latinx students on campus had submitted a list of demands for the University to address. Since the University administration refused to listen to the students’ demands, the students decided to sit-in at the Henry Administration Building. It should be noted that Latinx students received support from many other minority individuals on campus like African Americans, Asians, and even the majority group, White students, who were also seen at the protest. Similarly, it is significant to recognize and give credit to the leaders of the protest, Jessie ‘Chuy’ Chavez and Julio Villegas.
List of Demands
The list of demands that Latinx students compiled, was a call for representation and a need for change. There were four main sections to the list of demands.
I. Recruitment & Retention
We demand a breakdown of the term “Hispanic”
We demand that Latina/o graduation figures are to be at least equivalent to the percentage of Latinos in the State of Illinois (11.6%).
We demand that the Peer Retention Program must become stabilized by implementing a line-item budget policy.
We demand a more concerted effort be made to recruit students from predominantly Latino, inner-city high schools as well as low-income students attending suburban high schools.
We demand more recruitment of Latinas/os from community colleges.
We demand more recruitment of Latinas/os to the University of Illinois Graduate School.
II. Faculty & Administration
We demand for more recruitment of groups that are historically underrepresented.
We demand more recruitment of Latinas/os in higher offices of Administration and Deanship.
We demand that recruitment for Latina/o faculty should be done in institutions that have Latina/o research programs or Latina/o Studies Departments (Chicana/o, Puerto Rican, etc.) AND the faculty should do scholarly research in those programs on some aspect of the Latina/o experience within the U.S.
III. Chief Illiniwek
We demand the immediate removal of Chief Illiniwek as the mascot of the University of Illinois.
We demand a differentiation between a Latina/o Studies Program and the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program.
We demand that a Latina/o Studies Program be developed and implemented.
We demand a Latina/o and Latin American Library, while using the present office (324 Library) with its collection.
We demand an increase in support (financial, etc.) of the Latina/o Cultural Center: La Casa Cultural Latina. In addition, we demand that the University give Latinas/os the respect of distinguishing between La Casa Cultural Latina (our cultural center) and Latina/o registered organizations.*
Jose Antonio Rico, 22, a junior from the Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago and a graduate of Whitney Young High School said, “We are doing this because we see a pattern of the administration wanting to close the doors on our community. We have repeated a list of our demands. We know that these things can’t be accomplished overnight, but we would at least like them to make a commitment to long-term change.”** It’s clear that the students understood that change would take time and that it wouldn’t be a quick process. All they were asking for, was for their institution to take them into consideration and to listen to their voices. However, when the University failed to do so, they had no choice but to unite and protest the injustices they were experiencing.
It's interesting to notice that even the predominant group which were and continues to be white students, noticed the injustices that were taking place. Particularly, Abby Illenberger, a 20-year old junior, who said, “This is not an isolated incident. They have been continuously put off. The university is not handling it. They are not treating them with respect.”** It is apparent that Latinx students were voicing their concerns for a while; however, the University was choosing to disregard their demands.
The students were participating peacefully in the sit-in, and with permission from University administration. According to the Chicago Tribune (1992), “Police dressed in riot gear were called in from four departments on Tuesday to forcibly remove approximately 150 minority student protesters who had occupied the main administration building at the University of Illinois, shutting it down.”** The departments that were called included the Champaign County Sheriff’s Department, the Champaign Police Department, and the Urbana Police Department.
Once they arrived, “Students were badly beaten and dragged out; one student even had a stun gun used against them to the point that they became delirious and threw up blood.”***
Additionally, three other students were arrested that day. A peaceful demonstration ultimately ended in violence. To conclude, this could have been prevented if the administration had listened to and met the needs of Latinx students on campus.
As stated by the Daily Illini (2017), “Nearly 25 years later, only one of the original demands made by Latinx students has been met by the University.”*** Among the demands that were actually met, were creating the Latino/a Studies Program and the cultural center known as La Casa. Aside from this demand being met, no other demands have been met by the University. There continues to be a lack of diverse faculty, and administration. It took the University years after the list of demands from 1992 came out and the Chief was only recently removed as mascot. Once again, we see this pattern of the University striving to achieve diversity but failing to represent and listen to minority students on campus. It appears as if the University continues to ignore and marginalize brown and Black students and even faculty on campus. As a result, minority populations on campus continue to feel as the other and as if they are not welcomed on campus.
I encourage you to watch this short documentary that goes more into depth on the Protest of 1992.
*A Report from the Chancellor’s Committee on Latina/o Issues. “Latinas/Os at the University of Illinois: A History of Neglect and Strategies for Improvement, 1992-2002.” 2003, www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/1814/Chancellor%27s%20Committee%20Report.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y.
**Garza, Melita M. “Cops Remove Latino Protestors at U. of I.” Chicago Tribune, 6 May 1992, www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1992-05-06-9202100147-story.html.
*** Rodriguez, Tatiana. “Latinx Students' 1992 Protest Sparks Solidarity.” The Daily Illini, 20 Apr. 2017, dailyillini.com/uncategorized/2017/04/20/latinx-students-1992-protest-sparks-solidarity/.