Student protesters suspended the Sikes sit-in on Thursday afternoon, according to the core organizers. The group made the announcement at the steps of Sikes Hall, which were full of supporters.
In a statement posted to the organizers' site seestripescu.org, the core group explained their reasoning.
Sophomore Sherman Jones, a computer science major, is one of the organizers.
"Because it has been demonstrated several times over the past two years, but particularly over the last nine days, that Clemson University’s upper administration is not only unwilling, but seemingly incapable, of doing the jobs they’ve been hired to do, we have decided to suspend the Sikes sit-in until further notice," Jones said. Jones added that the protesters no longer want to wait for administration "to do what is morally and ethically right given that it seems they are unable to do so."
Sophomore La' Portia Perkins, a wildlife and fisheries biology major, gave specific reasons for the protesters' frustration.
"Many of us know that in the past they’ve gone so far as to specifically dictate that 'White Privilege' can’t be spoken about by Peer Dialogue Facilitators, and this past week they stooped so low as to threaten the charters of two Greek-letter organizations that wanted to perform here," Perkins said. Perkins also cited "blatant disrespect and disregard" reportedly shown toward protesters by administration.
Rae-Nessha White, one of the Clemson Five, said the protest has been suspended, not cancelled.
Protesters said Wednesday on Twitter via @TigerStripesCU that the core group would make an announcement Thursday at 5 p.m.
At approximately 4:50 p.m., Chief of Staff Max Allen walked in front of protesters and faced the crowded steps.
“I’ve come out here this afternoon to tell you ... that I’ve heard you," Allen said. Allen then announced that an email outlining Clements' plan of action in response to the forums would be sent out "within minutes."
"It is my hope that you will all agree that since we now have a concrete plan to move forward ... you feel you can return to your homes and your residence halls knowing that your time here has not been in vain and that we’ve accomplished what you’ve asked us to do," Allen said.
Neither Clements nor Vice President of Student Affairs Almeda Jacks attended.
Protesters had been conducting a sit-in at Sikes Hall for nine days in protest of a perceived lack of action on the part of administration concerning a list of grievances and demands, which can also be found at seestripescu.org.
After Allen spoke, A.D. Carson, one of the Clemson Five, said the protesters had no knowledge of the email or Allen's plans to speak. The core group did not wait to read the email before making its planned announcement.
Clements' office, which is inside Sikes, sent the email out to the university just minutes after the protesters’ announcement that the sit-in would be suspended.
"I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has participated in discussions, on and off the steps of Sikes Hall this past week, as well as prior conversations," Clements said. "I’m saddened that some members of our community felt that the only way to be heard was to spend the last nine days in front of the Administration building."
Clements outlined eight plans of action that address the protesters' demands. The Tiger has posted the outline at the following link: http://bit.ly/26jW2ED.
Parts of that plan include addressing "threatening behavior and statements" with consequences, finding temporary space for a multicultural center by Fall 2016, distributing funds for student groups more fairly and "doubling the number of underrepresented minority faculty by 2025."
The renaming of certain buildings on campus, which the protesters say in their grievances are "named after individuals who were known for their prejudice against underrepresented groups," has been the most publicized of the protesters' demands. Clements said in the email that "the complete story of our historical buildings will be told, including Tillman Hall, originally known as Old Main."
The email does not say that Clements supports changing Tillman Hall's name.
The protesters’ announcement followed three forums that Clements and the administration held Tuesday and Wednesday. The forums addressed campus climate and safety, a multicultural center, workforce diversity, recruiting and retention of underrepresented faculty and staff and support of underrepresented students.
Clements listed the forums in an email on Tuesday in response to Monday’s private meeting with the core group of protesters in Sikes.
“The conversation was thoughtful, honest and candid and I believe that progress was made,” Clements said.
Chief of Staff Max Allen echoed Clements’ statement after Tuesday night's forum on campus safety and a multicultural center.
“We presented [the protesters] with the information about … these three forums we are doing. We asked for their feedback … we got some constructive feedback,” Allen said. “From our standpoint, that’s progress.”
The core group of protesters disagreed.
After Monday’s meeting, the protesters spoke to supporters at the foot of Sikes’ steps. Khayla Williams, one of the Clemson Five, said the group was dissatisfied with the meeting.
“What they gave us in there is not what we asked for,” Williams said.
A.D. Carson, also one of the Clemson Five, elaborated.
"[The administration] didn’t produce for us what we asked for. They produced a timeline document to get to [what we asked for]. We want the thing on the other side of that,” Carson said.
At Tuesday’s forum, Allen said that the only lack of progress for the protesters was that administration did not answer their question about making a public statement acknowledging the Sikes sit-in.
“We did not feel comfortable at that time to respond to that question because there are things that we need to think about,” Allen said.
Clements also said Tuesday night that Monday's meeting went well.
“We were really happy that the students sat down with us. We thought the dialogue was very positive, and obviously the students wanted more, which means we have more work to do,” Clements said.
Responding to the administration's percpetion of the meeting, Carson said on the steps of Sikes Tuesday night that administration lacks an understanding of what protesters are saying.
“The whole idea of the ‘Clemson family’ isn’t unrelated to the fact that administration has comprehension problems and issues that boil down to disrespect of people who disagree with them, and this is exhibited by those in the Clemson community, including students,” Carson said. “It’s a top-down problem because students exhibit the same attitudes as administration.”
Senior Devon Cornelius, a psychology major, attended Thursday's announcement.
"As an African-American student, I stand with the cause that my peers were trying to get across, which is that minority students aren't treated with respect and that we don't feel safe," Cornelius said. "We don't feel that we're a part of the Clemson family in regards to inclusiveness."
Cornelius said he's indifferent about the suspension of the sit-in because "the administration has been stalling." He also said that being able to focus on finals is important.
"I am kind of glad that [the sit-in] did get suspended," Cornelius said. "Hopefully, once finals are over, we can continue to fight and to push and get administration to actually do something."
Sophomore Madison Gregoris, a biological sciences major, was also in attendance.
"If the university doesn't follow through with everything that they say they're going to do with the grievances, I and others will be out here on Aug. 17," which is the first day of the fall semester. Gregoris said that the administration's decision to have Allen speak before protesters without notice was "shady and disrespectful, which is basically everything that they've done so far."
The core protesters also announced Thursday that the new Senate Faculty has created an ad hoc committee to address grievances concerning the CU 1000 course and diversity training for faculty and staff.
Protesters said that Sikes Hall will remain the university’s political and multicultural center until the administration creates one.
Jessica Houston, an English major, is a senior.
“I’m about to graduate, and this is the first time that I have ever felt this sense of community here at Clemson," Houston said. "In these past few days, when I was like, 'What am I going to do when I’m out of class?,' I wasn’t like, 'I’m going to the library, I’m going to the union.'" Houston said she was going to Sikes Hall.
"Where else would I go?”