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Students protest minority policies

By Andrea Lamberti

In an apparent effort to continue the momentum of Professor James H. Williams '67's protest of MIT minority education policies and practices, about 40 students held a demonstration in front of the office of President Charles M. Vest Wednesday afternoon.

The demonstration came on the heels of Williams' individual protest, during which he fasted every Wednesday in April from 9 am to 5 pm outside the offices of Vest and Provost Mark S. Wrighton. On the last day, April 24, approximately 100 students clustered around Williams in the second-floor corridor to show their support for his protest.

This week's sit-in was organized by students, who invited Williams to attend their demonstration, which he dubbed a "flash protest." According to Luis M. Gonzalez '92, different club leaders telephoned students to inform them of the demonstration, which took place at 4:30 pm Wednesday.

The students called for the demonstration after realizing that Vest and Wrighton were not in their offices during last week's protest. This week, however, Vest had gone to the Awards Convocation ceremony in 10-250, and was not in his office.

Neither Vest nor Wrighton could be reached for comment yesterday.

Kristala L. Jones '94, one of the students who made phone calls for the demonstration, called last week's demonstration a success. She said, however, "We were sort of disappointed that the president and provost were not around, so we came back." She said that even though Williams' initial protest was over, "that didn't mean the problem was solved."

Williams spoke briefly to the students. He said that at last week's protest he "saw in many of your faces [the] beginning of a sense of empowerment. That's what this protest is about."

Williams also said he would take each minority student out to lunch next year to discuss their goals and potential, adding that he would take graduating seniors out this year. He urged the students, "Make sure you cultivate your leadership potential."

Protest to continue

Students at the demonstration said they will continue their protest, but due to the approach of finals week, further protests may be delayed until next fall. Gonzalez said that the next phase of the protest, a "silent protest, probably won't happen until next term."

Although protesting will most likely become difficult as the end of the term approaches, Jones said, "I don't think it's going to end with the 1990-91 school year."

Williams has also said that his protest will soon enter a second phase, but would not elaborate on its form.

Jones felt that the demonstrations have raised awareness of the issues students are protesting. "People are aware that there are legitimate gripes against the Institute," she said. But Jones noted that "nothing has changed since he [Williams] started his protest one month ago."

Reginald W. Abel '92, another demonstrator, said that the presence of minority role models on campus is crucial for current students and for attracting prospective students; this is one goal of Williams and the student demonstrators. "If you can get a network going -- and you're more likely to get one going with a minority [faculty member] -- it just helps so much," Abel said.

He felt that the lack of minority role models hurts MIT's chances for attracting strong minority graduate students. "That's really thrown off a lot of students from being graduate students here."