For 4½ minutes on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, a large group of students and faculty members lay silently in the passage leading to President H. Kim Bottomly’s office in Green Hall. The protest drew attention to outrage over decisions not to indict police officers in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, respectively. The 4½ minutes commemorated the 4½ hours that Brown’s body lay in the street in Ferguson. Later, chanting, “Black lives matter,” “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “No justice, no peace!” the group repeated the die-in at the Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center.
In a blog post later that day, Bottomly wrote, “I know that these have been difficult days for members of our community … particularly our students, faculty, staff, and alumnae of African descent, as they struggle to make sense of the decisions and to understand their implications for their friends, their family, and communities across the country. Today our students have brought the national discussion to life on our campus. I support them in their protest.”
A letter from Ethos, a campus organization for students of African descent, to the Wellesley community published on Dec. 10, 2014, said, “We stand in solidarity with our members, students of color, and allies who … push for change against the systems of racial oppression which disproportionately endanger black lives,” and called for programs to “raise awareness about the disregard for black lives.”
President Bottomly has begun meeting with faculty members of African descent and plans to meet with the Harambee House council to move forward with a dialogue about race on campus.