[NOTE: This article was written before the riot police were deployed against us. In skimming over it, I have found it to be pretty accurate except for the claim that Dr. Harles issued demands. As far as I know, all demands were issued by either the faculty and Staff of Color Caucus or myself. -Rob Callahan]
4 May, 2000
20 hold sit-in for SCSU staffer
By Kyle Hopkins
[St. Cloud Times, St. Cloud MN]
About 20 protesters remained in the Administrative Services building at St. Cloud State University Wednesday night after the building closed at 5:30 p.m.
The protesters earlier vowed to stay in the building until St. Cloud State leadership permanently extended the contract of Nancy Harles, an American Indian staff member whose contract was not renewed this year.
"No. 1, withdraw the non-renewal, then we'll work from there," Harles said, before re-entering the building through a side door, along with a group of supporters.
Harles' contract as student services coordinator at the campus American Indian Center ends June 30.
The gathering began in the afternoon, drawing 50 to 100 people to the campus administration's front yard.
Protesters demanded an audience with interim President Suzie Williams and waited inside the building while the president finished with an appointment in Atwood Memorial Center.
Williams faced a sometimes hostile crowd of students and faculty, who presented a letter of protest including charges and demands.
Williams said she would like to but could not address the complaints.
"I cannot, by law, discuss a personnel matter with a group. I can discuss it with Nancy," she said.
The two will meet Tuesday, she said, though protesters pushed for immediate talks, which led to the sit-in.
Protesters charged that as a faculty member under probation, Harles was not reviewed annually, nor was she given a plan to help her succeed in her duties. Both are required by her union. The Government Data Practices Act prohibits university officials from commenting, according to school officials.
The protest began a few minutes after 1 p.m., as St. Cloud State students and professors, as well as two professors from other universities, spoke in support of Harles.
Some speakers told of a nationwide lack of American Indian faculty and the importance of retaining Harles.
"I can't tell you how distressed I am to see that we are so few here, and yet there's no effort to keep us here," said Jeanne Lacourt, a minority studies professor.
Others openly criticized university administration, which defended its hiring record.
Vice President for University Advancement Shawn Teal challenged detractors to examine the university's efforts to diversify the campus, which are among the most extensive and successful in the state, he said.
Teal and Vice President for Administrative Affairs Gene Gilchrist noted the high number of non-white faculty and staff, which comprised 19 percent of new hires in fall 1999.
"We've made a substantial amount of progress toward achieving diversity and social justice," Gilchrist said.
Some were not convinced Wednesday.
Members of the Faculty and Staff of Color Caucus, American Indian Student Organization President Craig Fuller and St. Cloud Area American Indian Center Executive Director Debra Johnson-Fuller were among the speakers.
Craig Fuller looks to Harles as a mother figure, who helped him feel welcome on campus as a New York transplant, he said.
A drum group from the St. Cloud AIC played before the protest and inside the administration building as activists waited for Williams. Protester Rob Callahan threatened a hunger strike.