Faculty voted 83–45 against calling for the immediate resignation of President Jonathan Veitch in a meeting Tuesday, Director of Communications Jim Tranquada said. The vote was a direct response to a recent movement for diversity and equity at Occidental organized by the student activist group Oxy United for Black Liberation, according to Diplomacy and World Affairs Professor Sanjeev Khagram and Philosophy Professor Saul Traiger.
The meeting began with a statement by Veitch to the over 120 faculty present. Students, many of whom organized or supported the Oxy United occupation of the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center (AGC), then spoke about why Veitch’s resignation was necessary. Following the testimony, the faculty debated the two motions on their agenda: a vote to call for Veitch’s resignation and a vote to indefinitely postpone the resignation vote.
After the discussion, eligible faculty members voted on the postponement motion, which was denied. They then proceeded to the motion to call for Veitch’s resignation.
The postponement motion was put forth due to concerns about the impact of the resignation vote on students. According to Traiger, English Professor Warren Montag expressed to the faculty in an email that a vote potentially opposing Veitch’s resignation would contradict Oxy United’s first demand out of the 14 put forth during the AGC occupation, upsetting and disappointing the student body.
Montag declined to comment to The Occidental Weekly.
Other faculty members, including Khagram and Traiger, believed it was important for the faculty to vote on the resignation motion. Traiger said that the vote was necessary so that Veitch could see the number of faculty that opposed his continued leadership, even if the outcome did not call for Veitch’s resignation.
For Khagram, voting was essential to respond to Oxy United’s first demand and for opening a discussion among the faculty about where the college stands on diversity.
“What I feel strongly about, coming out of the discussion and the debate around the vote, is that the faculty unanimously believes that the college can and should do better when it comes to equity and excellence,” Khagram said.
Khagram expressed concern that students would view the vote as the faculty not supporting the student movement. He clarified that the vote was not one of confidence in Veitch’s leadership and his handling of issues related to diversity and racism, but rather that those against the motion did not believe that a new president would necessarily be an improvement.
“That’s the signal that should be sent out — that [the faculty] don’t have confidence. And in that way we completely agree with those students who are activists and leaders and part of the movement, that we have to do better, a lot better, and that President Veitch has to do a ton better on these issues,” Khagram said.
Oxy United organizers declined to comment to the Weekly.
Preceding the vote, Board of Trustees Chair Chris Calkins sent an email to the Occidental community on Monday on behalf of President Emeritus John Brooks Slaughter, who served as president of the college from 1988–99. Though Slaughter said that the concerns of student activists were real, he added that “the calls for [Veitch’s] removal are unwarranted and imprudent.” Slaughter had been named by supporters of the AGC occupation as an example of commendable presidential leadership at the college.
Next semester, the faculty will discuss and potentially vote on a system allowing students to report faculty for microaggressions in January, Veitch said. According to Khagram, there will be a faculty retreat devoted to diversity on either Jan. 15 or 19.
Meanwhile, Oxy United is continuing to call for increased accountability from the administration that their demands will be met. During a rally closing the AGC occupation Nov. 20, organizers announced that a public accountability meeting with Veitch would be held Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. in Choi Auditorium. In an email to the Occidental community sent the morning of Nov. 23, Veitch said that he would not attend the meeting because the administration “did not believe that this would be a productive next step,” and offered to meet with 5–7 students at 5 p.m. to discuss the implementation of the demands.
According to Vice President for Finance and Planning Amos Himmelstein, the Oxy United organizers requested to meet at 5:45 p.m. However, Veitch was not available at that time, and the organizers met with Himmelstein, Vice President for Academic Affairs Jorge González and Vice President of Student Affairs Erica O’Neal Howard. Seniors Ben Weiss, Dana Rust and Lindsay Opoku-Acheampong, who attended the 5:45 p.m. working group, expressed their disappointment and frustration to students in Choi that Veitch did not attend either meeting. At the working group, the three emphasized the importance of a public accountability meeting with the student body.
Veitch said he is open to holding a public meeting with the student body. A small preparatory meeting with student organizers was planned for Tuesday, with a public meeting held Thursday at noon.
Veitch added that he believed that many members of Occidental needed to be accountable for meeting Oxy United’s demands, not just the president, as meeting the demands requires cooperation across the institution.
“This became an issue that was focused primarily on the president, but for genuine diversity to work at this institution it has to be a collective commitment, not just the president’s commitment, or the faculty’s commitment or the students’ commitment,” Veitch said. “It has to be all of us.”
Update: The section detailing the student organizers’ meeting in Choi was updated to more accurately reflect their actions.