University News

BUCC supports Indigenous People’s Day, Hilton workers

Council members vote in recognition of Native American students, hotel employee labor dispute

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Brown University Community Council passed a resolution urging the faculty to vote on changing the name of Fall Weekend to Indigenous Peoples’ Day and another supporting the Hilton Providence Hotel workers in their labor dispute.

Representatives from Native Americans at Brown began Tuesday’s meeting by introducing a resolution encouraging the council to support their movement to change the name of Fall Weekend to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. President Christina Paxson P’19 acknowledged that the BUCC does not have the authority to officially rename the University holiday. Any change to the University calendar must be voted on by the faculty.

Changing the name of Fall Weekend to Indigenous Peoples’ Day is the “bare minimum that the University can do to support Native students,” said Kara Roanhorse ’18, adding that it will especially help Native Americans gain respect and “institutionalized” support.

Native American students present at the meeting not only asked the BUCC for its support but also used the opportunity to clarify that renaming the holiday would be the first step in a longer process to help Native American students feel comfortable on campus, said Phoebe Young ’17.

It “has become very apparent in the past month that being on campus for us has become very difficult, as Native students,” Young said, adding that University recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day can help contribute to a “societal recognition” of Native American presence.

“It’s a small step, but it matters. Brown has the power to do something about this,” Young said.

The student presenters also noted that places in the United States, such as Alaska and the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, have already officially changed Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Paxson asked for clarification regarding how the student group expects the University to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, adding that a University-wide celebration is not possible because faculty members have the day off.

Honoring Indigenous Peoples’ Day does not entail holding classes, rather the University can celebrate in different ways even after the day has passed, said Floripa Olguin ’16, adding that the name Fall Weekend “continues to erase Native students as well as Natives as a whole.” Native Americans at Brown does not wish to have all the celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day solely on one day. Rather, it can extend over a longer time period, especially with November being Native American Heritage Month, Olguin said.

Renaming Fall Weekend “shows that Native students can and do belong here. It really shows that a school such as Brown is willing and able to have Native students,” Olguin said. “Coming so far from home, it would be very important showing that one can both be Native and a Brown student at the same time, and they’re not conflicting identities.”

Mary Grace Almandrez, interim assistant vice president for campus life and student services and associate dean of the College, said that if administrators consider what the presenters said at the meeting, they will find that the University has failed Native American students in all four of the ways it can seek to support diversity on campus: representation, scholarship and curriculum, the campus climate and policy and protocol.

The only tangible way that the BUCC can make a positive change in these areas is by addressing policy and protocol through passing the resolution in support of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, she said.

“Clearly the climate is not such that our Native students feel that (Brown) is a place for them,” Almandrez said.

The council then voted, with some abstentions, on the resolution and agreed to urge faculty members to put discussing and voting on Indigenous Peoples’ Day on their agenda for their next faculty meeting, which will be next Tuesday, Nov. 3.

The second resolution that the council passed supported Hilton Providence Hotel workers in their current labor dispute with their employers. The BUCC previously discussed supporting the labor dispute during its Sept. 29 meeting and put voting on the resolution on hold until the council could obtain more information.

BUCC member Cameron Johnson ’17 began the discussion by noting that the Undergraduate Council of Students recently passed a resolution supporting the Hilton Hotel workers and urged council members to do the same.

“The key criteria for this situation with the Hilton Hotel are the staggering high rates of injury and illnesses suffered by the hotel workers,” Johnson said, adding that when these rates are compared to the national average, and even the average of other hotels in downtown Providence, the severity of the situation becomes clear.

Initially, several members of the council expressed concern at voting on the resolution before hearing from the hotel’s management.

Paxson said she was not planning on bringing the resolution to vote during the meeting because managers from the hotel were set to make their defense at the council’s next meeting Nov. 24.

The council should give representatives from the Hilton an “opportunity to dispute,” said Provost Richard Locke P’17, adding that he supports the labor dispute but wants to make an informed, honest decision. Allowing the representatives to give their argument, even if they do not provide new information, will preserve “integrity” in the council’s decision.

Though the hotel’s managers were not able to speak to the BUCC directly, they have already expressed their opinion through the media, including The Herald, Johnson said.

Jonah Zinn, an employee from the Hilton Providence who was present at the previous BUCC meeting, raised his hand to say, “This is a very urgent issue for us. In this month that we’ve waited, I’ve had another coworker who is now out of work because she has chronic back problems and can’t work anymore,” Zinn said. “This is an issue that we need movement on.”

Representatives from the Hilton had a lot of time to contact the BUCC to make themselves present during Tuesday’s meeting, Zinn said, adding that the council has already delayed voting on the issue long enough.

Johnson then made a movement to vote on the resolution to acknowledge the labor dispute, with a slight majority of the council voting in favor.

The resolution states that the BUCC “encourages the Brown community to take all appropriate measures to avoid holding any events at the Hilton Hotel in Providence during the current labor dispute.” In 2014, the BUCC passed a resolution in support of workers in a labor dispute at the Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel, which is also owned by the Procaccianti Group.

Paxson pushed discussing the BrownTogether campaign launch to the next meeting’s agenda for lack of time. Instead, Paxson asked council members to discuss what role the BUCC has on campus in initiating conversations among community members.

Council member Grace Stokan ’16 mentioned the “dichotomy” that exists between students and administrators, emphasizing the BUCC as the only means in which these two groups can meet together and have “meaningful dialogue.”

UCS President Sazzy Gourley ’16, who is also a council member, told the council that there should be more transparency in the process through which student groups are allowed to present a problem to the council, adding that the council can serve as a space where their “issues can come to light.”

The BUCC’s conversations should also be framed to highlight departments or areas within the University that are doing exceptionally well, instead of having a “deficit perspective,” Almandrez said, adding that she believes “good work is being done” in certain areas that may not be a part of the discussion.


A previous version of this article misstated Phoebe Young’s class year. She is in the class of 2017, not the class of 2018. The Herald regrets the error.

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  1. Could you not have have both Indigenous People’s Day and Fall Weekend? They each encompass a separate measurement of time. Or would the break as a whole be called Indigenous People’s Day Weekend?

  2. It seems ridiculous to me that Columbus Day can no longer be celebrated. While you can debate the various aspects of the European discovery of the Americas–spread of disease, exploitation, violence, etc, European discovery is very clearly an important series of events in the evolution of the Americas. But I guess there is nothing to admire about Western culture anymore, despite it remaining the most important culture for the advancement of knowledge, scientific inquiry and democratic society in the history of the world.

    • There are lots of things to admire about Western culture and many celebrations still in place that honor important figures and accomplishments: Presidents Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, to mention a few. Try repeating this to yourself as an exercise in cognitive discourse: “The loss of one holiday does not negate the sum total accomplishments of all of my ancestors. The addition of one holiday that isn’t centered on Western traditions will not impact my life in any substantive way, but might positively impact the lives of others. My all-or-nothing attitude doesn’t accurately reflect reality, therefore I will interrogate my emotions with the same spirit of scientific inquiry displayed by my forefathers and, in doing so, will become a better, happier, kinder human being.”

      Interesting side note: none of the people honored by the holidays mentioned above thought it was appropriate to reward good service by providing pre-teen concubines to their employees.

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