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Emerson College students protest administration’s ‘surface level progress’ on ending racism

Emerson College student Jose Garcia on the left holds up a sign in protest as he marches down Washington Street downtown Boston.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

A march at Emerson College prompted about 200 students to walk out of class Tuesday afternoon and process to a faculty meeting at the college’s Paramount Theatre to protest what they believe is the administration’s inadequate response to racism on campus.

“Our demands to the administration have been met with resistance. Our progress has been continuously stalled,” senior Lucie Pereira said, speaking into a bullhorn as students assembled ahead of the 1:30 p.m. march. “We’ve met wall after wall and we’re tired of it. And it’s time for us to stand up and demand that Emerson take action now.”

Students, many of them dressed in black, chanted “We pay for education, not for discrimination,” “No more oppression, no microaggressions,” and “Fight bias, don’t try us,” as they marched down Boylston Street.


At the theater, students filled the second balcony, while organizers addressed about 80 full-time faculty members who had gathered on the ground floor for an assembly.

“Two years might seem like nothing,” said Julio Villegas, referring to a similar protest march in April 2015. “But you have to understand, through the lens of a student, two-and-a-half years is more than half our time here.”

“If this feels oddly familiar to you, that’s because students of color are dealing with the same things . . . at this institution for years,” Pereira said to faculty who listened in respectful silence. “Emerson, we have shown up at your meetings. We have participated in your focus groups. We have taken your surveys. We have put in the work and we need to see the work coming back from you.”

The march was organized by Emerson POWER, an organization for students of color that has also launched an online petition calling for Emerson president Lee Pelton to improve the racial climate at the private college.


Since the protest held 2½ years ago, “Emerson College has made only surface-level progress in response to demands made by students,” the petition states.

In a statement, Pelton said Emerson is committed to a diverse campus.

“While the college has made progress in certain areas of its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and social justice, there is still more good and effective work to be done,” Pelton said. “I look forward to working with faculty, students, and staff to continue our progress in these critical areas.”

Sophia Eppolito can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SophiaEppolito.