[150hrs1] Recycle now. Join the WRC. End rape. Say no to the MCRI.
Phrases such as these could be seen written in chalk all over campus last week, giving students something to look at as they walked from class to class, and hopefully, something to think about. The chalk messages were just one form of activism for those involved in 150 Hours of Struggle, a demonstration in which student groups camped out in front of the Hannah Administration Building around the clock for 150 hours from Saturday, April 2, through Friday, April 8, to have their demands for the university heard.
The weeklong event was part of 150 Years of Struggle, a larger campaign that was started earlier this year and includes a coalition of organizations across campus with common goals for MSU. The project is meant to acknowledge student participation during the last 150 years at MSU, something often overlooked by the university, said English senior Erik Green, the 150 Years of Struggle coordinator and director of Racial, Ethnic and Progressive Affairs.
Each day of protest focused on one of the demands for the MSU administration. The week culminated on Friday, April 8, during the Board of Trustees meeting held at the Administration Building, at which all seven demands were presented to the board and to President Lou Anna K. Simon in the portion of the meeting open to public comment.
[150hrs2b] These demands included recognizing gender identity in anti-discrimination policies; increasing sustainability on campus through renewable energy and self-sufficient buildings; taking a proactive stance on ending racial inequities, for example, by opposing the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), a law that would ban race and gender-based preferences in university admissions and government hiring and contracts; creating sexual assault prevention and education programs on campus; creating a freestanding multicultural center; joining the Worker’s Rights Consortium with a solid code of conduct and finally, increasing accessibility on campus to meet both state and federal guidelines.
“The administration seems very receptive,” said Green, who spoke to the board on behalf of 150 Hours of Struggle during the meeting. “We are setting realistic goals; we’re presenting something that the board can actually do.”
Some of the organizations involved in 150 Hours of Struggle were ASMSU, Council for Students with Disabilities, Students for Economic Justice (SEJ), Eco, PRISM, The Alliance, Multi-Racial Unity Living Experience (MRULE) and the Residence Halls Association (RHA).
Members of SEJ and Movimiento Estudiantil Xicano de Aztlan (MEXA) also addressed the board, although they were upset at being given only 15 minutes to speak – the time limit placed on all groups. They appeared in T-shirts supporting the Worker’s Rights Consortium (WRC) and with gags across their mouths to represent the silencing of students on campus.
[150hrspq] In early April, President Simon announced MSU would join the WRC, an organization that ensures university apparel is not made by companies violating human rights. The protesters want MSU to follow a code of conduct that addresses organizing rights and women’s rights, which so far the university has not committed to including. SEJ and MEXA requested the strong code of conduct be signed by May 1.
Green said it is important for the administration to listen to students, since there is often a divide between the students and the trustees. “It is powerful to see what can be accomplished when people work together,” he said.
Simon chose not to comment publicly following the students’ statements. “There was nothing on the list [of demands] that would take anyone by surprise,” Simon said. “The effort made by students is to be commended. They did their 150 hours, representing the student body and serving to educate others on their views.” Simon also said there would always be issues the university needs to work on, but they will “continue to try to make progress.”
But progress takes time. “We’re a major institution. It takes a little while for an institution to switch gears,” said Sue Carter, secretary of the Board of Trustees and executive assistant to the president. “Articulating [the demands] is the first step,” Carter said. “Building support is very important.”
[150hrs3] Green is pleased with the way 150 Hours of Struggle turned out. He said many students, as well as faculty members, have shown interest in the campaign. “It’s only been very positive experiences,” Green said.
The large “150” sign in front of the administration building was difficult to ignore. “I think it was good that they were demonstrating outside,” electrical engineering senior Paul Karatsinides said. “It got a lot of people noticing.”
Students may have seen the chalk messages or signs around campus, but many were unaware of the actual issues being presented. “I saw the chalk, but I didn’t really know what it was about,” pre-nursing freshman Stephanie Jones said.
Another student, Spanish senior Angel Salinas, said he decided to participate even though he wasn’t entirely familiar with the list of demands. “I didn’t really understand what was behind it, but I felt like it was a good cause,” Salinas said.
MSU’s 150th birthday provides a great opportunity to recognize students who pushed for change in university policies throughout its history. MSU started off as a small agricultural school with only white male students, and on the sesquicentennial, we have a female president leading a much more diverse student body.
However, the 150 Years of Struggle campaign serves as a reminder to both students and the administration that we must continue to pursue social improvements at our university. Every bit of activism helps, even camp-outs and sidewalk chalk.
For more information on 150 Years of Struggle or to join the campaign, visit http://rha.msu.edu/150YOS.

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