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#SikesSitIn: Students occupy campus building until administration addresses grievances

Photo contributed by Sherman Jones

The #SikesSitIn began Wednesday at approximately 1:30 p.m. following a protest march by students, faculty and administrators from Fort Hill to Sikes Hall.

“I feel like they don’t take us seriously,” student Destyni Nashae Golatt said. Standing inside the front office of Sikes Hall on Wednesday afternoon, Golatt, a sophomore philosophy major, talked about her frustration with Clemson President Jim Clements and his administration.

“We’ve had a lot of emotionally-charged actions happen [on campus], discriminating and dehumanizing Black students and minorities,” Golatt said.

Golatt was among a group of students and faculty who started a sit-in at Sikes Hall. The sit-in (referred to on Twitter as #SikesSitIn) followed a march from Fort Hill, where a banner was defaced with hanging bananas on Monday morning.

At a discussion hosted by the Dean of Students’ office Tuesday afternoon, sophomore Khayla O. Williams explained the bananas’ symbolism.

“Historically, one of the names that African-Americans [have been] called to diminish our self-worth was ‘monkeys,’” Williams, a computer science major, said. “To place bananas on a monument … to the African-Americans who built the university was disrespectful.”

Before the sit-in, student protesters read statements on the steps of Sikes as other protesters watched. Junior Remy Barnwell said the banner defacement was one of a chain of problematic events.

“This incident is not an isolated occurrence at Clemson,” Barnwell said. Barnwell, an English major, listed the incidents of the hanging of a Confederate flag in front of Tillman Hall in July 2015 and the Cripmas Party in December 2014. Barnwell said that Tillman Hall (or Old Main, as some activists call it) “is still named in honor of the racist murderer Benjamin Tillman.”

Students marched to Sikes Hall in January 2015 to present grievances and demands to the administration (a list of those demands can be found at

Junior Sherman Jones, who helped organize the demonstration, spoke after Barnwell.

“Many of those grievances and demands have still not been seriously considered and acted upon by the institution,” Jones said. The full statement can be read at

Jones, a computer science major, was still at the sit-in on Sikes’ steps Wednesday night.

“We’re … waiting on a response from the administration, hopefully a response from the community,” the student said. President Clements, Provost Bob Jones, Chief of Staff Max Allen and VP of Student Affairs Almeda Jacks spoke to Sherman and the protesters earlier.

“They wanted to know what they could do or what we were asking from them specifically, and that’s ironic because we want specifics,” Sherman said.

Before the march, Clements talked to protesters at Fort Hill. The Tiger spoke to Clements following the discussion.  

“Let me just start by thanking the students, faculty and students who showed up. It was really nice,” Clements said. “I know there were a lot of hurt people, myself included, from Monday.” Clements did not participate in the march because he had a board meeting to attend.

As they marched toward Sikes, protesters chanted, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” Freshman Tyreeq Wilson joined the march “to make sure something is done” in response to the banner defacement.

“[Clements] should do anything in his power that shows he’s actually doing something, not just sending emails that tip-toe around the issue,” Wilson, a computer science major, said.

While protesters spoke outside Sikes, other activists congregated inside for the sit-in. Black student La’Portia Perkins said that she joined the sit-in because her race and equality are important.

“We need to do actual things for change,” Perkins said. “I won’t stop sitting and I won’t stop talking … until things are actually done … at Clemson University.”

Ph.D. student Brian Gaines, who is white, was also present at the sit-in.

“I came out today because the tone-deafness of the Board of Trustees and the administration and the university is appalling,” Gaines said. “African-Americans make up about 30 percent of the state’s population, yet they’re grossly underrepresented [at Clemson]. Frankly I’m just tired of the White privilege and the fact that I have to be a representative of an institution that feels that these types of actions are a necessary part of day-to-day business.”

Inside Sikes, Barnwell explained why students went beyond the march and started a sit-in as well.

“The issue is larger than the banner incident, and it’s the culture [at Clemson] that allows incidents like that to happen,” Barnwell said. “The sit-in felt appropriate because other marches weren’t getting … the responses that our community hoped for.”

As of 11 p.m. Wednesday, students remained in protest both inside and outside of Sikes Hall. Makayla Headd-Gladden, a freshman communications major, said she planned to stay all night.

“They can start off by telling us that they’re going to place disciplinary

actions against the students that did this,” Headd-Gladden said, commenting on what action the administration should take first.

Outside Sikes earlier in the afternoon, sophomore Rohan Willis talked about his experience as a Black man on campus.

“It hurts when we speak out, when we make demands, and [the administration says] ‘we’re going to get it done …’ and nothing happens,” Willis said. But Willis plans to get some things done.

“I am a black man, and I will always be a black man, and I will get a degree

that says Clemson University on it.”

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