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#SikesSitIn: Six Days Later

Rowan Lynam/Editor in Chief

Over 200 supporters sat on Sikes’ steps after the Clemson 5 exited the building. 

Sunday marked the fifth day that students occupied Sikes Hall in protest of the administration’s perceived inaction on a list of demands and grievances from January 2015.

With several tents to his right, a makeshift pantry to his left and car horns in the background, President Jim Clements talked with protesters Sunday at the Sikes sit-in.

Ph.D. student and one of the Clemson Five A.D. Carson filmed as students voiced their concerns to Clements, who was joined by his daughter Grace Clements and Interim Chief Diversity Officer Max Allen. Carson said that the protesters appreciated Clements’ presence and expressed their frustration with the administration. 

“We’re not hearing anything different than what was said previous to our being out here,” Carson said. “And so I think that it would be helpful for folks to know what’s different now than six days ago.”

President Clements said Carson’s question was a good one. 

“I think one of the things that you will see this week is we’ll have a series of meetings and discussions set up,” he said. “What I’m asking for … is give me thoughts and ideas. We can talk about some of the things we’re doing. We can talk about some of the things we’re going to do.”

Sophomore La Portia Perkins, who wanted to go to Clemson since the seventh grade, was concerned about immediate action. 

“But is there anything physical today or even tomorrow morning that could be presented to us that we can read or we can divulge?” she asked. “I feel like there’s [sic] no specifics.”

Carson echoed Perkins by asking, “What’s different now than before?”

Clements said that he liked the protesters’ request for a timeline, specifics and actionable items. “That’s part of our strategic plan, so if you read Clemson Forward, diversity and inclusive excellence are a critical piece of that strategic plan,” Clements said.

Sophomore Erica Brown visited protesters on Thursday night. “I’m confused about both stances,” Brown said. 

Clemson Forward is the university’s strategic plan of goals for 2020. In the section “Living,” two goals are increasing diversity and fostering diversity, inclusion and respect on campus. Percent of African-American students, faculty and staff is one of the metrics.

Brown visited protesters on Thursday night. “I talked to a couple of protesters and went to the website, and I’m still confused as to what they want,” Brown said.

First year graduate student Chad Richardson said he initially didn’t support the march because it brought too much attention to a small racist act. Then Clements’ statement made him angry. “I was disappointed with what administrators were saying to what students were asking,” Richardson said, commenting on what he felt to be a disconnect between the administration and students.

In a statement read at Sikes on Wednesday following the march from Fort Hill, protesters referenced a list of six demands that were presented to Clements and the Board of Trustees in January of 2015. Two of the demands are increasing “the percentage of people of color in faculty and administration” and more funding for organizations primarily comprised of underrepresented groups.

The statement also references the Task Force on the History of Clemson’s decision to not consider renaming Tillman Hall. One of the Task Force’s recommendations was the placing of historical markers around campus, like the one that broke ground Tuesday.

The markers were included in a letter from Clements delivered to protesters by Chief of Staff Max Allen, VP of Student Affairs Almeda Jacks and Provost Bob Jones. The organizers read over and discussed the letter. After 30 minutes, Jacks asked students to exit Sikes by 5:30 p.m., when the building closed.

“I hate to say this, but we will probably make you leave, which would mean that … you might be arrested and you would go through the judicial process at [the Office of Community and Ethical Standards] … with a student violation,” Jacks said. Jacks added, “We want you to graduate.”

When someone from the crowd asked if administration was “threatening to deny graduation” to students who occupied Sikes, Jacks said that an arrest would lead to an OCES referral and criminal charges through CUPD.

“Could you be suspended from school?” Jacks asked. “Yes, you could be expelled. Yes, you could get probation.”

After the doors were closed and locked, five students remained in Sikes: Ian Anderson, A.D. Carson, Darien Jamal Smith, Rae-Nessha White and Khayla Williams.

For almost two hours, approximately two hundred supporters waited for protesters to exit.

At 6 p.m., sophomore Sherman Jones said, “The Clemson Five represents all of us.” Fifteen minutes later, Jones started the chant, “We are the Clemson Five! The Clemson Five are us!” 

The Clemson Five were arrested inside Sikes for “refusing to leave a certain public premises during hours when they are regularly closed,” according to a police report. After exiting Sikes with no handcuffs or police escort at 7 p.m., The Clemson Five and supporters marched back to the steps of Sikes. Carson led the protesters in a chant: “We must love each other and support each other! We have nothing to lose but our chains!”

Since Thursday, several people visited the Sikes sit-in protesters, including football players, National President of the Sierra Club Aaron Mair, Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc. and Pickens County NAACP President Sheila Crawford. Almeda Jacks stopped by Sikes Sunday afternoon to talk to students.

Rumors began circulating Friday night that administration threatened to de-charter the Delta Phi Lambda and Zeta Phi Beta sororities if they gave their new member presentations at Sikes.

Jacks said that the sororities expected 500 people to show up, which would be a “life safety issue,” and CUPD would have to close off the streets. Associate VP of Student Affairs Chris Miller said they the venue needed to be changed, according to Jacks.

“If [the venue is not changed] … you’d have to go through OCES,” Jacks said. “You may be put on probation…whatever the student organizations do, as much as revoking a charter, if we had to, but surely we won’t get that far.” Jacks said the decision did not have to do with not wanting the presentations to be at the

Sikes sit-in.

Sophomore Katie Hilton filled out the request form for space. “There was never 500 to 700 people put on anything,” Hilton said to Jacks.

Jacks said that she would talk to Miller and others who handled the forms, adding, “Shame on us, if you only expected 100 people here, and we got word that there was 500 to 700 that were going to be here.”

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