About 16 University of Minnesota students alleging on-campus racial and ethnic discrimination took over school President Eric Kaler's second-floor office in Morrill Hall Monday afternoon.
They discussed their issues with Kaler, Provost Karen Hanson and Katrice Albert, vice president for Equity and Diversity, said university spokesman Steve Henneberry in a statement.
The action began about 11:30 in the morning. By 7:15 p.m., three protesters opted to leave the office, while 13 others who declined to leave were arrested and removed by police.
A group of students with signs stood outside Morrill, which was locked. Anyone needing to enter the building, at 100 SE. Church St., had to show identification, said Henneberry, speaking from his first-floor Morrill Hall office.
Some of the protesters in the president's office had brought sleeping bags, prepared to remain into the night.
"It is our duty to fight for our freedom," one student yelled in the president's office area as police, university staff and protesters moved about. A chorus later erupted into "I believe that we will win; I believe that we will win."
At one point, a protester read from the writings of 1960s black activist Angela Davis.
The protesters have a list of demands that include greater racial and ethnic diversity in university hiring practices and more money for the school's ethnic studies program. These were initiatives that Kaler had promised would be accomplished by the end of last year, the students contended.
Other demands include removing descriptions of race and complexion from campus crime alerts, making enrolling in an ethnic studies class a requirement of all students, offering greater bathroom access for "all genders," and removing from admissions applications any questions about criminal history of prospective students.
The Twitter account Whose Diversity?, @WhoseDiv, shows photos of students and police inside the building. Some students were lying on the floor, while one trio hooked arms with backs to each other.
One tweet from the group, posted shortly after 1:30 p.m., said, "President and his chief of staff are having a closed-off meeting without us."
At the protester's request, a written response to each of the issues they posed was developed and provided to them, said Henneberry's statement Monday evening.
A call to one of the protest organizers was not returned.
Barely two hours into the office occupation, the university released a detailed statement in support of "the right of free speech and peaceful protest" and a belief that "frank conversations are vital for issues that affect the campus community."
The statement added that the university has an "urgent commitment" to increase the diversity among faculty, staff and students.
Kaler assigned senior staff members last spring to assess and recommend ways to "improve the campus climate," the statement continued, adding that Kaler, administration leadership, faculty and students attended an "Open Space" event Thursday to exchange ideas and concerns.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482