“No justice. No peace. No racist trustee.”
This was chanted by Gonzaga student’s today as they made their way around campus protesting Timothy Barnard, a board of trustees member who is contracted to build part of the U.S. Mexico border wall.
Barnard serves as a trustee emeritus, meaning Barnard no longer actively participates on the board, but still serves as a representative of the university.
The students were also protesting against priests who were found to have credible sexual assault allegations earlier this year.
The protest was led by Zags Against Labor Injustice, (formerly known as United Students Against Sweatshops Local-14) and was joined by a coalition of campus cultural clubs, Fossil Free Gonzaga, Young Democrats as well as GU students and Spokane community members.
The protest began at the St. Ignatius statue outside College Hall and moved around campus stopping at St. Aloysius Church, the Della Strada House, Cardinal Bea House and then ended in the Hemmingson Center.
“Basically, we as a club believe that Gonzaga does a very good job of sweeping things under the rug,” said Ronnie Estoque, a junior at GU. “So, not just [Barnard’s] contract specifically with the border wall but also him being a donor of the new Jesuit house, the Della Strada House.
“We also think that administration did know about some of the priests that were here before that had been allegedly abusive of a lot of Native American indigenous populations in Alaska. We want people to know why we’re here and what we’re organizing around.”
Zags Against Labor Injustice submitted a letter on Thursday, Sept. 26 to President Thayne McCulloh as well as the board of trustees stating their demands.
This letter was also read aloud by Alan Parra, president of Zags Against Labor Injustice toward the beginning of the protest.
“That is why on behalf of Zags Against Labor Injustice, United Students Against Sweatshops Local 14, as well as the students whose interests it represents is demanding for the removal of Timothy Barnard from the Board of Trustees. His failure to uphold our Jesuit values and mission, specifically in regards to its ‘commitment to the dignity of the human person, social justice, diversity, intercultural competence, global engagement, solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, and care for the planet.’”
The letter continued with the students asking for the removal of ICE and Border Patrol agents on campus to “create truly safe and inclusive community” as well as the divestment from companies and corporations that go against Jesuit values.
“’We demand that the Board of Trustee and Regent by-laws be updated to include ‘If a member of the board violates the mission statement and/or values of the university then she/he/they must either remove themselves from said source of violation and/or remove themselves form the board all together, depending on the severity of the violation.’ We demand that you listen and act on the concerns of students faculty, staff and workers that go unnoticed,” the letter said.
Along with these demands the protest was also about the priests who were accused of sexual assault at the beginning of 2019.
“We’re stopped here at Cardinal Bea House,” Patricia Alvaro, a student who helped lead the protest said. “I’m so glad y’all are here to stand in solidarity with those women and children who have been abused because this cannot go any longer. We cannot have people on our board who don’t align with our mission statement. If this does not sit well with you it shouldn’t. We should be able to go to our classes without having to think about this.”
These two issues align because Barnard was a large donor to the new Jesuit house that was opened a few years ago.
“It is unethical for our institution to accept donor money from an individual that is invested within industries that don’t align with Gonzaga’s mission of social justice,” Parra said.
After the group entered Hemmingson Center and read their letter aloud to students and other onlookers, McCulloh stepped forward to give a statement.
“I just want to take an opportunity, because we are in the final board meetings, to thank you. Thank you for the message, thank you for the letter, which I received and which I am sharing with our board and thank you for your activism and your faith because it is important for you to know that we are listening. The board is listening, and this community is listening to you,” McCulloh said.
“I hear you calling for this action and response and I appreciate very much the time you’ve taken, the way you’ve articulated your desires and demands and I want you to know I hear you and I am going to relay that message and I assure you it will be reflected upon and there will be an opportunity to do something. Thank you for the time and the opportunity to be here with you.”
The protest ended with the students standing arm in arm in a solidarity circle outside of DeSmet Hall.
“We will continue to apply pressure,” Parra said.