Understanding Ford Hall

This webpage represents a first attempt to collect and share information about Ford Hall at Brandeis and Heller. If you have feedback, questions, or additions to the information below, please share it with Maria Madison (mtm@brandeis.edu) or Bethany Romano (bromano@brandeis.edu). Last updated: March 2018.

Overview

The term “Ford Hall” at Brandeis generally refers to two periods of direct action led by black students and other students of color with the goal to promote racial justice and build a more inclusive, equitable and diverse student experience at Brandeis. The first Ford Hall took place in January 1969 and was an 11-day student sit-in of Ford and Sydeman Halls, accompanied by a list of 10 demands. The second Ford Hall (commonly written as #FordHall2015) took place in November 2015 and was a 13-day student sit-in accompanied by a list of 13 demands. Heller students were involved in both events as well as sustained efforts during the interim years to promote policies and structures that advance diversity, equity and inclusion on campus.

In addition to the two Ford Hall sit-ins, students of color and allies have regularly engaged in direct action on campus. For example, in 1972, students protested proposed scholarship cuts, and in 1975, students took over a campus building in protest of a proposed 50 percent cut to the Transitional Year Program budget.

Ford Hall 1969

On January 8, 1969, approximately 70 African-American students took control of Ford and Sydeman Halls (buildings which were later demolished in 2000), and presented the university administration with 10 demands for better representation on campus. Although they did not come to an agreement on all demands, the students left Ford and Sydeman Halls 11 days later on January 18. Among the demands that were met was the creation of the African and Afro-American Studies Department (AAAS).

Read more about Ford Hall 1969:

Ford Hall 2015

Context

In the fall of 2012, Dean Lisa Lynch established the Diversity Steering Committee at the Heller School and designated Professor Anita Hill as its chair. In June of 2014, Hill released a report on behalf of the committee. Two months later, Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. This tragic event sparked weeks of protests in Ferguson, raising the national profile of the Black Lives Matter movement and many other incidents of police brutality and police shootings of black people. On November 12, 2015, students at universities across the U.S.--including hundreds of students at Brandeis--engaged in peaceful demonstrations in solidarity with students at the University of Missouri, protesting racism and discrimination on campus.

The Sit-In

On November 19, 2015, a group of students self-identified as Concerned Students 2015 issued a list of 13 demands to the university administration, requesting a response within 24 hours. The next day approximately 100 Brandeis students marched to the Bernstein-Marcus administrative building and began a sit-in outside the office of then-Interim President Lisa Lynch. The direct action became known as #FordHall2015 and was led primarily by black students and other students of color (both graduate and undergraduate). The sit-in lasted for 13 days, ending on December 1, 2015, after an agreement was reached between student negotiators and the university administration.

Read more about Ford Hall 2015:

After Ford Hall 2015

The December 2015 implementation plan outlines the University’s specific commitments made in response to each of the 13 student demands, including measurable goals and timeframes for each item. Some of the most straightforward responses to these demands included hiring a Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the university level as well as a Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Education, Training, and Development. The university also established an Ombuds Office and hired additional counselors at the Brandeis Counseling Center.

Also underway are a variety of changes to faculty and staff hiring and retention practices, admissions practices and academic curriculum and pedagogy. Many of the already completed and in-process improvements are catalogued in the archive of university statements and updates on DEI efforts post-Ford Hall 2015.

At the Heller School, one key result of Ford Hall 2015 was hiring an Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Ford Hall 2015 also led to the creation of Heller Forward, a student group that describes itself as “a revolutionary mechanism for change agents, rooted in radical community, to decolonize academia and to dismantle systems of oppression.” A third result was the creation of Community Day, a biannual, day-long workshop event centered on Heller’s commitment to eradicating social injustice and ensuring a more inclusive culture. In 2017 the structure of Community Day transitioned to Sankofa Community Conversations, an event series led by student working groups in collaboration with faculty members. These events embrace the West African concept of “remembering the past to prepare for the future.”

This work continues, and rather than viewing the December 2015 plan as a finite set of checkboxes, new goals and initiatives are being identified all the time.  

Contact Information

Maria Madison, Associate Dean for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity

Office: Heller-Schneider 119

Phone: 781-736-3886

Email: mtm@brandeis.edu