On Saturday, May 19th 2007, the day of Commencement, Friends of Forest Park is planning a demonstration on the UNH campus to raise awareness about the lack of affordable family housing on campus and the increasingly dire financial situation residents of Forest Park find themselves in.
The UNH Administration has gotten wind of our plans to take advantage of this historic opportunity to educate the thousands of people coming to Durham about the UNH Administration’s blatant disregard for the well being of the residents of Forest Park. It is the UNH Administration’s refusal to take responsibility for a decision THEY created that has led us to mount public protests and demonstrations. UNH has shown time and again that they do not care that there children living in grinding poverty on this campus and that they have students who do not eat every day because of decisions this university has made.
In response to their discovery of our plans, a UNH administrator, Cari Moorhead, Associate Dean of the Graduate School, sent this letter to selected members of Friends of Forest Park:
It has come to my attention that there may be a Friends of Forest Park (FOFP) protest planned for Saturday. My point in sending this message is to basically share my opinion with you as students who may be involved. It is my sincere belief that graduation is not the time to protest, given how hard our Forest Park students have worked, and how much many families have sacrificed to get their loved ones to this wonderful point in their journey. Faculty are currently working without a contract and the union has taken other opportunities to protest throughout the year. However, as a sign of the significance the university community places on the graduation ceremony the faculty union has taken the stand that they will not protest on Saturday.
On a related note, I have a concern that the FOFP are being seen by the broader community as the actual residents of Forest park. In essence, the general community does not know the difference and therefore, if the FOFP protest it will be seen as the FP tenants protesting. In conversations with me FOFP members have indicated that they would not want to speak for the FP residents, yet that is what will be the outcome here (for example, I cannot tell you how many people have asked me why the Forest Park residents were on T-Hall lawn a couple of weeks ago.) I am not sure whether the actual residents of Forest Park are aware and/or have weighed in on the event but if there is to be an event it would seem to be important that the resident’s be aware of the implications for them.
Hope all is well with everyone.
Fingers crossed for sun on Saturday,
Cari Moorhead, Ph.D.,
University of New Hampshire,
Durham, NH 03824-0275
It should be noted that every concern she has in this letter is unfounded and every claim she makes about Friends of Forest Park is wrong. To wit: It is not the intention of Friends of Forest Park to disrupt commencement in any way or to denigrate the accomplishments of the graduates. We are merely using the event as an opportunity to educate hundreds, possibly thousands of people about this important issue.
Secondly, it is inappropriate to compare Friends of Forest Park to the AAUP. Is Cari suggesting that a grassroots group that advocates for the rights and dignity of a marginalized group of students and their families is comparable to a union of mostly white, highly-educated, middle class academics? I didn’t think so. The issue of affordable housing for students with families is more important than the fact that the professors on this campus, many of whom are making six figures a year, and none of whom are making $14,200 (The highest stipend for PhD students in the Chemistry Department) are working without a contract.
Furthermore, Friends of Forest Park has never hidden the fact that it is a group of non-resident student allies. That is why the group is called Friends of Forest Park, not Friends of Ourselves, Forest Park Residents. Friends of Forest Park cannot and will not be held responsible for the thoughts and impressions of every last person who witnesses our actions. Friends of Forest Park would not exist were it not for the willful negligence of the Department of Housing and the UNH Administration.
Friends of Forest Park has always and will continue to work closely with the Forest Park Tenants Committee and the residents of Forest Park. We don’t do anything without talking to the residents. We are their allies and friends. The administration’s tactic of wearing Forest Park resident-activists down has created the need for more non-residents to advocate on the residents’ behalf. Furthermore, many of the residents of Forest Park, particularly international students, are scared of being retaliated against by the university. It has therefore become necessary for the non-resident domestic undergraduate students of Friends of Forest Park to do more ally work because we have fewer responsibilities and less to lose.
In conclusion, this letter has only emboldened us. We see it as a sign that our tactics are working. We will continue to protest, demonstrate and advocate until the UNH administration makes Forest Park and affordable family housing a priority.