Reverse the Closure Cliff: The Save Mills Coalition Calls on College Trustees for Answers and Support
OAKLAND, CALIF — On Friday, March 26 a grassroots movement of Mills students, alums, and workers will rally at the Richards Gate entryway of Mills College at 4 pm to demand that the College’s Board of Trustees reverse their decision to close the school in 2023.The Save Mills movement, comprised of learners, educators, unionists, and a passionate network of alums, invites our community and our friends in the press to join us this Friday for a rally to #SaveMills. Masks and social distancing required. There, we will gather to demand that the administration provide answers and support for our community as we launch a collaborative effort to re-envision Mills’ future in a manner that honors its history.
Mills has educated women since 1852, moving to its present campus on unceded Ohlone land in East Oakland in 1871. In 1969, it became the first independent college to establish an Ethnic Studies Department — the result of the Black Student Union’s organizing, which succeeded in broadening the school’s curriculum despite attempts to criminalize their advocacy. In 1990, students went on strike for two weeks to compel the Board to reverse its decision to go coed, preserving the campus as a space for women to develop their power. Mills made history (again) in 2014 when it became the first women’s college to embrace transgender students in its admissions policy. Today, 58 percent of Mills undergraduates identify as LGBTQ+ and 65 percent as people of color.
On March 17, the Mills College Board of Trustees announced its intention to dismantle this historic college and replace it with an as yet undefined “Institute” on a breakneck two-year timeline. Students have not been provided with a clear pathway for how to complete their education or receive the degrees their tuition dollars are paying for. Neither the staff nor the faculty — 65 percent of whom are adjuncts — have been provided with any guarantee or incentive for work retention over the course of this “transition.” As a result, alums and unionized workers at the College are calling for transparency from the administration around institutional finances and decision-making.
If Mills College were to collapse, the effects would be catastrophic to our students and workforce, putting staff and faculty at risk of losing their livelihoods and shuttering a historic women’s college that serves women, people of color, resuming adult learners, LGBTQ+ and trans and nonbinary students at much higher rates than other higher ed institutions. As the country grapples with deep social division and crisis upon crisis, Mills simply cannot disappear just as the leaders it develops are most needed: to break barriers, to take initiative, to share bold visions for inclusion — to do the hard work.