University of Kentucky Students Hunger Strike to Meet Basic Needs, 2019.

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Timing
Time Period:  
27 March
2019
to
2 April
2019
Location and Goals
Country: 
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
Lexington, Kentucky
Location Description: 
University of Kentucky
Goals: 
Originally, 1) Establish and fund a physical Basic Needs Center, 2) Establish a Basic Needs Fund 3) Create a full-time Basic Needs staff position. Eventually this campaign merged with another campaign, whose goals were 1) Put BSAC members on search committees for hiring of senior-level administrative officials, 2) revise the William C Parker Scholarship to benefit explicitly Black students, 3) standardize College Diversity Officer roles, 4) release the findings from a 2016 campus climate survey, and 5) remove the “O’Hanlon Mural,” from a campus hall, a mural depicting enslaved Africans.
 

In a public announcement, students expressed that “Until the University of Kentucky stops denying students the right to food and housing, we will deny ourselves food […] We have tried rallies, phone zaps, and student assemblies. Nothing has worked. What we are facing is not just resistance to the Basic Needs Campaign. We face a University of Kentucky that puts profit over people. It is time for UK administrators to acknowledge the magnitude of the problem we face and act in proportion.”

The campaign began on 27 March with 21 strikers but grew overnight to 30. The next day, BNC organized a “phone zap,” urging supporters to call the President of the college, Eli Capilouto, and express support for the BNC campaign and the hunger strikers. By the end of the second day, 28 March, the campaign grew to 50 hunger strikers. That same day, President Capilouto sent a campus-wide email sharing the university’s ongoing efforts to combat food insecurity.

On 29 March, BNC responded to the email in a public statement, explaining the ways that President Capilouto misrepresented the University’s current actions and did not meet the strikers’ demands. After sending out their own student-wide email response, over 200 people signed up to strike. Students continued to join the strikers by committing to a complete and indefinite hunger strike, a hunger strike for a week, a limited strike of one meal a day, or a limited strike of skipping one meal, once.

BNC advertised the hunger strike on a Facebook page they had titled “SSTOP Hunger University of Kentucky,” that was an official UK initiative to solve hunger and malnutrition on campus. Students lost administrative privileges to the Facebook page on 30 March. According to BNC, administrators “at the very top of UK” contacted the SSTOP Hunger student staff advisor to tell them that they must stop posting about the hunger strike from that page. An administrator removed all students as administrators from the Facebook page and removed all posts that had been “scheduled” to post. BNC changed its Facebook name from SSTOP Hunger to Basic Needs Campaign of the University of Kentucky and posted to Facebook later that day that “This is nothing short of censorship, sabotage, and retaliation of our campaign and hunger strike. […] The Basic Needs Campaign is our campaign. All of ours. All 300 strikers, all 2,500 students who cannot pay for housing, all 13,000 who cannot pay for food, all concerned community members. […] The strike continues. The Campaign continues.”

Later that day, BNC announced there were over 300 strikers and that they were deciding to occupy the Student Center for the night. Students arrived at the Student Center with signs reading things like “BASIC NEEDS CENTER NOW” and “43% of students can’t pay for food #BasicNeedsUK.”

Throughout the campaign, student hunger strikers shared videos on the BNC Facebook page explaining why they chose to strike, and posted anonymous quotes about why they went on strike.

On 1 April, BNC announced that President Capilouto refused to meet with the strikers until they ate. They replied, “we refuse this ultimatum,” and they declared that they would continue to occupy the Main Building until President Capilouto met their demands. Students arrived at the Main Building chanting “What do we want? Basic needs! When do we want it? Now!”

At the beginning of the occupation, BNC announced they were combining their campaign with a separate campaign started by the Black Student Advisory Committee (BSAC). BNC stated their goal was to show “students have power in numbers.” The group said that, due to the overlapping nature of their campaigns, they thought it most effective to join forces and work together.

BSAC’s demanded “1) Put BSAC members on search committees for hiring of senior-level administrative officials, 2) revise the William C Parker Scholarship to benefit explicitly Black students, 3) standardize College Diversity Officer roles, 4) release the findings from a 2016 campus climate survey, and 5) remove the “O’Hanlon Mural,” from a campus hall, a mural depicting enslaved Africans.”

On 2 April, the BNC campaign announced a win. On Facebook, they wrote, “President Capilouto conceded to 7 of the 8 demands and made concessions on the last. After six days, we are ending our hunger strike.” The UK met all of the BNC demands and four of the five BSAC demands––all but the demands to remove the O’Hanlon mural. Instead, President Capilouto announced he would temporarily cover the mural.

Research Notes
Sources: 
Basic Needs Campaign at the University of Kentucky. 2019a. “Our last post…” Facebook, March 30. Retrieved May 4, 2019. (https://www.facebook.com/BASICNEEDSUK/posts/1908065725971802?__tn__=-R).

Basic Needs Campaign at the University of Kentucky. 2019b. “We, the students…” Facebook, March 27. Retrieved May 4, 2019. (https://www.facebook.com/BASICNEEDSUK/videos/830924127283204/?__xts__[0]=68.ARCHATLwUofHJWViPYQb3JPX_-KvM_IJf3v1Ik_mLP0NsDOu5Xdsn_OkOuTRME1ceQmqUNIRjlySwknvmGNE6x8U4m7K3pu0l6Fi62rePJfmi8xq65mIjiJIOmJzB4fQCjNrhKKBwbI1a4gaMZ3wJZ1ALLjThFtk9QitZIYY46s2Zds8AiJgHncgCWMIZ7mDKjaLIDz6rDQXsxDr6gf9Ko6ldWB5RcDEcvs3QuVr0CZ3gY1-6hYdzOIXeiY4LlpOCubIjQ7NXLX-P3LmDIi8PMaNORpI2OSOKoYYbhlLhbco4g1i7frFiayBe82mn5Onfjk-WdeTEqj3EabHYW_hFkuGG9QBzeGmrao&__tn__=-R).

Blackford, Linda. 2019. “UK Students Go on Hunger Strike to Protest This Campus Problem.” Kentucky, March 28. Retrieved March 30, 2019. (https://web.archive.org/web/20190330083450/https://www.kentucky.com/news/local/education/article228531044.html).

Fink, Jenni. 2019. “University of Kentucky Offering $1 Lunches after Students Go on Hunger Strike for Basic Needs.” Newsweek, April 9. Retrieved April 30, 2019. (https://web.archive.org/web/20190430075548/https://www.newsweek.com/university-kentucky-lunches-students-hunger-strike-basic-needs-1391001).

Ladd, Sarah. 2019. “How UK Students Went from Hunger Strike to Campus Sit-In.” The Kentucky Kernel, April 2. Retrieved May 4, 2019. (https://web.archive.org/web/20190529192833/http://www.kykernel.com/news/how-uk-students-went-from-hunger-strike-to-campus-sit/article_400c20f0-5580-11e9-9edc-4372ed3c9cd5.html).

Parks, Natalie and Natalie Parks. 2019. “'Students Want to See Change.' UK Students Occupy Campus Building.” The Kentucky Kernel, April 1. Retrieved May 4, 2019. (https://web.archive.org/web/20190529192915/http://www.kykernel.com/news/students-want-to-see-change-uk-students-occupy-campus-building/article_acca6ebe-54da-11e9-a289-f70bc0e00bef.html).

Patel, Vimal. 2019. “In Kentucky, a Hunger Strike for Basic Support Forces a President's Hand.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 3. Retrieved May 4, 2019. (https://web.archive.org/web/20190410235945/https://www.chronicle.com/article/In-Kentucky-a-Hunger-Strike/246054).

Staff, Liberation. 2019. “University of Kentucky Hunger Strike Demands That Students' Basic...” Liberation News, March 30. Retrieved May 4, 2019. (https://web.archive.org/web/20190529193035/https://www.liberationnews.org/university-of-kentucky-hunger-strike-demands-that-students-basic-needs-are-met/).

WKYT News Staff. 2019. “UK Students Say They Will Start 'Hunger Strike' in Pursuit of Basic Needs.” WKYT News, March 28. Retrieved May 4, 2019. (https://web.archive.org/web/20190529193145/https://www.wkyt.com/content/news/UK-students-say-they-will-start-hunger-strike-in-pursuit-of-basic-needs-507803311.html).

Watkins, Morgan. 2019. “Kentucky Students Can't Afford Food. Dozens on Hunger Strike until School Fixes It.” Journal, March 28. Retrieved May 4, 2019. (https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/education/2019/03/28/university-of-kentucky-students-go-hunger-strike-over-food-insecurity/3299878002/).

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Olivia Robbins 29/05/2019