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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Turmoil continues at D-Q University

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Headline: Turmoil continues at D-Q University

Layercake: Trustees, students at impasse on school’s future

By JEREMY OGUL

Aggie News Writer

Just a few miles outside of Davis, students and trustees at a small American Indian college are wrestling for control over the troubled institution’s future.

After two rounds of arrests, students continue to occupy the shuttered campus of D-Q University as trustees try to move forward with their own solution.

A total of 23 people have been arrested and charged with misdemeanor trespassing at the campus since February. The students say they are holding classes, while the trustees say there are no students to begin with.

Former D-Q trustee Susan Reece said there haven’t been any legitimate students since 2005.

“We don’t even know who these people are,” said Reece, who is acting as a spokesperson for the current members of the board. “They keep claiming ‘I’m a student, I’m a student’ and the reality is that they’re not students and they have no standing to be there.”

The board of trustees has called the Yolo County Sheriff twice to remove squatters from the campus, Reece said. Students say that classes are being interrupted by the police activity.

“At the moment the classes are very limited,” said Manuel Santana, who said he has been a student for a year and half. “Since we’ve been getting harassed by the police we haven’t been able to have classes there.”

The most recent round of arrests on Mar. 31 highlighted the tension between students and authorities.

“It was awful,” said Lupita Torres, who said she has been a student for eight months. “[The police] smashed in our doors, smashed in the locks. They went through all of our things without warrants. It’s ridiculous. I’m trying not to cry thinking about it.”

According to the Sheriff, however, there was no violence. Public affairs officer Michelle Wallace told the Aggie in an Apr. 7 article that no force was used and that the individuals were peaceful.

Santana was arrested in a raid on Feb. 20. He was arraigned last week and pleaded not guilty. He was offered the option of a remedial program instead of prosecution, but he chose not to pursue it.

“We want the truth to come out,” he said. “We want the community to be aware of what’s going on. The board would be just as happy to have everyone go away and stop asking questions.”

The current conflict began in 2004 when the U.S. Department of Education found that trustees were misusing $150,000 in federal Pell Grant funds. In January of 2005 the school lost its accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Since then, members of the D-Q community have been trying to pick up the pieces and return to normal business. The college’s 600 acres of land could be reclaimed by the federal government if it is not maintained as an educational facility.

This is not the first time D-Q activists have used occupation to achieve their goals.

In 1971, before the college was founded, the federal government planned to give the land to UC Davis for use as a research and teaching facility. After learning this, a group of American Indian and Hispanic activists came to the site and refused to leave. UC Davis withdrew its application and the land was given to the activists to start a new college.

The current board says it wants peace, not confrontation.

“We’ve been told by our spiritual messenger that any future contact with people out there has to be done in peace,” Reece said. “I’m willing to go out there to help and to propose to the people out there an effort to clean up the campus.”

In the meantime, the charges of trespassing still stand and the legal proceedings are moving forward. It remains to be seen whether the District Attorney will choose to prosecute all 21 cases of trespassing.

“The public defender’s office can really only represent one person,” said Cres Vellucci, a community activist in Sacramento who is working with the students.

The court has to appoint attorneys outside of the public defender’s office so there is no conflict of interest, and that can be very costly, Vellucci said.

JEREMY OGUL can be reached at city@californiaaggie.com. XXX

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