[News] The campus race protests are about systemic racism that's never gone away
news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 13 12:02:42 EST 2015
The campus race protests are about systemic racism that's never gone away
Luna Olavarría Gallegos
Thursday 12 November 2015 12.55 EST
This week’s student protests may be organized on social media, but
they’re not addressing anything new. The iconic moment of black campus
protests was captured way back in 1969, when students from Cornell
University’s Afro-American Society left Willard Straight Hall carrying
rifles and wearing bandoliers, part of a protest against disciplining
black students who had advocated for an Africana Studies and Research
Center. Forty-six years later, students all over the country continue to
protest for their right to exist on a college campus free of racial
On Wednesday – just minutes away from Willard Straight Hall – at Ithaca
College in upstate New York, more than 1,000 students held a “Solidarity
to rally around a vote of no confidence in the college president for
allegedly denying the existence of racism within campus security and
of dissenting faculty and students. It was one in a stream of
race-related protests at schools including Claremont McKenna College
and the University of Missouri
These actions are more than acts of resistance to systemic racism; these
are demands to be respected as students on college campuses. The rise of
the Black Lives Matter movement
visibility of racial justice issues today have perhaps informed the
protests, but these student movements have been happening repeatedly
since the first person of color stepped on to a campus of higher education.
There is a continuous history of excluding and discriminating against
students of color in forms other than outright threats and violence,
even before the internet allowed the nationwide broadcast and solidarity
of grievances: ethnic studies classes cast as electives instead of
mandatory classes or part of legitimate majors; lack of faculty of
color; a dearth of funding for student-led diversity initiatives; and
the absence <http://www.psc.isr.umich.edu/pubs/abs/8853> of appropriate
mental health services for international students and students of color.
published by Brown University’s newspaper earlier this week found that
there was no racial difference in making appointments with campus
counseling services but black students there were more than “twice as
likely to have reached the seven-session limit and to have received
outside help”. Brown recently expanded
services to better assist students of color, a change also on the list
made by protesting students at the University of Missouri.*
These are not hypothetical problems. When protests at the University of
Missouri led to the president and chancellor’s resignations this week,
on the app Yik Yak to shoot black students followed. Mizzou students of
this was not the first time they have felt unsafe on campus.
And at Ithaca, two alumnae came forward in the fall with their story of
how they were allegedly physically attacked by campus security.
administrators claimed instances of physical violence as isolated
Protesting students and faculty
countered that the acts of violence and denial of racism are both part
of a system of institutionalized racism present on primarily white
institutions all over the country.
As a recent alumna of Ithaca College, I can attest to a campus
environment that boasts a liberal mindset while obstructing students
from taking black, Asian or Latino studies courses through the
implementation of a strict core curriculum, hiring too few people of
color for tenure-track faculty positions
making no adjustments
the mental health program that would benefit students of color.
Also this week, students at Claremont McKenna College in California
gathered in protest
of the administration’s response to outcry over long-lasting problems
with racism on campus. The dean of students had recently responded
<http://www.campusreform.org/?ID=6973>to a student’s article regarding
racism on campus by referring to students who “do not fit our CMC mold”.
The rally was also inspired by a Facebook photograph in which two
students dressed up in brownface for Halloween. In response, students
demanded a social justice center as well as the resignation of the dean.
And at Yale, more than 1,000 students showed up to a “March of
Resilience” after several students reported being denied entry into a
fraternity on the basis of their skin color. In addition, after a public
announcement to refrain from racist Halloween costumes, students of
color became outraged when a faculty member questioned
this announcement as an impediment <http://pastebin.com/egSQGfgK> to the
freedom of expression.
A nationwide movement among students of color united with the goal to
make institutions of higher education inclusive in campus life and
curriculum, as well as in admissions, is a necessary part of the current
advancement of racial justice in this country. Instead of being used
just to satisfy a quota for a liberal agenda, students are fighting to
finally be recognized as a legitimate part of academia.
At this moment, it is crucial that students collectively reflect on the
histories of their educational institutions and of the organizers who
came before them to make sure 46 years from now they are not still
struggling to belong in these spaces.
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