Content warning: Racial violence
During the past week, a new series of acts of violence against Black students at college campuses across the country have gained national media attention. At Yale University, reports have surfaced of women of color being turned away from a “white girls only” party at the SAE fraternity, and that associate master of Silliman College Erika Christakis sent an e-mail to the residential college’s residents arguing that students should not be offended by insensitive Halloween costumes that they may encounter. These events have provoked several student protests in the past week, and prompted the university’s president to meet with students over the climate of inclusion at the University. At the University of Missouri, a graduate student went on a hunger strike to protest the college administration’s response to a series of racist acts on campus, which prompted black members of the varsity football team to refuse to play. The strike caused President Timothy M. Wolfe to resign and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin to vow to step down. Furthermore, rumors of Klu Klux Klan members present on-campus and a Yik Yak post that threatened “…to stand my ground tomorrow and shoot every black person I see,” further contributed to the unsafe environment for black students at the university. We at the Phoenix feel it is necessary to convey the message that we stand in solidarity with black students at both of these universities, at our own institution, and in the world at large, and that we condemn the institutions that have failed to make the college campus a place free from racial violence.
We applaud the student activists at Yale University that are standing up against racial injustice on their campus and encourage them to continue acting in a way that forces the university administration to act after years of complacent non-action. It is unacceptable that the university can foster an environment where it is still acceptable for a fraternity brother to deny entry to a woman of color at the door to a party. Additionally, the fact that college faculty members such as Mrs. Christakis refuse to support students of color under the banner of free speech is equally disappointing. College administrators cannot use free speech arguments as an excuse to permit racial injustice to continue at Yale. Since the acts of oppression occurring against black students are harmful, they should not be defended as acts of free speech. In such a situation, it is both correct and part of a college administrator’s duty to protect students whom this speech harms.
With regard to the situation at Mizzou, it is our position that the fact that college administrators have permitted such acts of marginalization to occur without response for so long, and have turned a blind eye to social media and tormenting that indicates real threats of violence, is a failure on the part of the university to promote access to an equal education, and a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We support black students at Mizzou in doing whatever is necessary to preserve their own safety and wellbeing, and in reiterating their demand that college administrators act quickly to establish a sense of security on campus as quickly as possible. It is not enough to stand silent in the face of injustice; those in positions of power must act.
We recognize that these events at Yale and Mizzou are not isolated incidents; they are symptoms of a larger problem. Across the country, black students and black bodies are experiencing real acts of violence because local, state, and federal policies have been enacted that both allow and encourage oppression of marginalized communities. The Phoenix calls on policymakers, community organizers, stakeholders, and the very educational institution under which we operate to fight back against these inherently prejudiced systems and demand that the system be changed so that all institutions of higher education are safe for black students. We do so especially in light of recent events, which clearly show that these students are, in their present state, unsafe.