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Racist Incidents on College Campuses Cloud New School Year

Threats of violence, social media slurs and assault have left campuses across the country once again facing issues of campus racism.

School may have just started a few weeks ago, but a number of college campuses throughout the country have already experienced incidents of campus racism.  Students across these campuses have demonstrated their dismay over the discriminatory environments. This has left a number of administrations to take a long hard look at what is really going on at their institutions.

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Yale Students: Remove Slavery Advocate's Name

Petition gets more than 9,000 signatures to change name of Yale's Calhoun College due to "legacy of racism and blood."

By Sheryl Estrada

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Were Student Protests at Johns Hopkins, Princeton U, Amherst, Occidental College Successful?

Student activists demanded changes. How did the administration respond?

College and university administrations have heard the demands of student activists that took the country by storm in November, and many either implemented changes or kept the status quo.

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More Colleges 'Commit' to Diversity Initiatives

Yale, Brown and NYU have stated their goals, but time will tell how they hold up in the long run.

Student protesters at Yale University.

A lack of diversity and instances of blatant racism on college campuses have both recently garnered mass media attention. Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Amherst and Occidental are just a few schools that have had protests, sit-ins, walk-outs and demonstrations, with Claremont McKenna and University of Missouri even witnessing a collective three staff resignations. These incidents have sparked campus conversations as well as initiatives from the universities to promote diversity. Recently, Yale, Brown and NYU have made headlines for their efforts by committing a significant increase in funds for a diverse faculty as well as more on-campus resources. 

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Princeton U. Students Stage Campus Sit-In Over 'Racist Legacy'

A Black Justice League member at Princeton tells DiversityInc the group's demands and why Woodrow Wilson's legacy on campus is damaging.

By Sheryl Estrada

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By Sheryl Estrada

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Black Lives Matter Student Protests Around the U.S.

After protests at the University of Missouri, students at other colleges, including Ivy League schools, followed suit.

By Sheryl Estrada

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More Campus Racism: Dean of School with 'Happiest Students' Resigns

Former Dean of Claremont McKenna College Mary Spellman resigned last week as more college students confront racial tensions on their campuses.

Yet another college official has resigned following protests from students speaking out against racial injustices on campus.

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Luke Visconti, CEO: Crisis in Higher Education a Long Time Coming

Unchanged for 25 years — 93 percent white presidents: stale and out of touch.

Mass protests are occurring across the nation on college campuses. Non-majority students feel disenfranchised and underrepresented. Their perceptions are not incorrect.

Excluding minority serving institutions, 93 percent of university presidents are white — demographics that have not changed in 25 years. 84 percent of (full-time) professors are white. There is slightly more diversity among assistant and associate professors but much less among all professors at private schools in comparison to public schools.

The demographics of students, and of our nation, have changed dramatically: only 58 percent of college students are white (59 percent of high school graduates are white), and more than half of bachelor's degrees are earned by women.

From "Mexican bandit" themed parties at the University of Louisville president's house, to slow and tone deaf communications from the president of Mizzou (leading to his ouster), university leadership is being exposed as mostly being out of step, out of touch and of poor quality. Social media and the BLM movement have connected the dots, leading to nationwide unease and unrest from what used to be considered isolated incidents.

Demographics alone do not make a leadership body incompetent or out of touch, but in my combined 24 years of higher education board experience, including being invited to speak at two recent college board events and dozens of universities, I think most university diversity efforts are paternalistic, toothless, lacking in vigor — in essence, not taken seriously as a part of performance management.

You reap what you sow.

There are some bright spots, though. President Sue Henderson at New Jersey City University is implementing programs modeled after the amazing success at Georgia Tech, where they closed the gap between white and nonwhite graduation rates through timely mentoring, attention to the whole student body and real-time academic advice. The Rutgers Future Scholars program continues its astonishing success in shepherding eighth graders through high school and into/through college, achieving dramatically improved results over peer groups not in the program — with 1,600 students in the pipeline.

Talent is a leaky bucket. You may be very proud of your current corporate culture, and in the case of DiversityInc Top 10 companies, it is demonstrably better than the Top 50 and an order of magnitude better than the Fortune 500. The problem, especially for the best companies, is that you're hiring from a talent pool that is not well prepared. In the case of schools like SUNY Plattsburgh and University of Louisville, the student body is dramatically less diverse than the state, and a xenophobic, anti-intellectual attitude prevails on campus. You should be very careful about hiring students from the hundreds of mediocre campuses — and some isolated "elite" Ivy and almost-Ivy schools, which have vestigial programs to introduce their privileged students to the real world and have cynically small social service efforts. The students at these schools are shortchanged by their institutions and not ready to work in a diverse workforce and a global marketplace.

Mizzou Pres., Chancellor Resign — What Now?

As questions remain regarding the future of the University of Missouri, a look at what brought the university to this point.

Tim Wolfe

A powerful movement of protests and walkouts by students and faculty at the University of Missouri — and a boycott by the school's revenue-generating Division I football team — in response to inaction by the administration surrounding increased racial tensions on campus accomplished its mission to topple the university's ineffective leadership.

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Yale Students March Same Day Mizzou Pres. Resigns

Members of University of Missouri's top leadership resign on Monday, and Yale students call for an end to racism on campus.

Hours after the resignation of University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe on Monday morning due to the mismanagement of racial issues on the school's campuses, thousands of students at Yale University joined together for what they called a "March of Resilience" against racial insensitivity.

Two recent race-related incidents on campus brought to the forefront discrimination, which many Black students say they experience. Students from different backgrounds and cultures began the march at the African American Cultural Center, passed by the other cultural centers and fraternity houses and ended in the center of campus.

"Really what's at question here is the racial climate on campus," said Eshe Sherley, a senior at Yale, told WTNH. "[Sigma Alpha Epsilon] is just one part of that. We could dispute what happened on that night forever, but what I think what's important is that there is a consensus that [SAE] is not a safe space for us and the university needs to take that seriously."

Students Sound-Off

Sofia Petros-Gouin, a Columbia University freshman, visited friends at Yale University on Oct. 30 and went to a Halloween party at SAE's house. She said that a white member of the fraternity turned away Black and Latina women at the door.

"He held his hand up to their faces and said, 'No, we're only looking for white girls,'" she said.

The following day, on Facebook, Yale student Neema Githere supported Petros-Gouin's claim as she and her friends had a similar experience last year. Other students began to share experiences as well.

Related Story: Yale Fraternity Party: 'White Girls Only'

SAE, which has previously been accused of having racist traditions, denied the incident occurred.

The same week, Erika Christakis, a faculty member and an administrator at a student residence, sent an email to students shunning a previous Intercultural Affairs Council's email that was sent out asking students to be considerate of the cultural implications of Halloween costumes.

Christakis wrote:

I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?... Nicholas [Christakis] says, if you don't like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.

Nicholas Christakis is her husband and a faculty member who works in the same residential building.

In response, students penned an open letter to Christakis:

In your email, you ask students to "look away" if costumes are offensive, as if the degradation of our cultures and people, and the violence that grows out of it is something that we can ignore. We were told to meet the offensive parties head on, without suggesting any modes or means to facilitate these discussions to promote understanding. Giving "room" for students to be "obnoxious" or "offensive," as you suggest, is only inviting ridicule and violence onto ourselves and our communities, and ultimately comes at the expense of room in which marginalized students can feel safe.

In blog post, Aaron Z. Lewis, a senior at Yale, said the recent demonstrations are about more than the latest two racial incidents on campus.

"They're about real experiences with racism on this campus that have gone unacknowledged for far too long," he wrote. "The university sells itself as a welcoming and inclusive place for people of all backgrounds. Unfortunately, it often isn't."

On Thursday, President of Yale Peter Salovey, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway and other administration members met with 50 students "primarily of color" for four hours on the top floor of the president's residence.

The Washington Post reported that Salovey told the students, "We failed you. I think we have to be a better university. I think we have to do a better job."

Salovey sent a message on Friday to the Yale community regarding the meeting:

We heard deeply personal accounts from a number of students who are in great distress. The experiences they shared went beyond the incidents of the last few days. Their concerns and cries for help made clear that some students find life on our campus profoundly difficult. I have heard and I acknowledge the pain these students expressed … This conversation left me deeply troubled, and has caused me to realize that we must act to create at Yale greater inclusion, healing, mutual respect, and understanding.

Salovey said the student body would hear from him again before Thanksgiving about solutions.

Holloway, the first Black dean of Yale College, also penned a message addressing the incident on Thursday, in which students encircled him outside of the main library and asked why he had been silent in the light of the events in the past week on campus.

He wrote:

I write too late for too many of you, I freely admit, to make it clear that I heard every word that was spoken and I watched every tear that was shed, whether on Cross Campus or in Woodbridge Hall … This week's conversations don't affect only some of us; they affect and include us all … I hold us all, including myself, accountable to give what we seek: respect.

Leadership Matters

Both Wolfe and the chancellor of the flagship UM campus R. Bowen Loftin resigned from their posts at an extreme point: growing protests by Black students including a hunger strike, the threat of a walkout by faculty and a boycott by the football team.

The university has a predominantly white student body, 77 percent, while just 7 percent is Black.

Related Story: Missouri and Racism Back in the News: Mizzou President Resigns

Were the university's top white male leaders disconnected from the experiences of Black students on campus? Or, did they simply choose not to recognize the plight of students experiencing discrimination?

"I take full responsibility for this frustration and … inaction," Wolfe said. That answers the questions.

The student body at Yale is 47 percent white, 16 percent Asian, 10 percent Latino and 7 percent Black.

However, the racial isolation that Black students experience at UM in the Midwest is similar to the experiences of Black students at Yale, located in New Haven, Conn. There has been a long-running debate on campus regarding a residential college at the university named in honor of John C. Calhoun, a member of the Yale class of 1804. He was a 19th-century South Carolina politician as well as outspoken white supremacist.

Perhaps Salovey will now be proactive in working against racial insensitivity on campus. Wolfe's leadership at UM is an example of what not to do.

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