Were Student Protests at Johns Hopkins, Princeton U, Amherst, Occidental College Successful
College and university administrationshave heard the demands of student activists that took the country by storm in November, and many either implemented changes or kept the status quo.
Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University (JHU) this week announced a new five-year, $25 million initiative to increase the diversity of its faculty. In 2013, the university reported that Blacks made up 4 percent of its total full-time faculty and 1.7 percent of its full-time professors.
JHU’s announcement comes on the heels of a Nov. 13 student protest, during which JHU President Ronald J. Daniels received a list of demands including a meeting between students and key university leaders; recognition of the Center for Africana Studies as an academic department; accountability for students, faculty and staff who negatively target Black students; and an increase in the number of full-time Black faculty members.
The student body of the prestigious university in Baltimore is 49 percent white, 19 percent Asian, 10 percent Latino and 6 percent Black.
JHU’s Faculty Diversity Initiative includes a mandate that academic divisions establish clear protocols for faculty searches; university funding of up to $100,000 per appointee to support the recruitment of diverse scholars; a diversity postdoctoral fellowship program focusing on fields where there is a lack of underrepresented people; and a new fund to support visiting faculty members and scholars for short visits or extended stays.
JHUhas also established a $50,000 award for excellence in diversity and inclusion research that will be given by the provost’s office to a faculty member who advances knowledge on any issue related to equity, diversity or inclusion.
Oxy United for Black Liberation Group, a student organization at Occidental College in Los Angeles, led a student sit-in at an administrative building from Nov. 16-20. Students were protesting against racial insensitivity fueled by a lack of diversity on campus.
The activists gave the administration a list of 14 demands. Students wanted their requests to be met by Nov. 20 or would call for the “immediate resignation of President Jonathan Veitch.”
When the sit-in ended on Nov. 20, Veitch remained in his position. Few of the 14 demands were met. Veitchagreed to create a Black studies program, implement staff training to meet the needs of minority students, increase funding for diversity initiatives and diversify the faculty.The school has also increased funding for the Intercultural Affairs Office from $13,000 to $26,000.
Veitch met with students on Dec. 3 for a question and answer session. The president disputed allegations that the school does not have a commitment to diversity. However, the campus cohesiveness remains questionable. According to the L.A. Times, “It was clear from Thursday’s meeting that many students still didn’t trust Veitch.”
A student sit-in at Amherst College’s Robert Frost Library took place Nov. 12-15. The protest, coined as the “Amherst Uprising,” served as an opportunity for students to air their grievances as well as share experiences of racism on campus.
Students compiled a list of11 demandsfor President Biddy Martin, which included a request for a statement condemning the “inherent racist nature” of the school’s unofficial mascot, “Lord Jeff,” and the removal of its image from all memorabilia.
Though Biddy did express her support for the protesters, saying students are”exercising a fundamental American right to freedom of speech and protest,”most of the demands were rejected.
However, the majorityof Amherst faculty members voted to change the mascot. The non-binding vote will be presented to the board of trustees in January. Some of the demands, including a request that the college discipline the students who posted “All Lives Matter” signs, raised questions about free speech on campus.
Members of the Black Justice League, a student organization at Princeton University, staged a sit-in at the office of President Chris Eisgruber in Nassau Hall beginning Nov. 18.
Demands included getting Woodrow Wilson’s name expunged from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, cultural competency training for faculty, implementing a diversity requirement for students and providing a safe space for Black students on campus.
The 32-hour sit-in ended the evening of Nov. 19 when Eisgruber, Vice President Calhoun and Dean Dolan signedan amended documentof the Black Justice League’s demands.After the sit-in concluded,the Department of Public Safety issued a warning about a bomb and firearm threat that they received via email “that made reference to a student protest on campus.”
In an email to the campus community on Nov. 22, Eisgruber said the initiatives were either already underway or currently being considered, including the possibility of renaming the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public affairs and removing a mural of him. He said campus leaders were discussing the creation of a course on diversity issues to be required of all students and reached an agreement to create a cultural space.
The protests stirred a debate both on campus and nationallyabout Wilson,the 28th U.S. president, and his opposition to the efforts of civil rights leaders and advocacy for segregation.
A New York Times editorial published on Nov. 24 favors the demand from the Black Justice League to erase Wilson’s name from the public policy institute.However, the editorial board of The Daily Princetonian wrote on Nov. 29 they are against the removal of Wilson’s name and mandatory cultural competency training.