As protests spread, students aim to oust leaders at other campuses

'We want to believe that we're a postracial society, but it's just not true'

Protests over racial discrimination are spreading across college campuses nationwide.

Following the protests at University of Missouri that led to the resignations of the president and chancellor, students gathered at Smith College, Claremont McKenna College, Yale University, University of Kansas (KU), and Ithaca College.

Students told the New York Times their inspiration came from the Black Lives Matter movement and the successes at Mizzou boosted their confidence in their own efforts to bring change.

"What matters is that we all need to have empathy for the experiences that people of color have even if we don't have those experiences for ourselves," Aaron Lewis, a senior at Yale, told the Times. "It really is hard to believe because we want to believe that we're a postracial society, but it's just not true."

Not all racism is blatant, Lewis says, but that makes it no less disturbing.

Are safe spaces drowning out free speech on campus?

The spread of demonstrations vary in demands and intensity.

At Smith, about 100 women gathered on Wednesday in a sign of solidarity with other schools and discussed "microaggressions."  

And at Claremont McKenna, Dean of students Mary Spellman resigned on Thursday amid protests and two students' hunger strikes. For months, students have been asking for action on the diversity front and reporting biases. They were further galvanized by an email Spellman sent to a Latina student saying she would work to help those who "don't fit our CMC mold."

Meanwhile, administrators at the KU organized an open discussion on race before any major demonstrations even took place.

On Wednesday, a planned one-hour event extended an additional hour and a half, during which moderator Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little promised change. 

Student and faculty diversity rates increased in the past few years at KU, but students say things haven't changed quickly enough. Black students make up just 4% of the student body and have a 15% four-year graduation rate—compared with other students' 45%. Students reported a dorm calendar covered in racial slurs and racism coming from professors, among other charged incidents on campus.

They came prepared with a list of demands: a new Office of Multicultural Affairs director, mandatory diversity training, publication of a campus climate survey, and a concealed weapons ban.

Guidelines: Listen, don't arrest, during student protests

On the East Coast, students at Ithaca have a more high-profile demand: President Tom Rochon must go.

The student government called for a vote of "confidence" or "no confidence" in the president, and ballots are due at the end of the month. The Faculty Council will cast votes as well.

On Wednesday, about a thousand students participated in the "Solidarity Walk Out," listened to speeches by student group People of Color at IC, and conducted a "die-in."

The community says it has "seen a true lack of quality leadership from President Rochon over a long period of time and it's all coming to a head right now," says senior Dominick Recckio, the student government president.

Pressure has been building due to a series of racially charged events on campus, including one at an October panel where a white alumnus repeatedly referred to an Afro-Cuban alumna as "the savage."

The chair of the Board of Trustees said they are listening and "partnering" with Rochon and other campus leaders to instill change at the college (Hartocollis/Bidgood, New York Times, 11/11; O'Connor, Ithaca Journal, 11/11; Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, 11/12; Watanabe/Rivera, Los Angeles Times, 11/12).

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