By the numbers: What student protesters actually want

Some demands infringe on faculty independence

Student protesters across the country have a growing list of demands. And while some are straightforward—others are more unexpected and may put administrators in a bind.

Student groups calling for more diversity, sensitivity, and inclusion on campus have started formalizing their goals. According to a newly formed website called The Demands, groups on 72 U.S. campuses have produced written request so far.

Yale students announce diversity demands

FiveThirtyEight reviewed the list looking for major trends. Among the 51 schools researchers looked at, the most common demands were:

  1. Increase diversity of professors (38 schools);
  2. Require diversity training (35);
  3. Fund cultural centers (25);
  4. Require certain classes for students (21); and
  5. Increase diversity of students (21).

But as Leah Libresco reports for FiveThirtyEight, there is not always agreement among student groups about what demands like "more faculty diversity" look like. For instance, students at Missouri State University called for the proportion of black professors to equal that of black Americans, while at least three other groups said the proportion of minority faculty should equal that of the student body.

To meet protesters' demands, Mizzou may need to hire hundreds

Several groups compared the need for diversity training with the need for sexual assault prevention training—which many schools already require.

Niche demands

But protesters at some schools have more unusual demands, which some observers have openly mocked. For instance, a group of students at Hamilton College calling themselves The Movement have issued a list of 39 demands which includes this passage:

"We, the students of Hamilton College, demand the immediate removal of the repugnant phrase listed within the college's diversity page stating: 'A student at Hamilton can be grungy, geeky, athletic, gay, black, white, fashionable, artsy, nerdy, preppy, conservative … it doesn't really matter. At Hamilton you can be yourself—and be respected for who you are.' This distasteful assertion trivializes the identities and experiences of marginalized groups and will not be tolerated further." (Italics are from the original).

The group also demands that the name of Elihu Root be removed from campus buildings. Root was a notable alumnus who won the 1912 Nobel Peace Prize for his work promoting dialogue between nations as an alternative to war. However, protesters say his name is offensive because he held U.S. Government positions during the Spanish American War and is associated with colonization.

Protesters at Emory University also have more unique demands, such as requiring faculty evaluations have special short-response sections to document so-called microaggressions. Groups at both Emory and Hamilton also want their schools to ban the social networking app Yik Yak on campus, which has been used by some individuals to post offensive content.

Responding to demands

Hank Reichman, chair of the American Association of University Professors Committee A on Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance, told Inside Higher Ed via email that some of the demands students are making may infringe on faculty governance, but stressed students have a right to speak freely.

"Faculty and administrators should respond to these demands in a spirit of respectful engagement and with the goal of furthering the students' education," he wrote. "It would be foolish to demand of college-age students the sort of sophisticated understanding of academic freedom we would desire of faculty members and administrators" (Libresco, FiveThirtyEight, 12/3; Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 12/3).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

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