Students to protesting peers: Rein it in

Some protest groups have altered demands to be more collaborative

Some college students are exhausted by the constant campus protests—and are asking their peers to engage in calmer dialogue, Melissa Korn writes for the Wall Street Journal.

This semester has been full of high-profile protest movements on campus, such as ousting administration members at the University of Missouri, protesting in the Princeton University president's office, and confronting faculty members on the quad at Yale University.

Korn calls this wave of campus demonstrations "one of the largest protest movements in decades," adding that "dozens of other schools have called their institutions to remove references to controversial historical figures, fire administrators and institute mandatory cultural-sensitivity training for classmates and teachers."

These protesters are a vocal, yet small subsection of campus, Korn writes. And some of their classmates and professors are growing weary of the continued outrage.

How to be sensitive to students without compromising academic freedom

One example is at Yale University, where some students called for Erika Christakis and her husband, also a Yale faculty member and residence hall administrator, to resign after Christakis questioned an email regarding racially offensive Halloween costumes. (Christakis did resign from her lecturing position at the school, but retained her post in the residence halls.) However, dozens of professors at Yale have signed a letter supporting Christakis. The author of the letter, Yale physics professor Douglas Stone, says that "aggressive shaming and intimidation shouldn’t be happening on our campus," and that Christakis' email was "distorted, as support for racist speech."

At fellow Ivy Princeton, President Christopher Eisgruber told a group of protesters occupying his office that he would consider removing former United States president Woodrow Wilson's name from campus spaces. Members of the campus' Black Justice League say Wilson—a notable alumnus—has a racist legacy that the school should condemn.

But student members of the newly formed Princeton Open Campus Coalition (POCC) are saying that while they respect the Black Justice League's concerns, they oppose its demands, which include removing Wilson's name from campus and creating spaces for cultural groups.

The POCC posted a petition last month after the Black Justice League held a sit-in protest in the president's office for 32 hours. More than 1,700 people have signed the petition, but members of the Black Justice League say the letter oversimplifies complex issues and conflates "racially offensive and hostile speech with civil discourse."

University management of campus protests and unrest

But while some protesters are standing by their demands, others have revised their approach. At Amherst College, protesters said their initial list of demands—which included a presidential apology for the school's "offensive" legacy and required that students who hung "All Lives Matter" posters take cultural sensitivity training—were made "in haste" and "with urgency and emotion." The Amherst protesters have since altered their demands to meet "a slower pace" that would allow collaboration with staff, faculty, and administration (Korn, Wall Street Journal, 12/3).

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