Colleges and universities have always been a breeding ground to spread ideology and opinions on virtually every topic. And students are the perfect foot soldiers. They represent idealism and hope, and have enough passion and energy to effect change. Nowhere is that passion being felt more powerfully than through the many protests across the country calling for removal of college officials.
The Ivy League Towers are shaking.
During the 1960s and 70s in the Golden Age of affirmative action, the focus was on enforcing equal opportunity for students of color. The main push was to get blacks, Hispanics and other groups admitted into colleges and universities.
Due to disadvantages in education suffered by inner city kids, special allowances were made to get minority students through the doors. Staying in and graduating required serious commitment and sacrifice. It was highly unlikely a black student would have parents with any influence over college boards if they got into academic trouble.
The college experience for most minorities who are now in their 50s and 60s was isolation and exclusion by their white peers and professors. Back then, as now, the kings of academia did not feel it was necessary to do more than let the required quota of black students in. Though students of color have been calling for more diverse hiring, culturally relevant curricula and multicultural programs, those cries have fallen on deaf ears. And because it was years before the Internet and social media, there was nothing to solidify students in a way that would allow for shared experience and dialogue.
Overt racism on college campuses, such as the swastika (drawn with human feces) at the University of Missouri, coupled with police killings of unarmed black men by police—many victims who were college age—has increased commitment to the cause.
After black football players refused to play in Missouri—causing the college president and chancellor to step down—students across the country showed their support by taking action on their own campuses. Student protestors are organizing and participating in hunger strikes, marches, petitions and other tactics to get their demands met. They are no longer waiting for college officials to address allegations of discrimination, vandalism, and racial slurs by faculty and other students
The movement is not limited to black students. At Claremont McKenna College, students called for the removal of Dean Mary Spellman after she sparked a campus protest over an email to a Latina student saying she would work to serve those who “don’t fit our CMC mold.”
Also at Claremont, the junior class president resigned amidst public outrage over a Facebook photograph of her with two women who were wearing sombreros, ponchos and mustaches for Halloween. The photograph sparked a campus demonstration.
The protests that we are seeing now are taking the fight for social justice to a whole new level. Students have armed themselves with all the right elements—the Internet, social media, cell phone video, BlackLivesMatter, hunger strikes, the First Amendment and an unstoppable quest for social justice.
Being young, passionate and less patient to wait for change than their predecessors, these young folks are using the very tools that are encouraged in any free society. They are demonstrating critical thinking that is at the foundation of every significant change.