What's Happening Today: Case Studies of Activism

What's Happening Today: Case Studies of Activism

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2173-0.ch003
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This chapter provides a detailed look at four recent examples of activism on American college campuses. The first of these case studies is the University of Missouri, where racial tensions following the Ferguson shooting heightened tensions among students who believed the campus was not racially accepting. The second case explores the City University of New York and their handling of faculty and graduate student contracts, salaries, and appointments. The third case presented is Seattle University, where students and administrators clashed over curricular content. The final case detailed here is the University of California's attempt to significantly raise student tuition, and how students, faculty, and the public joined forces to protest these increases.
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Case #1: Racism At Missouri

Campus activists, including students and faculty at the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) have been at the forefront of national attention due to rising racial tensions at Missouri’s flag-ship university (Palmer, 2016). On September 12, 2015, the Missouri Student Association’s President, Peyton Head, stated on Facebook that he was subjected to racists remarks shouted at him by persons riding by in a pick-up truck. Head also described his feelings of the existence of bigotry and prejudice toward minority groups on the university’s campus. His comments received many responses from readers that understood and shared his frustration of racial mistreatment by others. Head’s social media post shined light on a prejudicial culture that existed at UM but it did not gain a response from the university’s leadership until five days later.

The Chancellor of MU, R. Bowen Loftin issued a statement on September 17th saying that recent bias and discrimination were totally unacceptable. Loftin’s statement did not specifically state the actions he would take in order to promote diversity on campus or a timeline for objectives to understand Head’s concerns. The lack of action by university leadership motivated Concerned Student 1950, an African American student group, organize a protest themed Racism Lives Here on September 24th. A second protest, which consisted of 40 to 50 students, was also conducted on October 1st in order to demonstrate students’ concerns. Racial tensions escalated three days later when an intoxicated white student interrupted homecoming preparation activities that were being conducted by the Legion of Black Collegians. The drunken student walked on stage and when he was asked to leave the area he supposedly said, “these niggers are getting aggressive with me” (Loutifi & Knott, 2015). Chancellor Loftin issued a statement in response to the incident that was reported the next day. He stated that “racism is clearly alive at Mizzou” (Pearson, 2015). On October 8TH, Loftin shared his intentions to order diversity and inclusion training for students and faculty that would take effect in 2016.

In an attempt to voice their concerns, student protests continued during the October 10th homecoming parade. Protesters who were determined to seek the attention of university officials joined hands to create a blockade around Timothy Wolfe’s vehicle, the former president of the University of Missouri System. President Wolfe did not respond to protestors and rather was abruptly driven away past protestors. This particular public protest also was faced by agitators that seemed to disagree with the students’ demonstration efforts. Students’ reaction to a lack of campus cultural change towards minority students prompted Concerned Student 1950 to construct and issue a list of demands to university officials.

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