Inspired and emboldened by their peers at the University of Missouri whose protests lead to the resignation of the school's president, activist students are following suit from Yale to Ithaca College — and taking to Twitter to talk about being #blackoncampus.
Students at Ithaca College in upstate New York held a solidarity walkout Wednesday afternoon, demanding the resignation of President Tom Rochon, saying it was "vital to fight against both covert and overt racism in all places of education and empowerment" on Facebook.
Thousands of students filled the Ithaca quad and gathered around an area on campus known as "Free Speech Rock." Student leaders demonstrated, leading call and response chants of South African rallying cry — "Amandla! Awethu!" ("Power! Is ours!" in Zulu) — and even staging a "die-in," with hundreds of participants laying down on the damp pavement.
Student organization POC at IC, (People of Color at Ithaca) organized the walkout, stating on Facebook that they are taking a stand "for all the injustices students of color face on this campus and other colleges nationally."
The students said that several racially charged incidents have not been properly acknowledged by campus leadership, including an event last month where a prominent alumnus made racially insensitive remarks about another alumna at a public event.
It angered many students who said no one stepped in. President Rochon later addressed the issue in a statement, saying the college could not prevent the use of hurtful language on campus and could not promise that it would never host another speaker that might say something offensive.
Shortly afterward, students began calling for a vote of no confidence in Rochon.
"He holds the future of this college very strongly in his hands and he's letting it slip," said student body President Dominick Recckio on Tuesday. "Students feel pushed to the margins every single day on campus."
On Tuesday President Rochon announced that he would begin a search for a Chief Diversity Officer, to improve the campus' "racial climate and build a culture that lives up to its values of civility, mutual respect, and justice." Roger "Doc" Richardson, associate provost for diversity, inclusion, and engagement will serve in this role on an interim basis.
In the wake of the Mizzou decision and today's demonstrations, the national conversation has brought to the fore racial clashes on college campuses around the country.
On Monday in New Haven, thousands of students, faculty and staff members took to the streets in a "march of resistance." Tensions at Yale College recently hit a high when an administrator sent an email to students cautioning them about wearing Halloween costumes that might offend others.
A Yale professor pushed back against the warning, making the comment, "Is there no room anymore for a child to be a little bit obnoxious ... a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?"
In a separate incident, students of color were angered amidst allegations that the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon held a "white girls only" party.
In a message posted on the Yale News page late Tuesday, President Peter Salovey and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway wrote, "We cannot overstate the importance we put on our community's diversity, and the need to increase it, support it, and respect it. We know we have work to do, for example in increasing diversity in the faculty, and the initiatives announced last week move us closer toward that goal."
By Wednesday afternoon, the University of Missouri student collective known as "Concerned Student 1950," whose name pays homage to the year Mizzou admitted its first Black student, took to Twitter to call for Black students and alumni across the nation to share their experiences with the hashtag #blackoncampus.
The hashtag was trending, garnering nearly than 30,000 tweets by early Wednesday evening.
Jonathan Butler, who went on a self-imposed hunger strike in order to call for Mizzou President Tim Wolfe's resignation, joined in on the hashtag.