Saturday, November 14, 2015

Racial Tension in Universities

Across the nation, students from the University of Missouri, Yale, UCLA, University of Michigan, University of Oklahoma, Arizona State and many more, have been protesting due to concerns of racism.

Protests in the University of Missouri have especially become very intense due to the large number of racist remarks that have occurred at the school. For example, a white student asked Ms. Gray, a black student, if black people had greasy skin because slaves were forced to sweat a lot. On a separate occasion, Ms. Gray found a picture posted by her roommate of a black girl being lynched, which caused Ms. Gray to attack her roommate. Additionally, students started to smear swastikas on walls across campus, and there has been complaints and concerns in regards to racist attitudes towards the student body president, who is black. Many students were outraged, and thus, the problem then escalated to a point where black football players were threatening to Boycott football games. As a result, the president of the school, Timothy M. Wolfe, resigned from his position and urged everyone to "use [his] recognition to heal and start talking" (Source).

Likewise, at Yale, students have been protesting because they are claiming that the administration wasn't sensitive enough towards racial and cultural concerns during Halloween. Many of the students met with Peter Salovey, Yale's President, and addressed to him that the school did not attend to the needs and concerns of the minority students on campus. However, there have been dissenting point of views. Erika Christakis, a faculty member and administrator at Yale,  expresses her belief that students should be able to express what they want when she states, "Is there no room for a child or young person to be a little obnoxious... a little bit inappropriate or pro-active or, yes, offensive?" (Source).

At the University of Michigan, an Asian and white fraternity planned a party with themes of "rappers, twerkers, and gangsters" as well as the "back to da hood again" theme. This resulted in racial backlash because black students were not allowed to join the party or the fraternity. University of Michigan, however, is arguing that it's very hard for them to control and suppress these types of parties before they happen. Along with this, if the fraternity isn't letting people join because they're black, it's very hard for them to find evidence of this due to the fact that the fraternity will never admit that they didn't let someone in their organization on the bases of race.

The incidences of racial discrimination and insensitivity go on forever. The reason why these series of protests have erupted in universities across the nation, is because when students start to protest in one area, the compassion, concern, and drive for what they believe to be right, will spread to students in other places who will ultimately start to protest for the same reasons. Also, naturally, when people see a big crowd fighting for something, they will want to join in and fight for that same cause. One might even say that these protests are a cause of some sort of domino effect that has occurred in universities across the nation, resulting in a chain of outraged and passionate students.

Everyone is racist in some sort of way, and not all the racism can be suppressed in the world. Do you think that the students protesting are fighting for a cause that can't be fixed?
What actions should be done in order to help ease the racism that occurs at universities?
What type of racism occurs at the universities? Systemic, interpersonal, institutional, structural?

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Lea Tan said...

I think there will always be some sort of racial tensions within our country. However, I don't think these protests are always justified. In the instance of the Yale students who protested about a professor's email regarding Halloween dress code, I think they may have reacted a bit too harshly. In Yale professor Erika Christakis' email, she stated: "I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students." Her main point was that college students aren't children anymore; they shouldn't be told what and what not to wear on Halloween. She believes that young adults should have the ability to make judgments on their own and express themselves freely. I don't think she's wrong to believe that college students should get more freedom, and that if a student were to dress offensively towards a race, that student could be addressed individually. The way that students have reacted to this email seems to only put them in a bad light. I feel like the amount of publicity that protests such as this one get almost increases the racial tension that many people are striving to diminish.

Meghan Hilbert said...

I agree with what Erika Christakis' states. Although colleges should keep a strict ban on racism, it would be unrealistic for them to expect that college students will A) follow the rules completely, and B) stop racism all together. These young adults are too old to be doing these kind of rude, racist things like throwing parties and not allowing a certain race to come in. The students should learn to understand that they are adults and adults should not behave that way. Therefore, I don't think there is much a University can do with racism besides set strict rules and punishments and only expect the best out of their students. I would label this as interpersonal racism because it's in a college where students are doing direct things to intentionally offend.

ETHAN CHAO said...

I agree with Lea, that there will always be tension in this country. The students in these protests are being too harsh on their fellow classmates and professors, like in the case with Ms. Gray. These students are trying to tackle an issue they can't solve through protest. However, the Yale administration did have a point in discouraging students from wearing offensive Halloween costumes, as black-facing and doing other racially offending costumes is immature, and the student's reaction was the apathetic attitude towards racism the university was hoping to stop. Instead of conducting protests, the students could instead redirect that energy into the student body, and solve this issue of racism among themselves. The U of Michigan fraternity mentioned is also a point where students must moderate each other, instead of protesting, making huge crowds, and disrupting life for the people who aren't doing anything wrong. In other words, this

Carolyn Ku said...

It seems to me that Erika Christakis is saying that college students are adults who shouldn't need to be told what is and is not inappropriate to wear on Halloween. While I concede that Ms. Christakis is not as insensitive as some protesters have made it seem, I think that the protesters do have a right to be offended by Christakis's criticism of Yale's request of students to not wear "culturally unaware and insensitive" costumes. While Christakis is not criticizing the attempt to promote culturally sensitivity, her critique of the regulation of costumes (and student expression) on the basis that college students are adults seems questionable. Being a legal adult does not mean that you automatically know right from wrong; this is exemplified in how the president and some staff members of the University of Louisville wore stereotypical "Mexican" costumes and the resulting backlash from the school's Hispanic community*. Furthermore, Christakis asks, "Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?", acknowledging the fact that college students can be offensive; and I believe that costumes that negatively stereotype entire populations or recall hundreds of years of oppression and insult (i.e. blackface) are more than just "a little inappropriate."

The email that Yale sent out to the students does not, to me, seem overbearing or infringing on the students' right to choose what costumes they wear. It does not even discuss if a student wearing what is considered "culturally insensitive" will face punishment. It only "encourage[s] Yale students to take the time to consider their costumes and the impact it may have."**

We have a right to freedom of speech and expression, and Ms. Christakis and her husband have a right to bring up the implications of the Yale administration discouraging students to wear certain things. However, Christakis could (and maybe should) have brought up these questions in the classroom, rather than through a public email, in order to make it clear that she was posing intellectual queries on the extension of our freedom of speech, and not criticizing cultural sensitivity.