On student activism
Manuel De Jesus | Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Student activism has been an integral part of university life for a long time, and it has pushed for important growth. Recently, student organizations have made their voices heard at the University of Missouri and Yale University.
African-American students at Missouri protested the lack of action from President Tim Wolfe against racism on campus. Yale students protested against an e-mail sent by Erika Christakas, wife of Professor Nicholas Christakas, who presides over one of Yale’s undergraduate colleges, regarding potentially offensive Halloween costumes.
In both cases, students demanded that leaders on their campuses resign for not taking a stand for their interests. Wolfe, and University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, resigned from their positions earlier this week, and Yale students want the Christakases to step down.
As concerned as I am regarding both of these groups’ issues, is forcing leaders to step down the answer? I think it’s a travesty that they are being demanded into exile for not taking action. Whatever happened to having two parties sit down, respectively converse and come to a solution? Is that not a viable option today?
In the Missouri case, African-Americans students are upset because the leaders failed to take action against a swastika drawn in dorm and constant racial slurs being used by students. According to various news sources, these students immediately resorted to demanding the resignation of the school’s leaders. I don’t disagree that racism should be an issue that these leaders tend to, but why are they violently ousting these leaders without having a calm, progressive conversation about what can be done to improve the environment for those who feel offended and unsafe? I don’t know all the facts because I’m not a Missouri student, but I’m sure Wolfe and Loftin weren’t encouraging racism or blatantly ignoring the students’ concerns. Once the football team threatened the university by refusing to play or practice, the president and chancellor had no choice but to resign without a conversation ever taking place.
I also agree with Yale student activists in that there should be a conversation about the content of the e-mail Christakas wrote. While she simply gave her opinion regarding the freedom of choice students should have when selecting costumes, there needs to be a line drawn as to what should and shouldn’t be tolerated, especially if students are intending to offend an entire group by wearing certain costumes.
But why do we have to immediately attack those who have differing views from us?
As students, we should respectively listen to what others have to say, give our side of the story and come to an agreement for what actions need to be taken to improve the university.
If you watch the student protests against Professor Christakas in a YouTube video posted by FIRE, an organization meant to defend the rights of individuals at college campuses, one student tells Christakas that if he doesn’t want to protect the safety of the campus, he should leave and take another position. She cusses and yells while students rallying around her applaud her with snaps.
Again, I’m not a student at Yale so I don’t know the entire story, but just by watching that video it’s clear that there’s a huge issue regarding the way students there are acting against campus discrimination.
As a student body, we need to react and take action against things that negatively affect our lives at our universities, but let’s not forget that our leaders are humans too. Communicate, listen, understand where everyone is coming from and come to a resolution. Trying to instantly remove everyone who opposes our views, whether presidents or students, from our institutions shouldn’t ever be considered a victory or the answer to our problems.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.