Two major American Universities have been thrust into a state of unrest due to activism in the name of "social justice" and "diversity" late this fall semester. Yale University's crisis was triggered by duelling emails concerning Halloween costumes, while trouble at the University of Missouri began with a isolated incidents of drunks using racial slurs and has escalated into a series of boycotts hindering campus services.
At Yale tensions erupted when Erika Christakis the associate Master of Sillman College1 and child development faculty member responded to a Dean's email suggestion to avoiding offensive costumes and traditions on Halloween with a message that included (archived):
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? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition.
With that the Christakis family became the target for outraged students and faculty members for violating their "safe space" with students who are alleged to be residents of Stillman College recorded on videos being circulated asking the member of the National Academy of Sciences "Who the fuck hired you?" (archived). Protests related to a racially integrated fraternity who allegedly after their party hit capacity closed their doors to everyone but white women have reportedly been subsumed and absorbed by the Sillman College outrage (archived).
Meanwhile the turmoil at Mizzou2 began with two isolated incidents in September and October. In the September incident a lone student reports a vehicle's passenger screamed a word which starts with the letter N and local media refuses to definitively identify at him. In the October incident a lone drunk in close proximity to an outdoor meeting of Legion of Black Collegians repeatedly offered what can be assumed to be the same word the media refuses to identify into his personal cellular phone.3 Administrators swiftly condemned these incidents and after the second ordered mandatory diversity training for the entire university.
In the last week the situation at Mizzou has deteriorated rapidly with one graduate student beginning a hunger strike and various groups starting boycotts. The demands center around the resignation of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe and extend to faculty hiring practices, university curriculum, and graduate student compensation.4 Of Wolfe personally they request apologies for among other things being white and male along with both his commitment to make changes on campus and his removal from office, though being out of office would make such changes hard. The latest group to announce a boycott is a cohort of black athletes of color. Their announcement was accompanied by a picture of 30 football players locking arms including most of the team's starting players (archived). The university is likely to sack Wolfe this week in time for Mizzou to field a competitive team against Brigham Young University on Saturday and to preserve athletics related revenue and recruitment.
In spite of all these efforts to "raise awareness" the student newspaper is reporting a group of four well dressed and inebriated white students included a member who said to a student of color, “You’re a nigger” this past Friday night (archived). It appears the actually nothing can be done to address this trigger.
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The full list:
I. We demand that the University of Missouri System President, Tim Wolfe, writes a handwritten apology to the Concerned Student 1950 demonstrators and holds a press conference in the Mizzou Student Center reading the letter. In the letter and at the press conference, Tim Wolfe must acknowledge his white male privilege, recognize that systems of oppression exist, and provide a verbal commitment to fulfilling Concerned Student 1950 demands. We want Tim Wolfe to admit to his gross negligence, allowing his driver to hit one of the demonstrators, consenting to the physical violence of bystanders, and lastly refusing to intervene when Columbia Police Department used excessive force with demonstrators.
II. We demand the immediate removal of Tim Wolfe as UM system president. After his removal a new amendment to UM system policies must be established to have all future UM system president and Chancellor positions be selected by a collective of students, staff, and faculty of diverse backgrounds.
III. We demand that the University of Missouri meets the Legion of Black Collegians' demands that were presented in 1969 for the betterment of the black community.
IV. We demand that the University of Missouri creates and enforces comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion curriculum throughout all campus departments and units, mandatory for all students, faculty, staff, and administration. This curriculum must be vetted, maintained,and overseen by a board comprised of students, staff, and faculty of color.
V. We demand that by the academic year 20172018, the University of Missouri increases the percentage of black faculty and staff campuswide to 10%.
VI. We demand that the University of Missouri composes a strategic 10 year plan by May 1, 2016 that will increase retention rates for marginalized students, sustain diversity curriculum and training, and promote a more safe and inclusive campus.
VII. We demand that the University of Missouri increases funding and resources for the University of Missouri Counseling Center for the purpose of hiring additional mental health professionals; particularly those of color, boosting mental health outreach and programming across campus, increasing campuswide awareness and visibility of the counseling center, and reducing lengthy wait times for prospective clients.
VIII. We demand that the University of Missouri increases funding, resources, and personnel for the social justices centers on campus for the purpose of hiring additional professionals, particularly those of color, boosting outreach and programming across campus, and increasing campus-wide awareness and visibility.