Protests against racism on college campuses extend to Syracuse, Penn, others

By Mira Lerner || Copy Editor

Photo courtesy of Maranie Staab/Reuters

An Inside Higher Ed article titled “F&M athletes wore racist Halloween costumes” is one of the first hits on a simple Google news search for “college campus racism.” The most recent incidents of racism at Franklin & Marshall sparked great protest, but we are hardly alone- both in issues and in activism. The past few months have been divisive for colleges and universities across the country. 

Currently, Syracuse University is in the spotlight for a (still continuing) two-week long run of racist incidents on campus. According to the New York Times, the saga began on November 7th when racist graffiti was found on the walls of a dormitory building. The Washington Post reports that since then, almost a dozen more racial incidents have been reported, including an accusation of a group of students for yelling a racial slur at a female African-American student and a swastika carved into the snow outside a university building. The most widely acknowledged event happened one evening when a racist manifesto was airdropped to multiple students’ phones as they were studying in the library, said the Washington Post. The manifesto appears to be the exact document circulated by the shooter of the New Zealand mosque massacres. After this incident, a Jewish Mexican professor received a threatening email calling her a racial slur and suggesting that she die. 

In light of these events, daily functioning at the University was highly disrupted, much like it was at F&M. Several classes were cancelled and students remain fearful to leave their dorms. Also similarly to F&M, Syracuse students are unhappy with their administration’s response and have been staging sit-ins. They released a lengthy list of demands for the administration to address as well. The university’s newspaper posted some of the items, which include expulsion of students involved in racist incidents and punishment of bystanders, mandatory diversity education, clearer policies regarding hate speech, more counselors reflective of the diverse student body, and $1 million for a new curriculum that would address racism.

A few weeks ago at the University of Pennsylvania, a talk featuring former director of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, Thomas Homan, was shut down in less than fifteen minutes. The Daily Pennsylvanian reported that in the days prior, over 500 students and alumni signed a petition. Students from several other universities signed as well. “Inviting Homan as a guest speaker contradicts Penn’s claim of being a sanctuary campus that is committed to ensuring the well-being and safety of all of its students,” the petition read. Before the talk was scheduled to begin, students arrived at the venue and began protesting, resulting in the eventual cancellation.

Students at the University of Connecticut were outraged after a video showing a few white students loudly saying a racial slur was released. Students of color expressed anger, Vox says, because the incident reflects the historical issues of neglect they have experienced at the school. Both a march and a rally were held protesting UConn’s responses.

Closer to home, a racial slur written in salt was left on a table in a Millersville university building on November 4th.  A letter from the president was sent out to the student body condemning “all forms of hate, bigotry, and discrimination on campus” and announcing a police investigation. 

Franklin & Marshall is a part of a larger movement happening in higher education across the country. The past few months, and especially weeks, have seen an uprising in protests and activism against racism at colleges and universities. Although these events have recently been making headlines, a common theme among the protests is that racism has always existed on college/university campuses. Students’ focus now is to highlight the ways administrations have been ineffective and what steps must be taken to make campuses safer for people of color.

Senior Mira Lerner is a copy editor. Her email is mlerner@fandm.edu.

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