Within the last few months, we have witnessed an outburst of protest all over America’s schools of higher education reminiscent of the 1960’s when young Blacks staged sit-ins with nationwide disruption to the then-legal but unfair Jim Crow Laws. Fifty-five years later, Blacks and Hispanics who once were not permitted to attend these American institutions of higher learning, after protests, sit-ins, and demonstrations to gain the right, bare witness today of university presidents resigning from their posts based on the exact same hard fought struggles of overcoming racial barriers and prejudices in the quest to attain a higher education.
In California, back in the 60’s, the cost of higher education was low and was somewhat accepting of students from every race while a junior community college system was free to anyone who wanted to earn a two-year degree. Now we have a system where at some universities, Blacks and Latinos find difficulty in gaining admission and others celebrate and/or recognize individuals who perpetuated the divide based on race. In my opinion, sooner or later, this is also going to lead to protests.
However, the issue currently spreading across America with the sudden resignations of college and university presidents from their prestigious universities stems from the same struggles fought back in the 60’s. I will share with you a few instances that have garnered national attention from my friends at Diversity Inc. They have their finger on the pulse of equal opportunity and what is fair in America, especially corporate America.
In the past week Diversity Inc. has reported the following:
Georgetown University Buildings Named After Slave Owners
Students at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., participated in a sit-in demonstration on Friday at the office of President John J. DeGioia to ask that the name of Mulledy Hall, which is currently under renovation, to be changed.
According to The Georgetown Voice, the student-run publication, the residence hall is named after the school’s 17th president, and a slave owner, Thomas F. Mulledy. He sold 272 Black slaves owned by the Jesuits in charge of the school to pay off $47,654.54 in operations debt in 1838.
Previously, instead of changing the name, President DeGioia established the Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation, a 15-member advisory group comprised of three students and faculty. The group’s goal was to assist him in addressing the school’s history with slavery.
In an email sent on Saturday, DeGioia said that until a permanent change is made, Mulledy Hall will be known as “Freedom Hall” and McSherry Hall will be “Remembrance Hall.” McSherry Hall was named after William McSherry, a Georgetown president, who advised Mulledy on the selling of slaves. He sold slaves as well.
Additionally, the Working Group will also have events for dialogue regarding the issue this week and a teach-in on Dec. 1.
Brown University Faces Controversy
At Brown University last week, students joined their peers at other colleges in protesting racial discrimination on their campuses. Students shared personal statements and experiences followed by a walkout and teach-in from Africana graduate students.
Brown is located in Providence, R.I. The student body is 43 percent White, 12 percent Asian, 11 percent Latino, 6 percent Black and less than 1 percent Native American. Currently, the university is facing racial bias allegations from a Dartmouth student.
Dartmouth College Teaches #BlackLivesMatter
On Thursday night, student protesters at Dartmouth College vocalized their support of the movement. Activists began to chant “Black Lives Matter” in the school library, shown on cell phone video.
The geography department and African and African-American studies program at Dartmouth added a spring-term course “10 Weeks, 10 Professors: #BlackLivesMatter,” dedicated to considering race, structural inequality and violence in both a historical and modern context.
At Dartmouth, an Ivy League university in Hanover, N.H., race-related tension has existed on campus for quite some time. The student body is 47 percent White, 14 percent Asian, 8 percent Latino, 7 percent Black and 2 percent Native American.
Claremont McKenna College Dean Resigns
Yet another college official has resigned following protests from students speaking out against racial injustices on campus. Mary Spellman, who served as a dean of Claremont McKenna College (CMC) in Los Angeles, announced her resignation last Thursday following an email she wrote in which she seemed to infer minority students don’t necessarily belong. The school was ranked number three on the Princeton Review’s colleges with the happiest students; however, recent events showcase a different side of the college and some less than happy feelings.
CMC, a liberal arts college with about 1,300 students, has a more diverse population than the University of Missouri and Ithaca, both of which were at the center of protests over the past couple of weeks. According to its website, Claremont McKenna’s student body is just 43 percent White. However, only 12 percent of CMC’s students are Hispanic; meanwhile, nearly half of Los Angeles is Hispanic.
Missouri gets new interim president
Michael A. Middleton, a long-time familiar face on the University of Missouri campus, was appointed the interim president of the entire university system. The decision was announced at a press conference last Thursday.
Former president, Timothy M. Wolfe, recently resigned on Monday morning following growing protests by Black students including a hunger strike, the threat of a walkout by faculty and a boycott by the football team, all due to the lack of addressing racial issues on campus.
It is not going to stop until all people are treated with dignity, respect and feel valued in our great country that we all believe in.