Alleged racism at Yale, University of Missouri: Are colleges taking it seriously?

Two universities have been roiled by alleged racist incidents that students of color say speak to a larger problem of racism on the campuses and in the culture.

Today, the University of Missouri president stepped down in response to mounting pressure, including the football team’s refusal to play while he remained in office and the student government’s demand for his resignation. Critics said President Tim Wolfe ignored or downplayed racism on the Columbia, Mo., campus and was slow to respond to the growing outrage of students and faculty.

University of Missouri system President Tim Wolfe announces his resignation from office, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, during a UM System Board of Curators meeting in University Hall at the campus in Columbia, Mo. Wolfe has been under fire for his handling of race complaints that had threatened to upend the football season and moved one student to go on a hunger strike. (Justin L. Stewart/Columbia Missourian via AP)

University of Missouri system President Tim Wolfe announces his resignation from office, Monday. Wolfe has been under fire for his handling of race complaints that had threatened to upend the football season and moved one student to go on a hunger strike. (Justin L. Stewart/Columbia Missourian via AP)

“I take full responsibility for this frustration and I take full responsibility for the inaction that has occurred,” said Wolfe.

Minority students have been citing overt acts of racism at the Missouri flagship; the president of the students’ association reported two occasions when racial slurs were screamed at him. When Missouri Students Association President Payton Head shared those moments online in September, the floodgates opened and others shared their experiences.

As the Columbia Missourian reported:

 “I really just want to know why my simple existence is such a threat to society,” Head wrote. “For those of you who wonder why I’m always talking about the importance of inclusion and respect, it’s because I’ve experienced moments like this multiple times at THIS university, making me not feel included here.”

In his post, Head mentioned aggression against a Muslim woman who wears the hijab, a transgender student who was spat on downtown and students with disabilities trying to navigate Memorial Union. He talked about women who feel uncomfortable walking outside at night. In both the post and the interview, he described his experience walking past a bar with his partner and having drinks thrown at them.

One of those who responded to Head’s comments was Cynthia Frisby, an associate professor in the Missouri School of Journalism. She wrote on Facebook about her own experiences with racism, including this:

My most recent experience was while jogging on Route K in May of 2015 when I was approached by a white man in a white truck with a Confederate flag very visible and proudly displayed. He leaned out his window (now, keep in mind I run against traffic, so his behavior was a blatant sign that something was about to happen). Not only did he spit at me, he called me the n-word and gave me the finger.

In New Haven, Conn., Yale University is grappling with student accounts of overt racist acts, some related to social settings. In one alleged incident, disputed by fraternity leaders, a student says women of color were rebuffed from entering a Sigma Alpha Epsilon party by someone saying the event was “white girls only.”

That incident led other students to contend the Ivy League campus is unaware or unconcerned with the challenges underrepresented minorities face. A series of protests led Yale President Peter Salovey to meet with students to discuss their experiences.

Afterward, Salovey told the Yale Daily News, “I would say that to have about 50 minority students in a room with me saying to me that their experience was not what they hoped it would be, I take personal responsibility for that and I consider it a failure.”

There is a good column in the Yale Daily News by senior Rachel Wilkinson on being an African-American woman at Yale.

Here is an excerpt but please try to read her full piece:

My status as a Yale student hasn’t protected me from racist behavior on this campus, and my Yale degree won’t protect me from racism in whatever office I work in or neighborhood I live in after graduation. One of the most important lessons I learned in my time at Yale is that systems of oppression are ubiquitous, and that no combination of good intentions and advanced education will ever make someone immune from the tendency to perpetuate racial biases. As author Junot Díaz once said, “White supremacy’s greatest trick is that it has convinced people that it exists always in other people, never in us.”

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

38 comments
GB101
GB101

How many of these alleged incidents are documented, or corroborated by witnesses?  We have seen many many hoaxes over the years.  It is quite simple for a woman to claim that someone in a truck with a Confederate flag called her a "n!gger"  (I know I have to disguise this word, but I refuse to use the common phrase started with the N because I left kindergarten many years ago), but do we really know if this happened?  

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

I guess that all you complainers about black football players "having tantrums" and sullying the game of football have forgotten---or never knew about-- all of the sports boycotts over racism in the late 1960s. Oregon State, U. Wyoming, U. Iowa...and then there were the "Black Power salutes" when the national anthem was played before sports games, and before the Olympics Games. All familiar civil rights protests.  Glad to see this tactic resurrected.

BCW1
BCW1

This is a joke right? There are some real issues at UM for sure. but as one player put it if we were in contention for the SEC race, this race would not be an issue...good for him!

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Appeaser:Someone who feeds the alligators hoping they will eat him last.And for years, college administrators have been trying to appease the minorities, often by overt discrimination against their white students.Tell me again, how’s that working out for you?

My guess, most of the examples of “racism” cited by the article would be proven false if given any kind of scrutiny – prime example is the professor out in Texas who posted how she was stopped by police for “walking while black”.Then the dash cameras came out and we see she was walking down the middle of the road flapping her arms and oblivious to her surroundings.

So yeah, the next time your two year old throws a tantrum in the grocery store, just give them a candy bar.It’s the politically correct solution to everything….

CSpinks
CSpinks

Ms. Franklin said it all fifty years ago: "R-E-S-P-E-C-T."

Finnsrevenge
Finnsrevenge


Racial biases are something I know volumes about having lived in Atlanta for 30 years.  I am white, and have been the victim of subtle racism for many years.  Most people are not honest enough to admit it but it exists.  

CoffeeMug
CoffeeMug

@Grob_Hahn @Finnsrevenge and no one person can be racist, black or white. Racist / Racism is a race between groups of people. They are racing for wealth, resources, control, etc...

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Finnsrevenge 

Then you should be very sympathetic to college students who had experienced very unsubtle racism--slurs shouted at them, spitting--without the official administration doing anything to investigate.

Starik
Starik

@OriginalProf @Finnsrevenge Ah, but do we know that is what happened?  Some of this stuff was off-campus. Some was on-campus with people from off-campus. The painting of a swastika on a wall with human feces can be read as an attack on Jews, or an attack on Nazis, or, probably, just somebody who was drunk and stupid and not thinking much at all.

Finnsrevenge
Finnsrevenge


Racial biases are something I know volumes about having lived in Atlanta for 30 years.  I am white, and have been the victim of subtle racism for many years.  Most people are not honest enough to admit it but it exists.  

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@bu2 

Not related, for that episode had nothing to do with campus racism.

Jordan Parker
Jordan Parker

This will only make race relations worse. The black lives matter will now think they can do anything on campus. The racist students will continue to be racist.

The tolerant liberals, with their drowning of free speech, are WINNING.

Isn’t everyone sick of losing their freedoms?!? Tim Wolfe forced to resign, Donald Sterling forced to sell his NBA team, free speech not allowed on PUBLIC campuses, etc. We have expensive health insurance forced on all of us. Even auto insurance is forced on us (thank god for $25/month Insurance Panda coverage). What’s next? Mandatory phone insurance? We have taxes on top of taxes and our freedoms are slowly disappearing. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington would be rolling in their graves.

Oh yeah, let this sink in - this guy literally lost his job for being white.

redweather
redweather

@Jordan Parker No, he didn't lose his job for being white. He resigned in the face of mounting criticism about the way he handled this issue and others. 

WalterEgo
WalterEgo

@Jordan Parker “White supremacy’s greatest trick is that it has convinced people that it exists always in other people, never in us.”


She was talking about you.

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

@Jordan Parker

"Lost his job for being white"

He told you why he lost his job! Let me remind you.

President Tim Wolfe, a former business executive with no previous experience in academic leadership, took "full responsibility for the frustration" students expressed and said their complaints were "clear" and "real."

Allow him to take responsibility. He did what he did and got what he deserved!

taylor48
taylor48

@Jordan Parker Spitting on someone and calling them the n word is free speech?  Legally, sure, but I don't think telling a college community that hate speech isn't welcome is taking away anyone's freedom.  It's called treating others with respect.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Jordan Parker Let's look at responses begun by Bush, for example, including water boarding, monitoring of cell calls, and other intrusions into personal freedoms we hold so dear.

CSpinks
CSpinks

@taylor48 @Jordan Parker Over forty years ago, I told a young, inner-city mentee that I hoped that there'd be a day when I could call him a 

n---er and he'd know that I was just picking at him, not disrespecting him.

Unaffiliated Voter
Unaffiliated Voter

They should have just officially SHUT DOWN the FB program altogether here as universities do NOT need FB to impart education to the clueless masses.   Collegiate FB programs are rife with problems and are breeding grounds for future violent NFL types...

Society has had enough of this.  Get YOUR children OUT of government screwls as FAST as you CAN !!!

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

I wanted to share this statement in response to the president of the University of Missouri bowing to pressure and resigning. President Kristofferson Culmer of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS) said:

“As a student at the University of Missouri, I am pleased to see the administration listening and taking action with regards to the concerns of the student body. Unfortunately, it took extreme pressures and months of requests to reach this point. It took the courage of our student athletes and the potential loss of sport revenue. When the administration had the opportunity to address student concerns, our leadership was sadly lacking in the social and emotional intelligence needed to address the systemic problems facing, not only Mizzou, but our institutions of higher education nationwide. 

Across the nation, Americans are engaging in broader conversations surrounding the country’s culture of exclusion and oppression through racism, sexism and many other forms of prejudice and intolerance. Institutions of higher education are intended to be open spaces for the exchange of ideas and thoughts. 

When students do not feel safe, or feel ignored, this hinders that exchange – effectively negating the mission of continuing education. At the end of the day, university administrations have an obligation to their students. Yet, when there is no open dialogue, or there is limited engagement from leadership, student activism is proving there is another outlet to share our stories and make our voices heard.”

Starik
Starik

Football. If the players hadn't threatened rip the heart from the university, nothing would have happened.

Grob_Hahn
Grob_Hahn

@Starik Which SHOULD be a wake up call for "higher" education.  Sports programs should NOT be front and center.  

Starik
Starik

@CoffeeMug @Starik I have no idea whether this is an appropriate action for these officials to take - I don't know enough about it - but it's scary that a group of football players have this much power over the institution.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Starik @CoffeeMug 

In this case, I think the football players represented the will of a larger student group that felt they had been ignored. And given that most of them probably had some sort of athletic scholarship that they could be jeopardizing, they had quite a bit at stake too. When striking, they didn't know how the administration would act. Cancel all University support for them?

Robert1959
Robert1959

I wish they would have broaden their scope and demand all  schools (grade k-12, colleges, universities, etc.) remove anyone (President, Dean, Professors, etc.) who have questionable ethics (hatred, fear and bigotry). You can not have confederate flag waving or tinfoil hat wearing people in positions of authority at any college or university across the USA. Welcome to the 21st century and the civilized world - 2015

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

I think the key element in both situations is that official student organizations were involved in incidents that included racist behavior. In both cases, the Universities should have investigated and sanctioned individuals if that proved warranted. It's the show of indifference by University authorities that's provocative to the students.


That happened here in Georgia in the late 1980s, when a state University did nothing when a white fraternity held racist theme parties and racist words ("Niger") were found painted on Student Union trash cans. The African-American students held campus demonstrations and stopped the University for several days by picketing all the elevators, until the fraternity was sanctioned and the then-Dean of Students demoted.


Take the student complaints of racism seriously, colleges and Universities!

bu2
bu2

@OriginalProf What official organizations?  It was just a couple of random drunk "apparent" students called people the "N" word.  I haven't seen anything indicating there was anything official or systematic.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@bu2 @OriginalProf 

At Missouri, the president of the students’ association reported two occasions when racial slurs were screamed at him. That's an official student organization. At Yale, the SAE fraternity was involved. All student organizations have to be approved by the University, and that includes a behavior code. When reported, these incidents should have been checked out by University officials--but weren't.