Mizzou Protests Set Off Wave of Student Activism on College Campuses

In the week since student protests led to the resignations of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe and Columbia campus Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, students at colleges and universities across the country have voiced their own concerns about what racial discrimination they say they’ve faced and the supposed indifference of campus administrators.

The Yale University community made the news around Halloween when students and faculty clashed on the issues of discrimination and free speech. President Peter Salovey has since announced a number of plans to support minority students on campus, including the establishment of an academic center for race and social identity and the hiring of faculty in those areas.

At the University of Kansas in Lawrence, students in the group Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk presented university administration with a list of demands to improve campus diversity, such as the hiring of more minority faculty, as well as the ouster of three student leaders.

Students at Occidental College in Los Angeles continue to occupy an administrative building on the campus, calling for President Jonathan Veitch’s resignation. At nearby Claremont McKenna College, Dean of Students Mary Spellman resigned last week after students criticized her response to racially charged incidents.

Protests, walkouts, and solidarity marches have been staged at Howard University; Smith College; the University of California, Los Angeles; Brown University; and others. Demands for more support for minority students have also been made on campuses as varied as Purdue University, Ithaca College, and the University of South Carolina.

Many schools have also announced the hiring of, or plans to hire, a chief diversity officer. Marché Fleming-Randle was appointed assistant to the president for diversity at Wichita State University; Vanderbilt University named George C. Hill as its first chief diversity officer, and the universities of Connecticut and Alabama both announced plans to hire a chief diversity officer to improve campus diversity.

“We are into a new cycle,” Benjamin Reese, president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, told NBC News. “Issues of race are embedded into society, they’ve not changed in the past six months. The activism has served to shine a light on issues not being highlighted.”

“There will be an impact on the broader society,” he continued. “Student activism serves the purpose of highlighting issues. What is happening on the campuses of colleges and universities is also occurring across this nation. As campus environments shift, there is a national societal shift.”