This week on Higher Ed in the News, a university president calls for action over words. Also, university leaders express concern over student safety amid nationwide protests. You can read previous versions of this series here and here.
Asking The Tough Questions
In a powerful article for Inside Higher Ed entitled “No More Statements,” Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough examines the racial divide in America and assesses the lack of progress on this issue. By looking at statements from colleges and universities over the past three years, and then comparing them to the ones coming out now, he comes to the conclusion that far too little has changed and the time is overdue for acknowledgement and action against structural racism.
To prepare others to walk this path, President Kimbrough provides examples of the deeper questions that everyone needs to ask themselves in order to move our society in the right direction. Those questions involve how to stay aware of laws and proper law enforcement protocol, where to find “opportunities for citizen oversight,” how to educate students and communities on racial issues, and how one can show they’re “committed to the difficult.” In the context of the recent killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Atatiana Jefferson, among others, this means bringing these horrific events to light and taking action to prevent them from happening again.
Excessive Police Force Against College Student Protestors
As has been the case for decades, college students are actively involved in the fight for social justice. As student bodies have gradually diversified, more black students have been involved in this struggle on more campuses, determined to address structural racism. Statements from institutional leaders offer words of support for these students, and they are also quick to voice concerns over student safety in the face of heightened tensions with police. As Shailaja Neelakantan reveals in a recent piece for Diverse Education, there are widespread reports of black college students getting detained.
In Columbus, Ohio, peaceful protests resulted in the arrest of recent Harvard graduate and Ohio State University grad student Seth Towns. While simply “standing and shouting slogans,” Towns was detained by police and taken into custody as bystanders caught the incident on video. Towns said that, “In a span of just 24 hours, I walked across a Harvard virtual graduation stage into the back of police van alongside other peaceful protestors—both of which I am equally proud of.”
Additionally, the unlawful arrest of two black student protesters in Atlanta, Georgia has garnered plenty of attention over the past weeks. In a disturbing display of police brutality, Teniyah Pilgrim of Spelman College and Messiah Young of Morehouse College were forcefully removed from their car by police after their tires were slashed and windows smashed. They were then tased and detained, and one of them went into an epileptic seizure. The entire incident was captured by a local CBS station’s live feed and the officers eventually had to turn in their gun and badge.