Anya Overmann and Julia Julstrom-Agoyo report on an extraordinary student-led protest in response to perceived inaction after a series of racist incidents on campus
This article first appeared in the December 2015 edition of the IHEYO Youth Speak newsletter.
College campus activism has been sweeping the United States in recent months as young people everywhere are finding the power of their voices and speaking out against institutionalised, as well as peer to peer, racism on college campuses. The pinnacle of this activism has taken place at University of Missouri AKA Mizzou.
Following many campus incidents such as racial slurs, racist graffiti, and threats which were not addressed by the school administration, protests began through September 2015 and into November when a student inspired by the Ferguson protests, Jonathan Butler, launched a hunger strike– vowing not to eat until the President of the University, Timothy Wolfe, resigned. Butler said, “Mr. Wolfe had ample opportunity to create policies and reform that could shift the culture of Mizzou in a positive direction but in each scenario he failed to do so.” His actions influenced others to follow his lead, including players from the Mizzou football team going on strike. On the seventh day of Butler’s hunger strike, Wolfe announced his resignation.
As the events unraveled at Mizzou, colleges across the nation such as Yale University, Ithaca College, and University of Iowa showed their support by holding their own events, protests, and candlelight vigils, in solidarity with the black students of Mizzou. Acts like these are meant to show the administrations of college campuses across the US that they won’t stand for these types of injustices.
This episode has been a clear demonstration that college students are to be rightfully respected by educational institutions and by anyone that would deny a human being their dignity. We as youth will not be silent on these issues that plague society. In this rise in campus activism, these students are demanding change and oftentimes contributing to a lot of progress. But as always in this kind of humanist work, our job is never finished.
Anya is a Humanist from Missouri, USA, and is IHEYO’s Social Media Officer. Julia is the Treasurer of the American Working Group.