Students at Colgate University demonstrate against the treatment of minority students on campus and the University’s lack of diversity. Their activism sparked a backlash in social media. Read the article and see how they handled it. Discuss with your SoC chapter what you would have done.
By Avery Stone and Tyler Kingkade
Students at Colgate University have held a campus sit-in for three straight days, prompted in part by racist messages on the anonymous social media app Yik-Yak.
The protest started Monday when 300 students filed into the school's admissions building in Hamilton, New York, to demonstrate against the treatment of minority students on campus and the university's lack of diversity.
Inside Higher Ed reports that the protest was not only inspired by messages on Yik Yak, but by messages on other social media sites and comments made in person to students on the campus bus. Bigoted messages on Yik Yak have reportedly increased since the demonstration began (scroll down for examples).
Leading the protest efforts is the student-run organization Colgate University Association of Critical Collegians (ACC), who are promoting the sit-in on social media with the hashtags #CanYouHearUsNow and #ThisIsColgate. The group is also posting student video testimonials on YouTube, as well as photographs of students sharing their stories with handmade signs on Instagram.
A statement on the ACC's Tumblr page explains that the demonstration aims to raise awareness about various microagressions experienced by minority students at Colgate, whose undergraduate student body is approximately 70 percent white.
Additionally, the ACC published an action plan for administrators to help make Colgate more inclusive; the plan includes suggestions like requiring all faculty and staff to participate in sustained diversity training, making more financial aid available to needy students and hiring more minority faculty members.
"Until those action plans are met, we will pursue our sit-in here at the Hurwitz Office of Admission building," Sydni Bond, a student spokesperson for ACC, told Inside Higher Ed.
School officials responded Wednesday afternoon in writing to ACC's suggestions, with university president Jeffrey Herbst calling its response "comprehensive and intentional."
“We believe our response will be the basis for further discussion," Herbst said in a statement, adding that "Bias incidents and racism, while not unique to Colgate, are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. They have no place on a college campus, and they have no place at Colgate. We have heard you, and we will join you in the common goal of creating a campus environment that is welcoming and supportive of all of our students."
The school didn't publish online the written response it delivered directly to student activists. On the ACC's Facebook page, several members expressed dismay with the document, with one characterizing it as "severely inadequate."
"The administration gave us a vague response to the action plans," read a tweet from the group Wednesday night, added that members were taking a dinner break before resuming discussions.