In case you have actively avoided hot button issues as of late, the University of Missouri is in the midst of a cultural revolution. Every school should join in. This includes the University of Rhode Island.
With the resignation of University President Tim Wolfe and the “transition” of Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin to another role, Missouri is finally headed in the right direction. However, many people do not understand that.
It is true that Wolfe and his fellow administrators were not the ones who smeared feces on a residence hall bathroom in the shape of a Swastika. Nor did they threaten to kill any minorities they saw on the campus. They weren’t even the ones to empty bags of cotton balls or write racial epithets on and in front of memorials representing black excellence. But they did nothing to stop it either, which is just as bad.
In the end, action was only made when money came into play. Many players on the Missouri football team refused to play as long as Wolfe was still president. Plenty of professors went on strike until conditions were made more inclusive to everybody and not just the white majority. In today’s circumstances, plenty of people from all backgrounds believe that just because schools are no longer separated by race, that it suddenly makes them all fair. I cannot stress enough that this is not the case. Racism does not start and end with desegregation.
At the bottom of every college’s website, you will find a link to their statement of nondiscrimination. Missouri’s says the following:
“The University of Missouri does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, genetics information, disability, or status as a protected veteran.”
While the University of Missouri has a legal statement, it is clear that it was not followed after years of reported harassment to countless students that are not even exclusively black. Education is a powerful tool and inhibiting it for anyone should draw more national outrage than it has. The racial tensions we are finally seeing on mainstream media at Missouri are not isolated circumstances.
URI is not perfect when it comes to race relations by any means. The school’s Africana Studies department is one of the lowest budgeted programs in the entire university and faculty and student demographics could use more diversity among other issues. That being said, it is far better here than it is at a vast majority of college campuses across the U.S. Now is not the time to settle for what we do have, but fight for widespread equality and solidarity for Missouri, for every school in the country and for ourselves. This, of course, is far easier said than done.
Though American colleges’ institutionalized oppression are, obviously negative, there is still much to be proud of. The fact that people are rallying together to support inclusion on college campuses, and in society in general, is a very different reality compared to what the past has showed us. Enough is not enough, though.
URI is full of organizations celebrating diversity, many of which hold frequent and prominent events on our campus. Staying informed is the best possible way to usher progression. However, I still find that people are generally unaware when multicultural events happen here in Kingston. It could be because of lack of marketing and promotions or resources, but it could also have a lot to do with an overall sense of apathy on our campus.
2015 is a very sensitive time in our history. The decisions we make now are going to have a lasting impact. Now is as good time as any to be informed and involved with everybody, not a majority. I am not saying that every white student at URI is privileged or that there are not black students with more luxurious lifestyles than others. What I am saying, though, is that we have to work together above all to lead by example.