Yale, Duke, Colorado State incidents reveal miles to go on inclusion efforts on campus
Twitter was on fire with higher ed professionals who were quick to point that out.
This week, three incidents at public and private institutions in different parts of the country underscored the lack of racial sensitivity that is still too prevalent on college campuses — and just how out of touch some administrators can be when it comes to racism on campus. Twitter was on fire with higher ed professionals who were quick to criticize.
At Yale, a white doctoral student called the police on an African American student who was napping in the common area of a dorm. Apparently, this is not the first time this woman has targeted her classmate, and Twitter users pointed out the hypocrisy in the woman’s actions.
And the lack of response from the university:
It strikes me that this commitment, if real, is going to require a substantive response to the #NappingWhileBlack incident, which was:— Janet D. Stemwedel (@docfreeride) May 11, 2018
- NOT safe
- NOT respectful
- NOT supportive
- Pretty clearly a form of discrimination
What does "admonishing" a student mean? How is this disciplinary action — especially for one who has racially profiled black students b4? The grad student in question isn't a child to be scolded. She needs disciplinary action as per Yale policy. #Yale #NappingWhileBlack— Kamal Arora (@kamarora) May 10, 2018
But, to some, it’s clear the underlying issue is about control:
The contestation of minutiae like napping or benign meetings is not about safety or whatever the person says who calls the authority, be it the police or the supervising professor, it is about controlling the space to their benefit. That's what the Yale thing is about.— Tressie Mc (@tressiemcphd) May 9, 2018
Don't like music in coffee shop? Fire barista
At Duke, vice president for student affairs Larry Moneta was said to have gotten two contract employees fired over music they played in the coffee shop where they were working. W. Carson Byrd, an assistant professor at the University of Louisville, noted the disconnect between scholarly interests in other cultures and the actual ability to include people from those cultures in the campus experience:
Duke admin accused of getting two baristas fired b/c of hip-hop music; shows racialized notions of 'free speech' & how hip-hop can be studied, but not fully accepted on campuses. @aydeethegreat @DrARWashington @SociologistRay @victorerikray https://t.co/dvtdHrnWxg— W. Carson Byrd (@Prof_WCByrd) May 10, 2018
And others quickly pointed out the hypocrisy in Moneta’s own professed commitment to free speech on campus:
To those who believe that colleges and universities should prohibit hate speech, I encourage you to read this: https://t.co/dB5FfezKUZ. Freedom of expression protects the oppressed far more than the oppressors.— Larry Moneta (@Dukestuaff) April 27, 2018
Duke VP on toppling a Confederate Statue: "Don't take the law into your own hands!"— Eli Meyerhoff (@EliMeye) May 9, 2018
On a Black worker playing a rap song that offends him: "I am the law on campus. You're fired!"
Hypocrisy? Nah. Just a neoliberal bureaucrat masking structural racism.#DismantleDukePlantation pic.twitter.com/zPK1XTz5SY
Meanwhile, others applauded the university Duke president Vincent Price for clearly condemning Moneta's actions and placing him on leave.
It's as surprising as it is necessary. @DukeU president stepped up. Institutional power is no shadow boxer, administrators must acknowledge the weight and authority of privilege. https://t.co/LDjreeBkrj— karla fc holloway (@ProfHolloway) May 10, 2018
Students make mom "nervous"? Call police
Finally, at Colorado State, a “nervous mom” called the police on two Native American students who joined her admissions tour group, calling them “suspicious” after the 17- and 19-year-old brothers traveled seven hours to visit the campus. Adrienne Keene, an assistant professor at Brown University and a member of the Cherokee nation, said this is “nothing new” for Native people in what is now known as America, whose very existence in this country is seen as threatening.
Louisville's Byrd and others made similar observations about the idea that Colorado State should be a space that is free from non-white faces (although, according to Department of Education data, the university’s main campus in Fort Collins is 29% non-white):
The white woman called the police b/c she equated CSU to white space & property for her kids (as @tressiemcphd notes). She didn't expect students of color to exist & attend college too; that itself is a 'safety threat' to white supremacist views. https://t.co/V0gefoJpOD— W. Carson Byrd (@Prof_WCByrd) May 7, 2018
The woman visiting Colorado State said the brothers didn’t belong. The police officers who responded to the Yale student's call told Lolade Siyonbola that they get to decide who belongs, whether she believes she had a right to be there or not. One of the officers responding at Colorado State told the boys’ mother via phone this should be a lesson in “speaking up,” a reference to the boys’ decision to ignore questions.
And Georgetown sociologist Michael Eric Dyson wants the higher ed community — and the general public — to acknowledge it isn’t about what the students do; it’s about who they are and a need to remind them, as the police officers did in both cases, that they don’t belong.
Follow Autumn A. Arnett on Twitter