Campus Actions and Racial Injustice
June 5, 2020
Like many of you, we are horrified, angry, and, deeply saddened by the killing of George Floyd, and too many others like Breonna Taylor before him, at the hands of the very people who are supposed to serve and protect. We stand in support of students and other activists who demand change. Racist policing cannot be decoupled from the disparate impact of COVID-19 on those that are black, indigenous, and/or people of color nor from hate-driven attacks on individuals like Ahmaud Arbery and others targeted because of their skin color. This dehumanization must end, as must structural racism and the economic, social, and political systems that preserve the status quo.
The Institute for Democracy & Higher Education works to advance education for a more aspirational version of U.S. democracy, one that is participatory, equitable and representational, educated and informed, and effectively and ethically governed. We believe that it is the obligation of educators to use their academic freedom to teach and advocate for, and model, just democratic systems and communities. This mission includes working to eliminate structural racism and the dehumanization of people of color.
We appreciate the moving expressions of despair and frustration by institutional leaders, yet we would like to see colleges and universities respond more aggressively and creatively. Here are some innovations that we hope will inspire action and replication on other campuses:
- Wayne State University in Detroit announced the launch of a new National De-escalation Training Center to reduce deadly encounters between police and citizens.
- Prairie View A&M University is launching a new Center for Race and Justice and will require a mandatory class on the history of race for all incoming students in response to the George Floyd murder.
- The president of Kenyon College issued a letter to the campus community reminding that “dissent is a critical component of a liberal arts education,” and that students should join a peaceful gathering (wearing masks and keeping social distancing) this week.
- The University of Southern Maine will implement racial equity training and training on deescalating tensions for campus security officers and staff. All student affairs staff will complete a two-day course with the Racial Equity Institute, a program that the university has already used with students and staff.
- At Texas A&M University, the president is promoting voting as a first step in holding national and local leaders accountable for racial profiling and civil rights, starting with a major voter registration drive.
- The President of Clark University, in response to the arrest of some Clark student protesters, committed to a thorough investigation of the arrest and pledged to support arrested students.
- Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake attended a Columbus City Council meeting seeking a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis.
- The Stanford Center on Poverty & Inequality tracks how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting poverty, inequality, and labor markets. The Center also offers a free online course entitled America’s Poverty and Inequality.
- Framingham State University launched a new race and equity training program for STEM faculty to examine racialized teaching and anti-racist pedagogy.
- Campuses are rescinding admissions offers for students who post racist comments on social media.
You can find more campus actions in this twitter thread, which we will be updating. We also welcome additions, both democratic education and institutional actions to eliminate practices that perpetuate undemocratic conditions. Please send short descriptions and links to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We reiterate our pledge to do our part by providing research-based recommendations for closing turnout gaps in voting; fostering inclusive campus climates for political learning, discourse, and participation in democracy; and engaging in discussions across differences of identity and ideology, as well as other resources to help institutional leaders, faculty, staff, and students shape a more just and inclusive democracy.
Nancy Thomas, Director, and the IDHE Team
Peter de Guzman