Columbia should continue to show solidarity, support diversity

By Editor-in-Chief

As colleges across the nation are struggling to adequately support diverse student bodies, it has become increasingly apparent that Columbia’s more liberal, urban campus environment is more amenable to change than campuses such as Yale University and the University of Missouri.

The Nov. 9 resignation of the University of Missouri System’s President Tim Wolfe occurred because the racial inequality and related harassment  students had long been fighting against continued to exist at the college.

Student-led protests gained national attention, and the viral video of Mizzou faculty shooing away the media from covering the public campus goings-on has sparked debate in classrooms and nationwide. 

Some may have thought Wolfe’s resignation and the announcement of Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin’s looming resignation would defuse racial tensions at Mizzou, but students say that has not been the case.

One student, Aja Guyton-White, who was an elementary school classmate of mine, took to Facebook Nov. 10 to share her personal experience at Mizzou in response to the controversy. Guyton-White detailed sitting in her college library, afraid to leave the building alone to get in her car and go home for the day. As a senior at Mizzou, she said last week was the first time she felt unsafe at the university, but the intensity of the week’s events made her feel “about ready to transfer.” 

Taylor Reid, also a senior at Mizzou and a former high school classmate of mine, published an open letter to the university campus on her blog Nov. 13 in light of the week’s tensions. She noted that holding Wolfe responsible for all racial issues at the college was unrealistic on the part of some students.

“It’s irrational to think one man could be responsible for such a widespread problem America has always faced,” Reid wrote, but clarified that the administration did let students down. “So many steps were taken before this point, so many letters, so many calls for action, rallies and pleas—all unanswered and leading to no reform.”  

On Nov. 13, Columbia students showed their support for fellow students at Mizzou. As reported in the Front Page story, the college’s Student Government Association, Black Student Union, Senior Vice President and Provost Stan Wearden and Vice President of Student Success Mark Kelly all gathered in a Stand of Solidarity in front of the 624 S. Michigan Ave. Building to share supportive words for those experiencing hateful acts at Mizzou and discuss personal experiences with racism. 

Hearing these stories of hostile experiences is discouraging, as the majority of millennials like to believe we are more progressive than previous generations.

However, these recent events highlight how environmental factors and leaving long-standing problems unaddressed contribute immensely to the social structure of a campus.

I am proud of Columbia’s students for showing solidarity with those at Mizzou, and while attending a more urban college may come with the built-in privilege of  experiencing a liberal atmosphere, I am hopeful that Columbia continues to improve its own efforts to support a diverse learning environment and encourage safe spaces for all its students, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, religious affiliation or any other facets of one’s identity.

Columbia’s efforts to support a diverse campus are still just beginning, but we should celebrate our diversity and not take it for-granted, as we continue to see that some college students are still fighting to be treated with basic respect at their own schools.