Campus Protesters Across The Country Swap Ideas, Information
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Across the country this fall, we've seen lots of campus protests against institutional racism. Ibby Caputo reports that as these student movements gain momentum, they're also coordinating better with each other.
IBBY CAPUTO, BYLINE: It's pretty likely you've never heard a Christmas carol with these lyrics.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Deans tell us to trust but we know we must keep walking through a white man's wonderland.
CAPUTO: "Walking Through A White Man's Wonderland." Earlier this month, 50 students at Boston College gathered to sing this parody. They set up stage outside of their school's biannual Board of Trustees luncheon. Their goal - to highlight the lack of diversity among faculty, the administration and the Boston College Board itself. Sriya Bhattacharyya says targeting the board made sense.
SRIYA BHATTACHARYYA: The board has a lot of power over what the institution can do and plans that they can make and investments that they can make. So that's why we really wanted to reach the board.
CAPUTO: That's a goal shared by student organizers on other campuses. While student movements differ from school to school, they're also becoming more unified, with organizers sharing their tactics across the country.
BHATTACHARYYA: Some people have reached out to us asking us, like, do you have, like, a resource packet? How did you create this movement? Can you help us? We want to be as organized as you guys are.
CAPUTO: So the Boston College group created a toolkit, a six-step guide to campus activism that they blasted out on a few listservs. Della Mosley is a doctoral candidate at the University of Kentucky, where last week 40 students held a die-in outside of faculty offices. She says the BC toolkit helped activists there use social media more effectively.
DELLA MOSLEY: We have a Twitter, and we have Facebook. But we're not using it to the same degree. And so they had some kind of concrete tips in there on how often to post, like, what times of day to post, things like that.
CAPUTO: This activism toolkit isn't the only one out there. There's an extensive guide created by The Black Liberation Collective, a network of black students with an online presence, galvanizing student organizers to hold blackout protests, die-ins, sit-ins and walkouts. Zellie Imani is a founding member of the group.
ZELLIE IMANI: A lot of people aren't very aware of how to do certain actions. So we want to prepare them and direct them to the correct resources.
CAPUTO: School administrators are grappling with how to react to the movement. Last year, NASPA, a professional organization of higher-ed administrators, released an 18-page brief entitled "Responding To Campus Protests, A Practitioner's Resource." Kevin Kruger is the president of NASPA and advises school administrators not to be afraid of student activism.
KEVIN KRUGER: There is clearly a balance between giving students the space to exercise their First Amendment rights and to engage in that dialogue, but we also need to ensure that the academic mission of the institution goes forward.
CAPUTO: According to The Black Liberation Collective website, this fall student activists from at least 73 schools have issued demands to their school administrators. Most called for a more diverse faculty, diversity training and increased funding of cultural centers. Boston College organizer Sriya Bhattacharyya says that at the core of all these movements is the unifying belief that black lives matter.
BHATTACHARYYA: And if we don't take the responsibly to do something with the relative power that we have in the context that we're in, what are we going to say about ourselves as living in this era?
CAPUTO: With winter break around the corner, both students and administrators will have some time to reflect on the activism of this fall and how it's become a more unified front. For NPR News, I'm Ibby Caputo.
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