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Members of Rutgers community discuss student resistance at college campuses

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From the hunger strikes at the University of Missouri to protests at Yale, black students across the country in recent weeks have been raising awareness of racial tensions among the institutions. 

Last night, the discussion was brought to the College Avenue campus, where professors and students commented on these national student rallies and delved into how Rutgers students can create change. 

Khadijah White, an assistant professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies, began with an introduction on the University of Missouri student protest, hunger strike and boycott of the football team that ended last week after the resignation of President Tim Wolfe.

After mentioning the protest at Mizzou, White also brought up recent student protests at Yale and other U.S. universities. 

Protests are happening in the state of New Jersey as well. 

Two days ago, black students at Kean University were rallying to raise awareness of racial unrest in the country when an anonymous Twitter user posted death threats to all of the black students at the school. 

“We are here to talk about the students who have against racial and social violence lately,” White said. “More than that, we want to engage with the faculty around to the issues that we have.”

Brittney Cooper, an assistant professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies, said that the students’ movements inspired her.

“What is really remarkable about these moments — students making demands and administrations listening to those demands,” Coopers said. “You must think about where the nodes of power is on campus.”

Cooper said students at Princeton, Tulsa University, the University of Alabama and Georgetown are renaming the buildings on their campuses.

The #BlackLivesMatter movement taught people that they do not have to accept institutional violence, she said, and that students can make demands from institutions they are part of. 

“You might ask 'Why aren’t faculty leading the charge?' Cooper asked. 'That is not how this works. We follow you guys, this is your institution. We are here to educate you guys, so what kind of education do you want to receive?”

Cooper also addressed freedom of speech versus safety of students of color.

Katy Gray, a graduate student and a member of the Graduate Student Association, gave a narrative of the activism that is happening on campus.

“GSA leaders are primarily working in labor organizing here on campus,” she said. “Labor activists on campus came together — we see a systematic targeting of departments that are informed by social justice movement. Teaching assistant and graduate assistant lines being cut largely in departments that have percentages of faculty and grad students of color.”

Gray said Rutgers students have the potential to activate something similar to the events at Mizzou.

Melanye Price, an assistant professor in the Department of Africana Studies, expressed opinions on black politics. Price primarily teaches material on student movements and social movements. 

"The thing about the civil rights movement that is most important and personal to me is the student movement," she said. "As I look at campuses today, it reminds me of the civil rights movements and the push for ethnic studies and the anti-apartheid movement — the push for universities to divest from South African businesses.”

Price said she has thought about what those past students did that present students can learn from.

“What were the mistakes that those students made that we can try to correct, and what were the things they did that might lean towards to the things you would be interested in?” Price said.

Students from previous generations did their homework about how institutions work, which Price said helped their causes greatly.

“They deliberated train and practice, before they engaged in protests,” Price said. “Because there is nothing more demoralizing than a failed protest activity.”

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