The unrest at University of Missouri about the administration’s lack of intervention with racial slurs has raised a host of questions about campus culture. All venerable institutions have a tenuous relationship with racism, or more broadly, the politics of exclusion. Colleges and universities tend to be no exception, much as they often tout their progressive, accepting culture.
After weeks of protest, Missouri’s president and chancellor both resigned on Monday, marking a victory for protestors. One student, harkening to mid-20th century civil rights movements, remained on hunger strike until said decision was made. In many ways, the fight for social justice is long overdue. The consequences tell us that the fight for social justice is never done.
But in response, the protestors effectively shut the media out from public property as they camped out in protest, citing their campsite as a “safe space.” A student photographer was shoved away from the protesters’ campsite on the public quad. Another student journalist was confronted by a communications professor who called for “muscle” to move the reporter out.
The fallout of Mizzou’s victory highlights a certain institutional failure of understanding the role of news and reporters. The media is not a convenient mouthpiece only to be entertained while it pushes a pre-approved narrative or agenda. It tells the stories that matter long after you’ve packed up and won your victories, in the quest for meaningful change that society fails time and time again to normalize.
Granted that this is a story that should’ve gotten coverage a lot sooner. Campus media outlets are insulated much like any other academic group. It took the Mizzou football team walking out on a game for people to sit up and take notice. But where media often lacks in their timely understanding of social impact, they make up for in addressing the urgency of justice.
The Mizzou story also highlights the insidious ways that campus culture insulates itself from difficult conversations and contrary perspectives. “Safe spaces” are important – they help subcultures flourish in relative security. But to use them as an excuse for isolating oneself from any form of challenge is a disservice to their very purpose.
We at Humber enjoy the relative disengagement that comes from being part of a commuter campus. Students segregate into their sub-communities, retreating into a cocoon of selective protection that ignores a larger issue of safety. Why worry when we, as a subset, are not bothered?
Only last month did we finally implement a regulated safe space for our LGBTQ+ community, after years of seemingly ignoring their existence.
The powers that be remain tight-lipped about circumstances surrounding the suspension of our championship rugby team, ignoring the public’s right to know. A “culture problem” can very well penetrate the halls as much as a locker room, but we are not afforded the dignity of answers.
The day after shunning the media, protest leaders distributed a leaflet explaining that journalists not only had a First Amendment right to the campsite, but that they also should be welcomed.
The leaflet was titled “Teachable Moment”. Let’s hope Humber gets a copy.