College students across the country left their campuses for the Thanksgiving break, but on at least three campuses, longstanding protests over racism continued. Here’s a look at developments on those campuses.
A group of student protesters stayed at Brandeis University over Thanksgiving, occupying an administrative building on the Massachusetts campus. So far, they have been in the building for 10 days.
The students want administrators to increase support for students of color on the campus. After releasing a list of demands, they entered the building on November 20.
Brandeis’s acting president, Lisa M. Lynch, met with the students soon after the protests began. In an email to the university over the weekend, she said she supported the students’ goals but was wary of their timetable. The protesters, unsatisfied with Ms. Lynch’s response, continued the occupation over the long holiday weekend.
A group of student leaders have put together a syllabus and FAQ sheet that they asked faculty members to use in their classes. By Wednesday afternoon 14 academic departments, organizations, and other campus groups had issued statements of support. Some professors started holding classes outside, on the steps of the building. At an emergency faculty meeting on Tuesday, professors in the department of African and Afro-American studies walked out to join the protesters.
Western Washington University
The university, in Bellingham, Wash., canceled classes last Tuesday, after racist threats appeared on Yik Yak. The next day, some students held a news conference in protest of the university’s response, saying it should have acted sooner after the threats appeared, on Sunday night and Monday, and should have done more to protect specific students who were the target. The students also ripped a statement by the university’s president, Bruce Shepard, that said the campus was safe.
On Friday, Mr. Shepard sent a lengthy email to the campus chronicling how he had learned of the threats and how he had decided to cancel classes. He reiterated his point that there was no reason to believe the campus was under legitimate threat, but said he understood why students felt frightened.
“Holding aside those for whom a specific threat had been made, the general campus was safe from a law-enforcement perspective,” he wrote. “However, with talk of lynching, nooses, and such, there were absolutely concrete reasons for many of our students to fear coming on our campus. We could continue to operate the general administrative functions of the university. But, how could we require our students to be in class under such a pall of understandable fear?”
The Seattle Times reported that the threats appeared to have been motivated by suggestions from some students that the university’s mascot, a Viking, be changed because it was not inclusive.
Mr. Shepard also wrote in his email that the university was in contact with Yik Yak, which he said had been responsive but had not, as of Friday, provided details about the threatening posts.
The president, who plans to retire at the end of the academic year, also wrote that he had made repeated offers of around-the-clock police protection to Belina Seare, the university’s student-body president and a target of some of the threats, but that she had not responded.
Ms. Seare, who is black, said earlier in the week that the campus police had told her there was not much they could do to ensure her safety, the Times reported.
Lewis & Clark College
Student protesters at Lewis & Clark College, in Portland, Ore., occupied an administration building through the Thanksgiving break, demanding that the institution’s president meet with them to discuss their demands for improving the campus’s racial climate.
The college kept the building — the Frank Manor House — heated and patrolled by the police over the break.
The protesters are demanding more diversity among faculty and staff members and the creation of 10 work-study positions geared toward campus safety, among other things.
Ellen Wexler contributed reporting.