Watching The Hawks’ Tabetha Wallace sounds off on the hunger strike that forced the resignation of Mizzou’s president.

“It should not have taken this much…And it is disgusting and vile that we find ourselves in a place that we do."

Those are the words of Jonathan Butler, who’s hunger strike to force the University of Missouri’s administration to address a long and legitimate list of grievances regarding an increasingly hostile and dangerous environment for black students started a landslide of change on the 77 percent white campus.

COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 9: Jonathan Butler, a University of Missouri grad student who did a 7-day hunger strike addresses students on the campus of University of Missouri where. students celebrated the resignation of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe amid allegations of racism.  (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

After the use of proper channels, peaceful protests and dialogue yielded absolutely no response from the administration, including the president of the University of Missouri system Tim Wolfe.

Which is how it came to pass that Jonathan Butler, the campus group Concerned Student 1950 and a growing number of students, including the school’s football team, joined the cause.  They pitched tents on the quad, held vigils and prayed together. Prayed to be heard, for their pain to be recognized.

For the very school they worked so hard to get into and are putting themselves into a lifetime of debt to attend, they are addressing the years and years of racial slurs screamed at minority students: the racist slurs painted on buildings, the discriminatory treatment of black students from health services to security, or even when two white students dumped bags and bags of cotton balls in front of the Black Cultural Center.

No matter how you look at it, a culture of casual and institutionalized racism and bigotry has been festering at this and other Universities for decades.  And now, in the wake of Ferguson and Baltimore, a generation of young students whose very job it is to think and challenge the status quo in service to a better future are being maligned.  The student protestors are being ridiculed for objecting to those journalists who were acting like tabloid piranhas at the sight of blood.

It’s unfair.  Not just because the students protesting across this country in solidarity have every right by the laws of our nation to do so but also because it is an inherent duty of the student, the thinker and the academic to challenge the status quo.  That is why we fill buildings with books for them to read.  That is why we ask them to write their thoughts down.  That is why we ask them to challenge each other.

Which is what the Mizzou students did.  They challenged an ineffectual administration that simply refused to believe that the nice (white) boys and girls of their hallowed halls could be even the tiniest bit racist or ignorant or just plain uncivil.  Which is exactly why the administrations of our universities and colleges across the United States need a major kick in the pants.

It is their job to set the standard for civil discourse and civil disobedience. And if those administrators and educators are too weak for the challenge then they should step down.  If they can’t handle people disagreeing with them, then academia is not for them.

An educational revolution is necessary in our halls of higher learning.


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