Which Way Will Campus Protests Go?

By Mark Naison (November 23, 2015)

One of my great fears with the current wave of campus protests is that Universities will respond to student protests by trying to reshape student and faculty attitudes rather than having universities change who they recruit and admit and hire. Right now, what institutions seem to be doing, in part because this is what students are asking for, is creating new “Diversity Offices,” while initiating workshops and training sessions, along with a handful of new courses, some voluntary some mandatory, to make faculty and students more aware of their own biases.

If this is all the current protest movements achieve, the changes will be marginal. Universities will simply produce more culturally sensitive elites to rule over a nation where upward mobility is frozen, wealth is concentrated at the top and the middle class is shrinking.

The bigger challenge is to get Universities to recruit and fund far more students from low and moderate income communities and from marginalized communities.

In a school like Fordham, or even Columbia and NYU, it means recruiting less students from gentrified urban areas and wealthy suburbs and more students from communities like the Bronx, Mount Vernon, or Southeast Queens.

It also means recruiting far more faculty of color, and faculty who WANT to teach students who are first in their families to go to college, from the huge pool of talented scholars our graduate programs have produced.

University administrators will resist these changes, not because they disagree with them, but because they will offend very powerful and wealthy donors and members of Boards of Trustees.

It is up to student, alumni and faculty to engage in protracted trench warfare, over years, not months, to change who universities hire as faculty and recruit as students.

Whether the current movement has this kind of stamina and staying power only time will tell.

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