Get Up, Stand Up: Social Activism at 8 MSIs

While confined in a Birmingham city jail, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Rallies, protests, marches, campaigns and demonstrations are just some of the ways Minority Serving Institutions across the country are displaying their commitment to social action and activism. This week’s MSI Line Up features MSIs who answered music legend Bob Marley’s call to “Get Up, Stand Up. Stand Up for your Rights. Get Up, Stand Up. Don’t Give Up the Fight!”

1.) University of Maryland, College Park

The decision of the Missouri grand jury not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri set off protests across the nation. Students at the University of Maryland-College Park, an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI), marched across the campus in an effort to express their discontent with the decision. University of Maryland President, Wallace Loh who participated in the civil rights march in Washington, DC in 1963, called the campus community to reflection and action, saying “In the coming days and weeks, I encourage our students, faculty and staff to engage in open dialogue on critical issues of race and tolerance and justice.” Congratulations to the University of Maryland for their commitment to justice.

Wallace Loh

Wallace Loh, University of Maryland president

2.) Howard University

Students at Howard University, one of the country’s most prominent Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), are no strangers to social action. Howard’s most recent display of activism can be seen in the emergence of hashtag, #BlackLoveMatters, which stems from #BlackLivesMatter. #BlackLoveMatters arose as Howard University students protested LGBT intolerance amongst the Black community. Rainbow flags and signs that read, “God Loves Everyone,” were reflected all across campus. Our utmost respect goes out to Howard University student activists and their influence on social action through social media. #WORD.


Howard students protest on campus with “ALL Black Love Matters” signs

3.) University of California, Riverside

A group of students occupied UC Riverside’s administration building this past November in order to protest UC President Janet Napolitano’s proposal to raise tuition rates 5% per year over the next five years. The students felt they were not invited to the conversation regarding these changes despite having previously asked to be involved. “We asked to have dialogue before,” said Jessica Urguidez, 21, a fourth-year UCR student majoring in political science and ethics studies, “but we were not included in the conversation.” The protest allowed the students voices to be heard and for UC administration to consider including students in such monumental decisions in the future.

UC Riverside

Students at UC Riverside protest at the university’s administration building

4.) Gateway Community College

The environmental issue of access to freshwater is a common issue that needs to be remedied in many countries outside of the United States. Engineering students at Gateway Community College, an HSI located in Phoenix, AZ, have partnered with students at the University of Guanajuato, located in the small community of Guanajanto, Mexico.  In June 2015, Guantajuato students and chemistry professor Gilberto Carreno spent a week at Gateway.  This partnership has been fruitful for Gateway students and Guanajuato University students and reminds us not to take anything for granted.


Gateway and Guanajuato students in the lab at Gateway College

5.) Lincoln University

On Saturday, November 15th, Lincoln University students held a silent protest outside of the university’s Board of Trustees Meeting held in the University’s International Cultural Center. The protest came in response to president Robert Jennings comments relating to women and rape claims. Many at this HBCU felt that Jennings comments blamed women for their encounters with sexual assault. The protests put the students in position to have their voices heard about their dissatisfaction with university administration. They agreed to vote on a Vote of Confidence in the university and its directions. Way to go for students unsilencing their voices and unmasking their opinions!


Student with his mouth taped in efforts to bring about change through the #UnSilenceOurVoice hashtag

6.) Virginia State University

Hundreds showed up on a Tuesday morning in September to peacefully protest the direction Virginia State University is heading. The HBCU was slated to face a $19 million budget shortfall. Students were not happy with this probable direction and decided to peacefully protest in order to have their needs such as requesting a greater bandwidth for campus wireless in order to complete homework. This sounds like a reasonable request. Administrators at Virginia State University have responded to the protests by making it clear that they are listening to students and working to address their issues.


Virginia State University campus

7) University of Massachusetts-Boston

Modeling the Occupy Wall Street movement, students at UMass Boston (an AANAPISI) occupied the campus center of the school in order to protest cuts in public education. Although the students faced pushback from the university, the group made it a point to remain camped out indefinitely. Their demonstration created a buzz amongst the campus community and opened up other students eyes to an important economic issue.


Students camp out in tents for Occupy UMass Boston

8.) John Jay College of Criminal Justice

The Students for Justice in Palestine at John Jay College decided to pen a letter to the college’s president regarding their reasons for protest and demonstration on campus. The group was accused by members of the campus community of creating tension amongst Jewish students and the Hillel Club. The group, firm in their beliefs, made it clear in the letter that their mission is to bring justice and education about the human rights violations committed by the state of Israel against the Palestine people but not to intimidate Jewish students. In the note, the group wrote, “We were there to educate those who were open to and interested in learning.”


Students for Justice in Palestine group rally

Activism comes with costs, which the benefits far outweigh. No price tag can be placed on the spirit of solidarity which manifests from social action. The histories of many Minority Serving Institutions have often been rooted and grounded in social activism. We are all resting on the shoulders of those who came before us and for this we are grateful.

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