By James Simpson | TNR Campus Watch
Tensions have been high at the University of Vermont as student activists have been protesting perceived racial injustices and inequalities on campus. Among their concerns are how UVM handled some racial incidents on campus, including the Wesley Richter racial threats, notecards that were posted in the Davis Center expressing someone’s pride in their white privilege, and flyers posted around campus that accused immigrants and minorities of being problems.
Their protests included blocking the intersection of Main Street and South Prospect Street in Burlington on Feb. 22 during rush hour, and an occupation of UVM’s Waterman Building. They hope that by disrupting people’s lives and causing inconveniences they can bring attention to their cause and achieve some changes.
These changes are spelled out in a list of demands issued by NoNames for Justice, a student group at UVM. Included on the list is increased racial diversity for UVM staff, and renaming Bailey-Howe Library and Perkins Hall due to supposed ties to eugenics by Guy Bailey and George Perkins. They are also requesting a revamping of required diversity courses.
The students are also calling for top-level administrators to resign, including UVM President Tom Sullivan. The students are alleging that the administration is not doing enough to combat racism on campus and enhance diversity.
While the right to peacefully assemble is fundamental to our country, no one has a right to cause burdensome disruptions. Surely blocking the road during rush hour and occupying a building of offices and classrooms in the middle of the day are significant disruptions. By disrupting people’s lives, they are only creating a negative image for themselves and hurting their popularity. It also seems drastic that they are calling for Tom Sullivan and other administrators to resign, given that they have done nothing wrong.
Any students who have concerns about the way things are handled on campus should absolutely have the right to make their voices heard, as long as they do not cause public disturbances. There are ways to protest that do not involve disrupting people who are just trying to make it through their day.
James Simpson is a third-year political science major at the University of Vermont. TNR Campus Watch highlights controversial issues taking place on Vermont’s college campuses.