It’s been a tumultuous week for the University of Missouri, as both President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin have stepped down from their positions amidst protests about race relations. Though national coverage on these happenings seemingly sprang up overnight, issues with racial mistreatment have reportedly been both constant and severe for the student body at Mizzou. Only now, though, have students felt compelled to make the necessary changes themselves.
Whether or not one personally agrees with calling for the resignation of Wolfe and Loftin, I appreciate the level of solidarity present within Mizzou’s community. The university’s student government association officially demanded Wolfe’s resignation. Many faculty cancelled classes so students could join the protests. The football team collectively refused to participate in any more events until Wolfe was removed from office. These and many other examples of activism that appeared throughout the week show an admirable dedication to justice in this community. When it became clear that justice could not exist within the university’s existing structure, the community recognized that achieving change was the only solution.
I believe we as college students have much more power over our community than we may be conscious of, and that significant problems can arise when we treat our roles too passively. After all, many of us come from educational backgrounds that stress obedience to our superiors. In a college environment — although there is certainly something to be said for minding the rules — we are naturally allowed much greater freedom in making our decisions and determining why we choose to follow those rules. It is more important than ever that we know when change is absolutely necessary and are aware of the consequences that arise from change.
Elon University, like any community, is certainly not without its faults, especially regarding its issues in diversity. While I’m certainly not calling for the same level of action as in Mizzou, as I don’t believe our problems have escalated quite so critically thus far, I think we should adopt a similar mindset: College students can affect their environment and should be free to act when change is crucial. By believing in our own strength as students, as well as demonstrating that strength, we can work to both improve our own community and ourselves as individuals.