The youths! Everyone loves to complain about the youths. But a study that polled the presidents of hundreds of higher educational institutes have more or less proved that the last gasp of Millennials and the first wave on Gen Z-ers are organizing for social causes—and in turn, they’re changing the very make-up of their campuses. But it’s not only students who are doing this—it’s the administrators, too.
The study opened with three simple words that have embodied the dynamism of the socio-political activist movement over the past few years: “Black Lives Matter”:
“As microcosms of society, college and university campuses are experiencing their own era of racial awareness, tension and unrest. Front and center in this movement are recent student protests focused broadly on social justice, and more specifically on campus diversity and inclusion.”
The American Council on Education’s Center for Policy Research and Strategy collected data for the report with an online anonymous survey, which sought answers from 567 college and university presidents, most of whom had worked in their posts for four or more years. All in all, it aimed to not only examine the role of activists on campus, but how “the experiences and perceptions of those at the helm of our nation’s postsecondary institutions” played into changes that were or weren’t being made.
The report found that “nearly half of four-year presidents and 13 percent of two-year presidents indicated students on their campus have organized around concerns about racial diversity.”
It also noted that 50% of students at four-year public colleges and universities have stated that they have organized, with students at private institutions only slightly less at 45%. Overall, the presidents polled also stated that they had met with organizers more than once.
The events that students attended and/or organized most frequently tended to be those that affected or were affected by “racial climate,” with outside influences like current events essentially having a direct correlation to the way the majority of college and university presidents handle on-campus policy at some level.
“Seventy-five percent of four-year presidents and 62 percent of two-year presidents believe high-profile events (e.g., those related to #BlackLivesMatter, immigration, Islamaphobia) increased the campus-wide dialogue or dialogue within certain groups. As one president wrote, ‘The national issues have manifested at my campus as a genuine focus on eliminating the disparity in student academic achievement by ethnicity and on being more proactive in diversifying the faculty.’”
As implied in the excerpt above, dialogue seems to be the key to it all—not only between student groups, but between college and university administration and the student body.
“Staying in close touch with those I serve is critically important,” one administrator explained in the survey. “I use face-to-face meetings of various sizes, open forums, social media, and regular written messages to the campus. Maintaining a healthy campus climate where everything thrives requires hard work and openness to diverse perspectives every day.”
As the Atlantic relayed in an investigative piece related to ACE’s study, around 40% of the presidents surveyed stated that dialogue has increased significantly on school grounds.
While the data published in the study was released on March 8, it’s only a preliminary sample, and we’ll have an even bigger picture of all that the youths have wrought sometime later this year.
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