Several recent college discrimination cases have called attention to the serious safety concerns of Black students on campuses nationwide. Lawsuits filed against a number of universities have shown that African-Americans students weren’t feeling safe or valued at schools.
One lawsuit involved a Black student’s allegations of discrimination on the basis of race and sex at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Gary Prewitt, a graduate student who lives outside of Nashville, Tennessee, and began taking online master’s degree classes in 2009 to become a teacher, was unfairly denied a request in 2012 to complete an assignment to earn a higher grade for a class that he took previously, he said. His paper for another assignment, as well as requests to administrators for information about his degree status, were rejected, according to complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Education and in U.S. District Court in Nashville. Prewitt failed to provide enough evidence to meet a burden of proof, as outlined in a judge’s ruling shooting down his complaints, the Pioneer Press reported.
Prewitt’s argument — garnering attention after four white students were suspended for wearing blackface in April — highlighted the concern shared by other students of color in feeling unprotected and unsupported at schools. When students needed to turn to professors for help, they were rejected, several discrimination lawsuits have revealed.
Another case in point: A former Tennessee all-American track star sued a coach at the University of Missouri for racial discrimination. Coach Brett Halter, who is white, referred to Black athletes and staff as “you people” and engaged in demeaning behaviors targeting people of color, Carjay Lyles, an athlete who worked for the University from 2013-2017, said in a lawsuit cited by the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Students at other colleges, including Harvard University, where African-American students faced bomb threats over holding their first Black graduation, have also felt like they were subjected to hostile college environments while just engaging in higher learning. The discrimination cases and sentiments expressed by students made it clear that safe spaces were needed for students of color.
Those future prospects weren’t looking so bright, at least not immediately. The U.S. Department of Education was hellbent on Trump’s rollback of Obama-era civil rights protections for students, as well as rescinding affirmative action, showing that a mass movement may be needed in the fight against harmful discrimination.