The Pervasive Legacy of Racism in Higher Education | WYPR

The Pervasive Legacy of Racism in Higher Education

Aug 29, 2017

A 2015 protest led by the Black Student Union at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Credit James VanRensselaer Homewood Photography

(We originally aired this program on June 20, 2017.)  

Last month (May 2017), the stabbing death of Bowie State University student and 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III grabbed national headlines, and left students and faculty wondering how the frightening and tragic incident could have happened on a college campus. Collins, who was black, was stabbed on the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park by UMd student Sean Urbanski. Urbanski, who’s white, was a member of an online hate group that shared bigoted memes and messages. While Urbanski has not been charged with a hate crime, students of color at UMd say Collins’ death is not an isolated incident and that racial climate on campus is fraught with bias and bigotry. In early May, a noose was found hanging in UMd frat house. 

College Park is not the only campus battling bigotry. Last month, bananas hung by nooses were found on the campus of American University in Washington, DC. Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth and other universities across the country have reported dozens of incidents of bias in recent months.

Some scholars have observed that racism on predominantly white college campuses is as old as the universities themselves.

Tom is joined by Lawrence Ross, the author of several books including The Divine Nine:The History of African American Fraternities and Sororities. His latest is called Blackballed:The Black and White Politics of Race on America's Campuses. He is a frequent contributor to

Ashley Vasquez is a rising senior studying sociology at the University of Maryland. She’s a member of the Student Government Association and the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, and serves as president of the UMd chapter of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. She’s also a member of ProtectUMD, a coalition of 25 student organizations representing eight minority communities at the University of Maryland, College Park. 

Matt Brown graduated from Johns Hopkins University this Spring with a degree in public health. While at Johns Hopkins he was a member of the Student Government Association and held several leadership positions within the Black Student Union. In 2015, as president of the BSU, he organized a protest to address issues of discrimination and bias on campus.

To read ProtectUMD's list of demands click here.  

To read University of Maryland President Wallace Loh's statement and action plan in response to Richard Collins' murder click here