Students gather to pray for safety on University of Missouri campus

Sophomore Melissa Lawrence spoke in Kogan Plaza on Wednesday night, as participants gathered in solidarity with students at the University of Missouri. The system's president resigned this week after racial unrest on the campus.  Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Sophomore Melissa Lawrence spoke in Kogan Plaza on Wednesday night, as participants gathered in solidarity with students at the University of Missouri. The system’s president resigned this week after racial unrest on the campus. Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Staff Photographer
This post was written by Hatchet Staff Writers Regina Park and Jeanine Marie.

The racial unrest at the University of Missouri sparked a wave of sympathy and protest at GW and other schools around the country tonight.

About 70 students gathered in Kogan Plaza at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday evening. The group prayed for the safety of students at the University of Missouri, where months of controversy culminated in the resignation of its system president, Tim Wolfe, this week. Conversations about race in higher education and the rights of student activists have cascaded across the country this week following Wolfe’s resignation, as well as the resignation of the chancellor at the flagship campus in Columbus, Mo.

Sen. Melissa Lawrence, CCAS-U, said that the meeting was spontaneous, and a product of conversations between among Student Association senators about the threats of violence to black students at the University of Missouri. This week, two students there were arrested for posting threats against black students on Yik Yak, the LA Times reported.

“I just wanted to create a safe space for discussion,” Lawrence, a sophomore, said.

The Black Men’s Initiative at GW and Allied in Pride asked students to wear black to class on Thursday to stand in solidarity.

Tension at the University of Missouri escalated during the school’s homecoming parade in October, when students demonstrated in front of Wolfe’s car. He remained in his car throughout the 10-minute confrontation, the Maneater reported.

Over the last several weeks, one graduate student staged a hunger strike and the football team said it would not play or practice until Wolfe resigned – a decision that their coach supported and that would have cost the institution at least $1 million, the LA Times reported.

The SA included a list of resources – like Mental Health Services and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion – in a message on its Facebook page that was posted on Wednesday night. GW’s chapter of the National Council of Negro Women, the GW College Democrats and dozens of students, have posted similar messages to social media.

“To the students of color at Mizzou, we, student allies at the George Washington University, are in solidarity with you. To those who would threaten their sense of safety, the world is watching. The recent events at Mizzou, Yale, and Ithaca highlight the importance to have a real conversation about diversity and inclusion on college campuses,” the SA post reads.

Students at the University of Missouri have banded together against incidents of racism on their campus this semester, many under the nickname Concerned Student 1950, named after the year black students were first admitted to the university. Last month, members of the Legion of Black Collegian’s Homecoming Royalty Court were harassed and students called for the removal of a statue of Thomas Jefferson, who owned slaves, on campus.

Missouri is not the only place conversations about race in higher education have occurred this year. More than 1,000 students and faculty at Ithaca College staged a walk-out on Wednesday afternoon, The Ithacan reported. They called for the resignation of President Tom Rochon, who protesters say failed to effectively respond to a string of racist incidents reported on campus earlier this academic year.

On Monday, students at Yale University, where emails from officials about culturally sensitive Halloween costumes sparked debate about racial inclusion at the elite institution last week, marched from its Afro-American Cultural Center to its Cross Campus quad. Demonstrators passed the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house, where brothers allegedly held a party with for “white girls only” last week.

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