Students meet at ISU Supports Mizzou protest


Max Goldberg/Iowa State Daily

A student hold back tears while talking to a crowd of students, faculty, and community members about racism on campus during a rally Nov. 16 in Beardshear Hall. The rally was to show solidarity with the students protesting racism at Mizzou, and called for action and reform from the ISU administration.

Ashley Green

Iowa State’s multicultural groups joined forces inside Beardshear Hall on Monday afternoon to show their support of the students at the University of Missouri in the ISU Supports Mizzou protest.

The Black Graduate Student Association, Black Student Alliance, African Students Association, the Latino Graduate Student Association and Latinos United for a Change were among the groups present.

This was done in support of the African-American students at the University of Missouri who have recently faced continuous discrimination. Events at the university have prompted Tim Wolfe, system president, to resign.

More than 100 students, faculty and others gathered in the main entrance of Beardshear to listen to those who have felt oppression at Iowa State similar to Mizzou’s.

Beginning in September, racial incidents at the University of Missouri have prompted students to organize and protest. It all started with a Facebook post by Payton Head, Missouri Student Association president.

The widespread post described a group of young people yelling racial slurs at Head, and his frustration with bigotry at Mizzou. 

Tension at Mizzou continued to build throughout the semester, including: a homecoming incident involving a drunken white man insulting a group of protesting students, who then continued to protest by blocking former president Wolfe’s car to get his attention; three “Racism Lives Here” rallies; a list of eight demands that included the removal of Wolfe as president and an increase in African-American faculty and staff; a graduate student’s hunger strike; almost an entire football team’s refusal to play; and national media attention.

Wolfe and Loftin both announced they would step down from their positions Nov. 9. 

And the support grew from some ISU students. 

“[Butler’s] life didn’t matter,” one ISU student said at the ISU Supports Mizzou protest. “Like it or not, it didn’t matter. What mattered was when the football team said, ‘You know what? We’re not going to play this game.’ We know when it comes to effecting change, the only color that makes a difference is green.”

In an attempt to centralize the issues at hand to Iowa State, students rallied in Beardshear Hall to stand in solidarity with Mizzou.

Holding signs that stated phrases such as “Black lives matter” and “#Solidarity,” protesters listened to what their classmates and professors had to say, occasionally erupting in chants and applause.

Daria Hicks, freshman in electrical engineering, was the first to speak. Hicks began the first chant, “ISU supports Mizzou.” The next speaker asked the members of the crowd to raise their hands if they had been the victim of racism, and dozens of hands were raised into the air.

Thoughts returned to an incident earlier this fall when Jovani Rubio, who was present at the protest, had his sign ripped while he was protesting at the Cy-Hawk tailgate in September, an event that spurred a more widespread university discussion about racism on campus. Even more recently, a statue of George Washington Carver was vandalized. Portions of the statue were found to have been covered in shaving cream Friday.

Similar to the situation at Mizzou, students stated their frustration with the administration’s efforts. 

“[The university] continues to live on an approximately 120-year-old legacy of their first African American student,” Maurice Washington, graduate student in agricultural and biosystems engineering, said of the statue’s inspiration, ISU alumnus George Washington Carver. “What else have they done? What else are they doing?”

Washington called for a system to be put in place that would allow students to report racial adversity. Another chant, “No justice, no peace,” followed Washington’s speech.

The absence of ISU President Steven Leath, who is currently out of town at an Association of Public and Land-grant Universities conference, also upset the crowd.

“It’s a shame they can’t come out here or even post about it,” one student said in response. “Where’s our support?”

Leath released the following statement via email Monday night:

“[The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities] meets jointly with the University Innovation Alliance, [of] which we are a member, that was formed to develop methods to assist under achieving students be more successful in college. These are very important meetings for ISU.

“The issue the students presented today is also important to me and I am happy to meet with them if they will coordinate with me. I work seven days a week, most weeks, on behalf of ISU and keep a very full schedule. I am very accessible but they can not expect me to be in my office if they do not coordinate with me.”

Protesters also noted the absence of Student Government President Dan Breitbarth, who was also out of town at the time of the protest.

Breitbarth said he wasn’t informed of the protest until about 3 p.m. Monday, at which point he was already out of Ames. He also said at least six members of Student Government were present. 

“I wish I could have been there,” Breitbarth said Monday night. “I understand if you’re upset with me that I wasn’t there, but we did have members there. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, I would encourage students to reach out and come talk to me. I have an open-door policy.”

“They should be ashamed,” the same student said. “Who gave them the right for us to respect them when they can’t respect us?”

His statements were followed by chants of “Leath must go.”

The following speaker cited the pain he saw on the faces in the crowd, which filled the entrance and overflowed to the following floor. He urged all students of color to come together and make a statement. After his speech, the crowd burst into another chant, “We will fight for our rights.”

Maria Alcivar, graduate student in human development and family studies, spoke up about the Cy-Hawk tailgate incident and the following forum with administration.

At the forum, demands were made for more diverse faculty, for the Black Student Cultural Center to be improved and staffed, and for a Latino Cultural Center.

“We may not get [our demands], we may not, and that might be something that we work [toward] for many years, but at least we need to get our voices heard,” Alcivar said. “We can’t keep waiting. It’s just a fact.”

As Alcivar spoke, a petition for mandatory diversity and inclusion training was passed around the crowd.

Faculty was given the chance to speak, with one coming forward, who chose not to be named. The faculty member spoke about her frustration with the statue vandalization and the failure of the university to recognize it as racially motivated.

“ISU is Mizzou,” the faculty member repeated many times, which later became another chant within the crowd. 

Concerns and anger with the social media application Yik Yak were raised when a yak was posted during the event stating, “ISU doesn’t support Mizzou.”

Dean of Students Pamela Anthony said she’d like to hear more from the students about their personal experiences.

“What I’d like to do is hear more from students and take this information that we’ve heard today, but also take this information that we’ve heard from [Latinos United for Change] and make sure that we are building a program that will meet the needs of all of Iowa State,” Anthony said.

– Danielle Ferguson contributed to this story.