Students Against Racism fight discrimination on campus

A collective coalition of Iowa State students and members from student organizations including Pride Alliance, Hillel, Lambda Theta Alpha, LSI and NAACP marched together during their “Students Against Racism” protest at noon on Oct. 30. The march started at the Memorial Union, then moved onto Lincoln Way and finally stopped at Beardshear Hall, where students requested to talk to President Wendy Wintersteen.

Anneke Johnson

After a series of incidents including racially motivated vandalism and threats to protesters, there has been consistent talks of racial issues on campus. The name of one particular student group keeps coming up: Students Against Racism. 

Students Against Racism is not an official Iowa State student organization. Rather, they are a group of individuals with a goal to reduce incidents of discrimination at Iowa State.

Neo-Nazi chalkings were spotted. A dorm house was defaced with a racial slur. Pictures surfaced of Student Government Adviser Alex Krumm with his face painted black. In the midst of all this, Students Against Racism fought for change.

On Oct. 30, several student organizations including The Pride Alliance, Hillel, Lambda Theta Alpha, Latinx Student Initiatives and NAACP took part in a Students Against Racism protest. The protesters blocked off Lincoln Way before marching to Beardshear Hall to speak to Iowa State’s President Wendy Wintersteen.

Organizers said that the goal of the protest was to demand change from Wintersteen.

“I knew we needed to escalate the situation,” said Javier Miranda, former Iowa State student and organizer during the protest. “Ames depends on the university, but if we obstruct a part of Ames, that isn’t just the university; then we’re drawing the connection between the two.”

Alexa Rodriguez, sophomore in political science and an organizer of the protest, said that neo-Nazi chalkings had been made on campus during the protest.

“Javier was the one that caught the ‘Heil Hitler’ sidewalk chalk on campus, and he approached me about it,” Rodriguez said during the protest. 

On Nov. 7, Students Against Racism met with administration to voice their demands regarding efforts to fight racist happenings on campus.

Their demands were as follows: 

  1. Expel: the students who chalked neo-Nazi slogans, the students who vandalized Bean House in Geoffroy Hall, students in the future who threaten or use neo-Nazi language violating the zero-tolerance policy.

  2. Shut down: the Students for Trump club that attached neo-Nazi slogans to their political writings as continued harassment and interference in the academic life of hundreds of students.

  3. Fire: the Student Government advisor who wore blackface and future staff engaging in racist or anti-Semitic behavior.

  4. Add: a zero-tolerance to attacks against marginalized communities, a student advisory board to the campus offices in charge of handling discrimination that is run by students of color, a zero-tolerance to hate speech includes chalking in which the university should be responsible for getting rid of hate speech i.e power washing, public statement by Iowa State explicitly condemning white supremacy, mandatory extensive inclusivity and diversity training provided by professionals to all faculty and staff, Iowa State Police Department extends its current bias trainings to all officers not just at onboarding or those servings on the engagement and inclusion team, future emails regarding attacks on marginalized communities should be more direct and should clearly state the incidents that the email addresses and make it very clear that we do not tolerate this on our campus and Iowa State Administration needs to hold a meeting open to all students to check back about the demands no later than two weeks from Wednesday, Oct. 30.

Not all requests were accepted by Wintersteen in a joint meeting between her and Students Against Racism, but Wintersteen did agree to make some changes and apologized for the negative experience the students have had.

“I apologize to any student who has had a terrible experience because of racism, white supremacy, xenophobia, gender discrimination, whatever the experience it has been; I apologize on the behalf of Iowa State University,” Wintersteen said during a meeting with Students Against Racism. “What we have done in [the] meeting tonight to present the actions that we’re committed to and what we will implement, I have to follow up that we cannot break the law when it comes to the First Amendment. So I cannot do what you’re asking.”

Days after the meeting, Students Against Racism was attacked on the Iowa State Reddit page “r/iowastate,” where a threat of physical violence was made. 

Then, three unnamed students claimed they were the ones targeted with death threats on the Reddit page. These students visited a Student Government meeting to talk about their experiences.

“I am fucking terrified to talk right now, and that’s what they want,” said one of the students at the meeting. “Because when you give fascists a platform, when you drag your feet on this issue, they are going to take any chance they can get to silence those in question.”

Students Against Racism has not announced what their next moves will be except that they will continue to stay active on campus.