Amnesty International discusses racial tensions on college campuses

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UT Amnesty International members display hashtags in support of black students facing discrimination at the University of Missouri. The hashtags were a response to the racial tensions happening at the university.
Photo Credit: Jesús Nazario | Daily Texan Staff

Issues of racism on college campuses should be handled more effectively than they were at the University of Missouri, according to business sophomore Yanusha Yogarajah.

Yogarajah presented for Amnesty International, a student-led human rights organization, regarding racial unrest at the University of Missouri. Beginning in September, protests at the university related to the underrepresentation of minorities at the school led to the resignation of Missouri system president and chancellor of the Columbia campus. A student’s hunger strike and a boycott by the football team also contributed to the pressure for the resignations and general awareness.

“As a person of color, I cannot speak for black students, but I recognize the importance of recognizing people’s requests and concerns,” Yogarajah said. “Just because we might not be aware of these microagressions … does not give us the right to dismiss them as some school officials did in Missouri.”

The presentation chronicled the events on Missouri’s campus and addressed the related criticism some of the protests have faced, including claims that protesters were denying access to the media.

Jonathan Rufram, international relations and global studies junior, said there’s a difficult distinction to be made between protecting the students who are being threatened and protecting the press’ freedoms.

“I think that it is hard to pinpoint where freedom of speech ends and where freedom of privacy begins, especially in terms of the safety of students,” Rufram said. “There is real, clear danger for some students that are black on that campus and others.”

The presentation intended to put the events surrounding Missouri into a perspective students at UT could understand, according to journalism sophomore Isabella Bejar. Amnesty International works to track human rights issues as they arise, Bejar said.

“We have talked about the Black Lives Matter movement and issues regarding people of color, so this fits with what we discuss,” Bejar said. “We have a long history in Texas of racial tension, so it is important to have forums like this where we can inform people of the issues.”