Presidential Candidates on Campus Protests

By Timothy Maninger, Features Writer

The recent protests at schools across the country, including Mizzou and Yale, have prompted responses from some of the 2016 presidential candidates. The protests are attempting to bring to the front the issues of systemic racism and discrimination on campus. The resignations of several faculty members at Mizzou including the UM President Tim Wolfe and Mizzou Chancellor Loftin, over these protests have spurred similar movements across the nation. Opinions among the candidates are almost as varied as those among students: some in support and others in opposition. The protesters certainly have the legal right to peaceably assemble, and the faculty of the schools certainly have the legal right to ignore them. The real issues in question here are not about legality but rather ethics.

Donald Trump called the protests “disgusting” in an interview with Fox Business Network. Proceeding to call Tim Wolfe and R. Bowen Loftin, the resigned UM President and Mizzou Chancellor, “weak, ineffective people”. Saying that “When they resigned, they set something in motion that’s gonna be a disaster for the next long period of time.” Including that if he had been Chancellor of Mizzou, “Believe me. There would have been no resignation.” His expressed motivation for this negative view of the protests is the list of demands made by the protesters, saying that, “The things that they’re asking for, many of those things are like crazy,” Trump’s fellow republican Ben Carson commented on the UM system’s message to students to call campus police upon hearing speech they deemed offensive by saying, “We’re being a little bit too tolerant, accepting infantile behaviour, and I don’t care which side it comes from. To say that I have the right to violate your civil rights because you’re offending me is un-American, it is unconstitutional, and the officials at these places must recognize that and have the moral courage to stand up to it.”. He goes on to compare the current tension to a marriage before a divorce, “They stop talking, and then the next thing you know their spouse is the devil incarnate.” offering the suggestion of open dialogue and civil debate.

Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have offered their opinions in short form through Twitter. Clinton retweeted one of her staffers who had said, “Racism has no place anywhere, let alone an institution of learning. Standing w/ the students at Mizzou in my home state calling for change.” Sanders, having participated in comparable protests at the University of Chicago in the 1960’s tweeted that, “I’m listening to the #BlackOnCampus conversation. It’s time to address structural racism on college campuses.” Republicans Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush have expressed reluctance to make a statement regarding the issue, believing that doing so without complete knowledge of the situation would be a poor decision. Bush has however expressed support for the journalists who were pushed out by protesters at Mizzou while trying to cover the events there, Saying, “In the case of Missouri, [the] reporter was just trying to cover the news, and I’m sure everybody in this room would prefer to make sure that they have access of covering the news.”