WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest came down on the side of media in a fiery face-off between protesters at the University of Missouri and media covering their demonstration on the ground.
Earnest reacted to the on-camera verbal collision, saying, “The reason that you have public protests and public demonstrations is so people can be aware of your concerns.”
The showdown centered on the “safe space” claimed by minority student protesters in the public quad, full of their tents, heat lamps and sleeping bags. Activists — including students, faculty, and administrators — attempted to block media access to the public space, ending with one communications professor calling for activists to “muscle” them out.
At the White House, Earnest, a native of Missouri, disagreed with the activists’ tactics, telling them, “You’re going to have a hard time getting that message out if you limit the ability of the media to cover you in a public place.”
The New York Times immediately seized on the campus incursion, pointing out that the protester leading the charge to shove out media is, in fact, mass media assistant professor Melissa Click.
ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas, a Mizzou grad, said the incident “dismayed” her. Meanwhile, CNN Money included Mizzou’s Melissa Click in its story about “extreme political correctness.”
A flurry of similarly critical articles issued from the online media world. The Atlantic‘s headline read, “Campus Activists Weaponize ‘Safe Space.'” National Journal‘s Ron Fournier described the protesters as, “An institution clinging to its power, fearing transparency and a loss of control.”
Attention and momentum now appear to be shifting to Yale University, where students are protesting allegations of racism and a campus email about Halloween costumes.
Some students are protesting an education lecturer who chided the university’s attempt to influence students’ choice of Halloween costumes. The Atlantic posted an article about the group, which says the lecturer endangered their feeling of on-campus safety, titled “The New Intolerance of Student Activism.”
The other major Yale incident stems from a student of color who says she was excluded from a Halloween frat party due to her ethnicity. On Monday, the same day Missouri’s university president and chancellor were forced to resign, students held a “march of resilience.”
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) represents New Haven in Congress and stands firmly behind Yale and Mizzou student protesters, saying:
As a society, we need to move beyond intolerance and strive for equal treatment. Our colleges and universities should be safe spaces that foster growth and intellectual curiosity. The recent incidents at Yale and the University of Missouri remind us of all the work that still needs to be done not only across college campuses but in all of our neighborhoods and communities. I am uplifted by the resilience of our students – – joining together and having the courage to speak out.
Yale students plan to continue the push for better race relations and have secured a commitment from school administrators to form a plan of action.
Meanwhile, Mizzou students have said their on-campus crusade is just beginning, outlining several demands for systemwide diversity education requirements, involvement in choosing future administrators, and tripling the number of minority faculty.