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Emerson students call for faculty training, classes on racial sensitivity

Hundreds of students from Emerson College marched into a faculty meeting on Tuesday and called for more diversity training for professors and classes for students at the school.

According to a Facebook group created by students to initiate the demonstration, the goal of the protest was to ask the administration for more cultural sensitivity training for faculty members, and to require students to enroll in more “culturally enlightening” classes.

Emerson President Lee Pelton estimated about 200 students, outnumbering faculty by two to one, came to the meeting.

Willie Burnley Jr., 21, a junior who was part of the demonstration, said the protest urged students to walk out of class and announce to faculty the changes that they want. More than 300 students walked through almost every building on campus, chanting slogans such as “education not discrimination,” he said.


“The difficulty in this lies not squarely in what we’d call the administration, but in the faculty,” he said. “Personally a lot of faculty members reached out and thanked me. Most were empathetic to the cause.”

A spokesman for faculty could not be reached for comment.

Changes to the curriculum will have to be made by the college’s faculty, however cultural competency programs are already in place at the school, Pelton said. He said the senior administration will work to strengthen the process and get more faculty involved.

Dondré Taylor-Stewart, 21, a senior who also participated in the protest, felt students received no confirmation the changes would take place, only that they would be discussed.

“I think that a lot of words were said, but I think we need to wait for actions to be taken,” Taylor-Stewart said.

Pelton downplayed the acts as a protest. He claimed there was not chanting, and that it “wasn’t a demonstration in the way you’d normally think about it.”


“It’s something I’ve never seen before,” Pelton said about the students’ choice to join the faculty meeting. “It was an amazing moment, and it was a wonderful opportunity for growth.”

M.G. Lee can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @m_g_lee.