Linda Fairstein, former prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, formally resigned from Vassar College’s Board of Trustees this week because of a widely circulated petition calling for her removal due to her involvement with the case of the Central Park Five, a heavily racialized 1989 court case that resulted in the wrongful conviction of five teenage boys of color for the assault and rape of a white female jogger.
A junior at Vassar, Mari Robles, created the petition following the release of the Netflix series “When They See Us,” a four-part series that details the cruelties that the five teenage boys of color faced in their wrongful conviction. In 2002, all of the Central Park Five were exonerated when Matias Reyes confessed that he had been the one to commit the crimes. Prior to Linda Fairstein’s resignation, the online petition gathered more than 13,000 signatures. Robles states her inspiration for creating the petition and notes, “I have been taught to fight against injustice by my amazing professors and classmates.”
This online petition is just one of many examples of college students challenging the policies of their college administrations and demanding accountability for the actions of their fellow students. There has been increased attention to the ways in which students are demanding change on their campuses, largely through demonstrations and petitions.
Beginning in February, there were student protests and sit-ins at Harvard University as students called for the removal Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. as a Faculty Dean for being a part of Harvey Weinstein’s legal team. The protests continued for several months until it was announced in May that Sullivan would no longer be returning the following academic year.
In April, students at Swarthmore College conducted a sit-in in the attic of a frat house to demand that the fraternities be disbanded following leaked documents of fraternity members boasting of their acts of sexual assault. Because of their protest, the fraternities chose to disband.
Additionally, it was announced this April that Brett Kavanaugh would be teaching a course at George Mason University over the summer. Students began mobilizing to have him removed and requested a formal apology from the administration. Although unsuccessful, the protest was a testament to the dedicated effort of students demanding change at their colleges.
Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 4/19/19, New York Times 5/1/19, New York Times 5/11/19, Poughkeepsie Journal 6/4/19