This is a story from VT's newspaper, Collegiate Times.
A student led a sit-in demonstration yesterday during a biology class in Torgerson 2150 in protest of an incident that happened on a prior test day. Brittany Tennyson, a junior psychology major, said that she felt discriminated against because of her race when the instructor handed out the tests to her row.
Brittany Tennyson sits in protest of teacher racism.
On the day of the test, Mary Lipscomb, the instructor of the biology class, handed the tests out in piles to the students sitting nearest to the aisle in each row. In Tennyson's row, which consisted of about five black students sitting at the beginning of the row, she handed the tests out individually. The tests were color-coded to make it harder for students to cheat.
Tennyson said she felt the instructor handed them out individually to make especially sure that the two different tests were alternated among the students.
"She went out of her way to make sure she distributed them evenly," said Tennyson. "To some people it wouldn't seem like a big deal, but I felt offended; I felt discriminated against."
Lipscomb said that she distributed the tests differently to Tennyson's row because it was in the center.
"It was a coincidence that it was Brittany's row that needed extra tests, but that is the way I pass them out in any situation," Lipscomb said. "It had nothing to do with who was sitting there."
Tennyson said that she could not concentrate on taking her test because she felt she and her friends were singled out, so she took Lipscomb aside and confronted her. Lipscomb explained herself and told Tennyson that she could take the make-up exam if she was having trouble focusing, Tennyson said.
"What I wanted was an apology and she didn't seem apologetic at all," Tennyson said.
After Tennyson took the make-up test, she confronted Lipscomb again and said that she would be speaking with her organization, the Serendipity Activists, and "will get the situation handled."
Tennyson decided to hold the demonstration after she heard that other students felt the same way about being discriminated against in various classes at the university. The demonstration consisted of the protesting students sitting in the first two rows of the biology class.
Lipscomb said that she did not have a problem with the demonstration taking place in her class.
"I was taken aback because I had no warning, but other than that it is fine," Lipscomb said. "Some students left in the middle of class, which was a little bit disruptive, but other than that I had no problem with it."
Tennyson also participated in a demonstration in early October against the Blacksburg Police Department protesting the treatment by the police of a black student who was allegedly pepper sprayed and forcefully arrested. She also helped create the Facebook group, "Justice for Jaz," for the protest.
Tennyson said that the latest demonstration was meant to convey that racism won't be tolerated any longer.
"The goal of this event is to empower the student body and to get the point across to all students of all colors that something can be done," said Tennyson.
Lipscomb said that she had no intention of hurting Tennyson's feelings and wasn't trying to single her out.
"To any other students in their situation I would have done the same thing," said Lipscomb about distributing the tests. "There was no ill intent on my part at all."
Synethia Toms, a junior political science major, participated in the demonstration yesterday and also participated in the "Justice for Jaz" protest along with Tennyson. Toms and Tennyson have been working together "fighting against institutionalized racism" at Virginia Tech and have done research together, which has included getting student accounts of racism in the classroom, Toms said.
"We feel that that (the research) is very important to us so we can have an inclusive environment for everyone," said Toms. "This is not an isolated incident; this is something that happens every day to us as a group."