Students at Vanderbilt University held a massive walk-out around noon today. Led by a coalition of students frustrated with the racist campus climate, hundreds left their classrooms to deliver a list of demands to Chancellor Zeppos.

Motivated by the ongoing protests at the University of Missouri and Yale University, lead facilitator of the student organization Hidden Dores, Akaninyene Ruffin, hoped that from this protest, administration would recognize that “students have their own set of demands and expect to be intricately involved in the creation of a new Vanderbilt.”

According to Esther Taati, first-year coordinator of Hidden Dores, the impetus for this action includes a multitude of meetings between campus leaders of color and the administrators as well as the “administration’s inaction to change campus culture and campus policy.”

Before students arrived to Kirkland Hall, the building that houses the upper echelon of Vanderbilt’s staff, a plethora of administrators were waiting for the demonstrators to enter. Vanderbilt’s Public Affairs Office confirmed that they were aware that the walk-out was going to take place today.

Many believe this to be from the administration’s heavy monitoring of student emails (which is in line with the university policy) and social media accounts.

Earlier this year the Office of Inclusion Initiatives and Cultural Competence, housed under the Dean of Students, was created to “promote cultural inclusivity” throughout campus. In addition to a declaration from Chancellor Zeppos that diversity and inclusion was an important issue to him, he appointed a 15-person faculty to “regularly and advise him on inclusion, diversity and community issues.”

However, many students see administration’s barren rhetoric and ho-hum actions as empty and without promise.

In August of this year, a new clause was added to the student code of conduct, making student actions that obstruct or disrupt the “teaching, administration, and University procedures and activities, or other authorized activities on University premises” illegal.

Many on campus see this as a direct response to the campus activism that took place on campus last year.

Hidden Dores lead facilitator and leader of the creative faction, Lisa Muloma, saw the clause put in the student handbook as a “direct opposition to what the dean[s] has been articulating.” To Muloma, this indicates and perpetuates the “empty words” of the administration.

In spite of this policy, students still showed up to demand change.

Sophomore and vice president of the Black Student Association, Jami Cox, came to the action to “show support for the students discriminated at Mizzou” as well as show support for the “action the Hidden Dores is planning to increase inclusivity and diversity on campus.”

White allies such as sophomore Eli Byerly-Duke, who grew up two hours from Ferguson, Missouri, came to the protest today because of the way “Vanderbilt treats students of color.”

Chancellor Zeppos declined to comment on the newly implemented policy that prohibits student activism.

This cover photo of this news story was taken by Vanderbilt student Elsa Young.