National Institute on Aging

President Obama’s Reelection Angers Some Students at Hampden-Sydney College

Immediately after national television networks announced that Barack Obama was reelected president, a group of students at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia assembled outside the Minority Student Union on campus. The group of about 40 students threw bottles, set off fireworks, and yelled racial slurs to protest the president’s reelection. Other students confronted the protestors and threats of violence were made, but no one was hurt and no damage was done to any property.

One of only three all-male four-year colleges in the United States, Hampden-Sydney has a student body that is about 9 percent Black.

In a statement, Christopher B. Howard, the college’s first African American president, wrote, “I am terribly disappointed with the students who participated in this harmful, senseless episode including those men who stood idly by and watched it happen. There is no place for bigotry or racism on this campus.”

In an interview after the incident, President Howard called the offending students “knuckleheads” and “bad seeds.” A town hall meeting was held on campus the night after the incident and was attended by 300 students.

President Howard is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. A Rhodes Scholar, he earned a Ph.D. in politics at Oxford University and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. Prior to being named president of Hampden-Sydney College, he was vice president for leadership and strategic initiatives at the University of Oklahoma.


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  1. What I want to know…..were there any repercussions for the offending “knuckelheads” and “bad seeds”? As a college consultant should I be concerned about sending African American students to this college? What lessons in tolerance were taught here?….what lessons relative to agreeing to disagree without violence or name-calling?

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